With last night's loss to the Cleveland Indians, the New York Yankees have been eliminated from the play-offs in the first round again. With reports from Sunday saying manager Joe Torre is out if he doesn't get to the World Series to the soon-to-accelerate conjecture about what Alex Rodriguez is going to do, there are going to be changes.
Assuming the Yankees do allow Torre's contract to expire without an extension (Is that being fired?), who does the team get to manage it while it waits for the eight-figure salaries of DH Jason Giambi, OFs Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon, Ps Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano to expire? Whoever gets the job won't have a lot of immediate flexibility with his line-up given those financial commitments.
However, this does not mean that the Yankees need a manager accustomed to letting the veterans play. if they did, then Joe Torre would remain the perfect manager for this team as Mike and the Mad Dog averred yesterday on their 50,000 watt soapbox at WFAN 660 in New York. A healthy slew of those commitments end after 2008 - Giambi, Abreu, Mussina and Pavano, and the rest after 2009 (Damon and Matsui.) This will have the effect of making the team younger (and much cheaper) by reaping the benefits of their farm. Namely, OFs Jose Tabata and Austin Jackson.
What the new manager will need to do is marshall an increasingly younger team through its first couple full seasons of major league ball. With Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy likely to see major innings as starters in 2008 and rookie Ross Ohlendorf seeing bullpen innings, the manager is going to have to know how to protect and strengthen young arms in 2008 and beyond while folding much younger players into the veteran mix. The existence of the Joba Rules demonstrate that Yankees' management does not believe Joe Torre is capable of doing that.
At 3B, ARod is likely to opt out assuming agent Scott Boras can get a non-verbal commitment to pay him more than he is currently getting. The options via free agency include Mike Lowell, Mike Lamb, and Pedro Feliz. This is a weak crop so the team may be better off finding Wilson Betemit a platoon partner rather than committing to several years of Mike Lowell.
While that seems unlikely, a trade for another team's financial "albatross" is not out of the question given their are no near-term 3B in the Yankees' system. With Betemit on board, would the A's Eric Chavez be an interesting addition? He signed a six-year/$66MM contract before the 2005 season. He has three seasons' left on it. What would the A's be willing to do to move it? Would a mental commitment to this avenue make a free agent signing more attractive?
Either way, the Yankees are going to make some changes, and, as long as their young players are keep in mind, the team will begin to look very differeant than Field of Millionaires their fans have become accustomed to watching each and evey year of the 21st century.