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Yankees to begin sorting out future

Yankees to begin sorting out future

DETROIT -- With another disappointing October cut short in the Division Series, the Yankees' winter program will start earlier than expected for a second consecutive year.

There are several question marks heading into the offseason, beginning with the status of Alex Rodriguez, who posted another ugly postseason in pinstripes with a 1-for-14 performance.

A-Rod, who has four years remaining on his contract and a full no-trade clause, holds the power to decide where -- or if -- he will go, but there has been a lot of speculation that the Angels would love to acquire the reigning American League MVP, and that Rodriguez might accept a trade to the West Coast.

Following the Yankees' loss on Saturday, A-Rod stated several times that he would like to stay in New York -- as long as the Yankees want him.

"My commitment is 100 percent unconditional. I want to be a Yankee," Rodriguez said. "I don't want to go anywhere. I can't be more clear. I hope they don't trade me because I don't want to go anywhere.

"I want to finish my career in New York," he continued. "I hope the fans in New York and [Brian] Cashman and the Boss [George Steinbrenner] don't want me to go anywhere because I'm committed to make this thing work."

"He didn't perform this series, but there's a lot of other people who let us down at the same time," Cashman said. "I would like to change that thought process, where you give up on someone. I'm not giving up on anybody. If they've got New York on their chest, I'm not giving up on them."

Rodriguez stressed that he hasn't thought about leaving New York, though he said that at times, it appears that the media might be looking to drive him out of town.

"I don't want to leave here. I know I'm part of the solution," he said. "I'll just come back and work harder and be part of a champion. I know I can do that."

As for the no-trade clause, Rodriguez indicated that he would waive it if the Yankees were "dying to get me out of here."

"I hope not. I'm 100 percent committed to being a Yankee," he said. "That's the only place I want to play.

"I've never run from problems," he added. "I don't want to go anywhere. I think when we do win, it's going to be that much more gratifying. I'm committed to come back and have a monster year next year and help this team win a world championship."

Despite leading the Yankees to four World Series titles in his first five years as manager, Joe Torre could be on the hot seat as well. New York has lost 10 of its last 13 postseason games, including a pair of first-round knockouts in the past two Octobers.

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When asked about the possibility of the 2007 Yankees not including either Rodriguez or Torre, Cashman dismissed the idea.

"Why wouldn't they be coming back," Cashman said. "That's not something that I'm even thinking about."

Torre has one year and more than $6 million remaining on his contract, and the buzz is that the manager may take the fall for his team's postseason struggles. Two former managers with strong Yankees ties -- Lou Piniella and Joe Girardi -- could be in line to replace Torre if he is dismissed.

Several players said they would be surprised to see anyone other than Torre managing the club next season. In fact, some believe that Torre did his finest managerial job this season, guiding the Yankees to the playoffs despite injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield.

"That's pretty drastic," Johnny Damon said of a potential Torre dismissal. "Joe has been awesome. You never know what's going to happen, but I think Joe should be safe. For all he's done and had to put up with, he's been incredible."

The Yankees hold 2007 options on Gary Sheffield ($13 million) and Mike Mussina ($17 million), though neither is likely to be picked up.

Sheffield's run in the Bronx appears to be over, as Bobby Abreu is set to earn $15 million next year as the starting right fielder. Sheffield, who did not speak with reporters after the loss on Saturday, will draw interest from several teams if he hits the free agent market.

As for Mussina, he has made it clear that he would like to return to the Yankees for a seventh season and beyond. Having just completed his six-year, $88.5 million contract, Mussina will probably look for a two-year deal in the $20-24 million range.

As he prepared for the flight back to New York, he said he had considered the fact that he may have taken off his Yankees uniform for the final time.

"I thought about it when I got up today. We'll see. I certainly hope it wasn't [the last time]," Mussina said. "I don't think it's any secret I want to stay, we just have to see what we can work out."

The Yankees can also opt out of the final year of Jaret Wright's contract, which calls for him to make $7 million, by paying the right-hander $4 million.

Among the other free agents are Ron Villone, Miguel Cairo, Cory Lidle, Octavio Dotel and Bernie Williams.

Williams, who came back this season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, said he hasn't decided whether to play in 2007 or to hang up his spikes. If he retires, it will mark the end of a 16-year career with the Yankees.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Williams said. "I'm going to enjoy my offseason and make a decision at some point."

Cashman said he hadn't considered any of these moves yet, but he will begin to contemplate his organization's future in the coming days and weeks.

"I wasn't prepared to think about wintertime," Cashman said. "I was expecting to play in New York tomorrow with Wang pitching and us closing it out. I've got no thoughts about the future. I'm stunned about the present and I'm sorry it happened."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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