As the regular season winds down, Yankees fans are forced to look ahead to what will sure to be an interesting offseason. With a self-imposed question to reduce payroll to $189 million, a looming suspension for Alex Rodriguez, questions about the health of an almost-40 year old Derek Jeter, the void left by the retirements of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, and Robinson Cano’s foray into free agency, it will be an interesting season for Brian Cashman and his team. So, let’s make a couple of offseason predictions that will inevitably be incorrect in six months from now:
Sep 18, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (24) signals to hold the runners after scoring in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. New York defeated Toronto 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
1) Hiroki Kuroda Won’t Be Re-Signed
Kuroda has been a solid member of the rotation for the last two years, never suffering the pesky NL-to-AL bugaboo that has plagued other pitchers who made the jump to the American League. In fact, over the last two years, Kuroda has gone 27-23, but with an ERA of 3.23 over that span. In 200 IP in each of the last two years, Kuroda has an average WHIP of 1.16, and an average ERA+ of 127 over that span. However, Kuroda will turn 39 in February, and while he was spectacular for most of this season, he had a nearly month and a half long span of being, well, dreadful. With the Yankees looking to shed payroll ($15M salary in 2013), and a team that is already creeping up in years, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Yankees letting Kuroda go at the end of the season, and looking to make a trade or look within the organization- David Phelps, Manny Banuelos, Michael Pineda– to take his place.
Why It Will Go Wrong:
The free agent starting pitcher market this year is horrific, so there’s not much there out there. Furthermore, the Yankees don’t have the pieces to pull off a blockbuster deal ala Pineda in 2012. With injury concerns regarding Banuelos and Pineda, Kuroda may be a stop-gap for the Yankees as they re-tool and begin a period of rebuilding.
2) Robinson Cano Will Not be a Yankee in 2014
The Yankees have been doing some heavy-handed foreshadowing the last few months regarding Cano, most prominently with Randy Levine coming out recently and saying that Cano is not a “re-sign at any cost” player. That is some pretty strong words regarding the guy who is arguably the only true star on the Yankees at this point, and the only true offensive star in the lineup. Take out Cano, and who do you have: no Alex Rodriguez (suspension); a declining Mark Teixeira; no Curtis Granderson (likely not re-signed) and a bunch of low-average and non-power hitters. The Yankees are serious about $189M, and have two good reasons to not give the moon to the second baseman (in fact, they are sitting first and third). They say that definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results; maybe the Yankees are starting to find some sanity.
Why It Will Go Wrong:
The Yankees need Cano. Without him, the lineup is mediocre, at best. The Yankees very well could be rebuilding, but they need to also put people in the seats, and they need to try and compete. Without a legitimate star on the team, that might be tough. Also, by ditching super-agent Scott Boras and signing with Jay-Z, Cano may have waived the financial white flag, willing to sacrifice the top-dollar deal for staying the Bronx.
3) Derek Jeter Won’t Be the Everyday Shortstop in 2014
No one can say Jeter didn’t try to get on the field in 2013, but almost a year after the initial injury, Jeter barely played and was still suffering pain. It was clear his play was affected, so much so that in September, during a playoff hunt, Jeter was sidelined for the season. At almost 40 years old, the Yankees may be dealing with the first obvious signs that Jeter’s presence on the field may actually be a hindrance, rather than a benefit. It will be a delicate issue, for sure, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone else at shortstop most days.
Why It Will Go Wrong:
It’s Derek Jeter. If nothing else, the guy is stubborn as all hell. If he feels that he can still contribute to the winning efforts of the team, he will fight to be out of the field.
As I said, the odds are all of these predictions- and many others- are sure to go wrong when the offseason actually happens. When all is said and done, with so many questions surrounding the team- it will be an interesting offseason.