Something just didn't feel right about the 2012 New York Yankees. While they still won the AL East, the divisional race was a dogfight that went down to the final days of the season, with New York prevailing over the Baltimore Orioles, as opposed to their usual rivals in Boston or Tampa Bay. Then in the ALDS, the Yankees got thoroughly outplayed by the Orioles, but managed to win the series after some heroics from Raul Ibanez and a Herculean effort by CC Sabathia. In the ALCS, the vaunted Yankees offense got shut down by the Tigers, and going into 2013, there are more questions than answers.
The Yankees have a few holes on their team, but none may be more important than at the back of the bullpen. Mariano Rivera's 2012 ended with a torn ACL a month into the season, and it's still unknown whether or not he'll return...and even if he does, the team will need to work out a new contract with the free agent. If Rivera does retire, the Yankees have to worry about finding a replacement for him after his replacement last year, Rafael Soriano, opted out of his contract and is in search of a new contract. The Yankees also lose their two starting corner outfielders from the second half of the year, Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki, as well as platoon DHs Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez. Starting catcher Russell Martin is a free agent, as well as starting pitchers Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and extra starter Freddy Garcia. And the cherry on top is the potential retirement of shortstop Derek Jeter after breaking his ankle in the ALCS with the Tigers.
That is *a lot* of holes that the team needs to fill, and with a stated goal of getting under the luxury tax threshold by 2014, I don't think the Yankees are going to go crazy and throw money at guys like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke. I think the team will bring Martin back to start behind the plate due to the terrible free agent class and a lost 2012 season from prospect Austin Romine. I also think the Yankees will make efforts to bring back Chavez and Ibanez after their productive seasons. Ibanez would be much better served in a platoon DH role instead of being thrust into the outfield, where he was forced to play 651 innings this season. It would probably be in New York's best interest to pass on the bigger names in the corner outfield spots, and instead just bring Ichiro back to play right field after he looked reborn in the Bronx. Brett Gardner should be healthy and ready to go for 2013 in left field, and he's a tremendous defensive player that the Yankees could really use in the outfield. The rotation mess could be solved by re-signing the veteran Kuroda, who didn't crack under the pressure of New York last season, and picking up another solid veteran to fill out the back-end. I think New York could sniff around someone like Kyle Lohse, Jeremy Guthrie, or Edwin Jackson to fill a rotation spot, assuming Pettitte doesn't return for 2013. I'm not considering Michael Pineda an option for the rotation yet, just because of how unsure his recovery from shoulder surgery last spring will go. The bullpen situation could be resolved by giving in to Soriano's contract demands, but if the team deems that too much, they could slide David Robertson into the closer's role and instead sign middle reliever types like Jeremy Affeldt or Matt Capps. After Brandon League and the Dodgers shattered the market for a middle reliever with closing experience, neither of those guys would likely come cheap anymore.
I'm sure the Yankees would love to dump Alex Rodriguez and the media circus surrounding him onto a team, but to do that, they'd need to eat probably $100 million of his contract...and I'm not sure that's even worth it. There isn't an AJ Burnett on this team aside from Rodriguez that is eating payroll and getting the scorn of the fanbase, so I don't think New York would feel an effort to start dumping veterans to get younger. This *is* the Yankees after all.
If the Yankees were able to unload Rodriguez, they'd need someone to play at the hot corner. With a horrendous free agent market at the position, the Yankees would likely go after Chase Headley or David Wright, but I'm not sure they'd be willing to part with the young talent required to acquire either of those players and give them the money they'll be getting in free agency in a year (for Wright) or two (for Headley). The team could also look to fill some of their holes via trade as opposed to free agency, but I'm not sure that they could improve themselves vastly by going with a trade as opposed to just going with what they have in Martin, Suzuki, and Gardner.