Greetings from sunny Tampa, Fla., where the first Yankees have already started filtering in and going through the paces of Spring Training. The rest of the team will soon follow, and the club's pursuit of a World Series repeat will officially be underway. For now, let's dig in and see what's on the minds of fans this week.
Why would the Yankees not go ahead and re-sign Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera? Why not get it out of the way now? Yankee Universe would not forgive the Yankees if by some freak accident they weren't able to get those deals done. -- Rick D., Union, N.J.
I know this made some headlines last week, but general manager Brian Cashman seemed to just be restating a club policy that has been in place for years -- they generally steer away from negotiations with potential free agents to eliminate distractions and keep the focus on the field, something Jeter and Rivera are especially well-versed in.
Now, let's take a deep breath. Can anyone see Jeter getting his 3,000th hit wearing another uniform? Would the Yankees want the Hall of Fame plaques of either Jeter or Rivera to say anything other than "New York, A.L."? I have a hard time believing that will be the case.
One way or another, Jeter and Rivera should be comfortable and confident that they'll be taken care of eventually -- the only details to be hammered out should have to be the years and dollars. As owner co-chairperson Hank Steinbrenner said recently, "Jeter's place in Yankee history is obvious, so I think you can pretty much assume from there." Rivera is no different.
Cashman did raise a valid point when he said that the Yankees couldn't do a Jeter contract, for example, and then not take care of Rivera at the same time. We'll hear from Jeter and Rivera early in camp on the topic, but the plan from ownership is to handle them both after the season. You can guess that another winning season could cement an extension for manager Joe Girardi at that time, too.
Now starting their second season with the Yankees, can you see CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett improving to over 20 victories? -- Jonathan P., Tucson, Ariz.
My knee-jerk reaction is to say no, although obviously the Yankees would love to see 40-plus wins from their Nos. 1 and 2 starters this year. Let's keep in mind that there wasn't even one 20-game winner in the big leagues last year, so it's not exactly a cinch for a team to have two of them.
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Sabathia has been on the cusp with 19 wins, and I sure wouldn't bet against him winning 20. Burnett went through streaky periods and winless droughts, but no team ever likes facing his electric stuff, and he gives them a chance to win most days.
Wins are a funny stat to predict anyway, but he did get 18 for the Blue Jays in '08, so who knows? Maybe fewer walkoffs and more blowout wins would help. It'd definitely save on pie.
I am not really sure who I want as the Yankees' fifth starter. Who do you think the Yankees are going to go with this season and what do you think would be better for the long term? -- Krunal M., Old Bridge, N.J.
I think that if Joba Chamberlain stepped up and had a terrific performance in the Grapefruit League, making the Yankees' decision easy, they'd love it. There's a reason they've spent years building him up for this opportunity, and now it's time for him to prove what he can do when the training wheels are off. Whatever that means for Phil Hughes, sooner or later I think you can project them both being in the rotation, probably after Andy Pettitte calls it a career.
Whatever happened about getting younger? I just don't understand why the Yankees brought back Nick Johnson and got Randy Winn. I personally would love to see Brett Gardner get his chance at starting. Is that still likely? -- Tom N., Bronx, N.Y.
Well, Johnson is younger than Hideki Matsui and Gardner is definitely younger than Johnny Damon -- for that matter, so is Winn, but only barely. Gardner will definitely get his chances during Spring Training. Winn's acquisition was more to provide depth. If you had to draw a lineup today, Gardner would be a starter and Winn a backup, but let's see if that holds until April 4.
Why did the Yankees sign Marcus Thames? They already have enough outfielders, and Girardi probably already knows the starting lineup. Explain please. -- Kenny S., Utica, N.Y.
Competition never hurts, especially when it could be low-risk insurance, and one thing the Yankees talked a lot about was getting a right-handed-hitting outfielder who can hit left-handed pitching well. That's why some people scratched their heads with the Winn signing -- he's an experienced bat, but he just had an historically awful year against southpaws (.158 BA in 120 at-bats). Thames gives them a little power and a better bat in those situations.
You said last week that the Yankees will probably be using Johnson as an almost full-time DH. Wasn't it the Yankees' plan to not have a full-time DH -- isn't that why they didn't re-sign Matsui? Please explain, I just don't get it. -- Randy W., Smithtown, N.Y.
Girardi said this offseason that he favored the idea of an "almost full-time DH," and if I'm reading him right, the idea is that Johnson will get the majority of the at-bats in the DH slot. But he also gives them the flexibility to play first base occasionally when Mark Teixeira needs a day off, or if Teixeira fills in at DH.
You'll probably see Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Jeter take their turns as a DH on a limited basis, as well. As for Matsui, the Yankees loved having him for seven years, don't get me wrong. But with those chronic knee injuries, it seemed they had serious doubts about his ability to physically keep producing at that same level, and that's why they never really made a serious effort to re-sign him. Time will tell if that was the right move.
Why is nobody talking about how A-Rod desperately needed those days off last year to help his performance? We've been getting numerous backup outfielders, but why aren't we addressing a backup infielder to give A-Rod his needed blows? -- Bennett W., Washington, D.C.
This is a good point. As of right now, the best guess for the utility-infield spot would probably be Ramiro Pena, who is as well-liked as anyone in the clubhouse -- but let's face it, he's in the big leagues for his glove. Kevin Russo could challenge for a spot, too, but it's interesting that the Yankees don't have a veteran of the Cody Ransom or Angel Berroa ilk in camp this year for third base. Anyone heard from Morgan Ensberg lately?
Realistically, Posada cannot really have that much playing time left. There's a lot of buzz around Jesus Montero, but what's the story with Austin Romine? Where do the Yankees project him to end up? -- Michael L., Manalpan, N.J.
Mark Newman, the Yankees' senior vice president of baseball operations, had a lot of positive things to say about Romine when we checked in with him recently. Pitchers and coaches in the system have seen plenty to like from Romine on both sides of the ball, and that should help him stay on this path to the big leagues.
"He can really catch and throw, and offensively he made a leap forward, as well," Newman said in December. "He's a solid hitter, he's got some power and is developing his ability to recognize pitches. He showed substantial improvement in the second half with that. We thought he had a heck of a year."
I've heard good things about Jamie Hoffmann, but I never hear anyone even mentioning him. Do you hear of any plans for Hoffmann? -- Russ H., Hazlet, N.J.
He'll get a look in the spring and be considered for the 25th spot on the roster, but that's a mix that just got a little more crowded with the additions of Thames and Greg Golson, among others. The Yankees do believe he'll be a big league player, but they just might not have room for him now. He'd need to stay on the big league roster all season or be offered back to the Dodgers under the conditions of the Rule 5 Draft.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.