Monday, October 25, 2010

End of the road for Yankees Core Four?

Will the Core Four no longer be a core next year?

That is a disturbing proposition for fans of the New York Yankees, with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte all free agents.

Of the three of them, Pettitte is the most obvious candidate to leave because he's always talking about walking away from baseball to be with his family. It's hard to gauge which way Pettitte is leaning. He proved this year that he was one of the top pitchers in the American League when healthy, when healthy being the key phrase as he spent most of the second half on the disabled list. But he came back in time to give the Yankees exactly what they needed in the playoffs and would have won both of his starts if he hadn't been up against Cliff Lee, who the Yankees hope will be Pettitte's teammate next year.

Despite all the fretting about Jeter's regular and postseason, I still think he and the Yankees will come together on a new contract. Jeter has been unequivocal about his desire to keep playing for the Yankees, the only professional team he has ever known, and the Yankees know they have to sign him so I expect a quiet, relatively quick contract negotiation.

The wild card is Mariano. In the exhilaration of last year's World Series win, Mo talked about pitching another five years. But it was clear as this year went by that Mo is getting tired of the side stuff that comes with being a professional baseball player, namely the traveling. Could Mo decide enough is enough and go home with his legacy as the greatest closer of all time completely secure? I surely hope not. Despite a shaky September, Mo proved he is still one of the best closers in the game and it's hard to imagine him leaving on such a sour note.

Posada still has one year left on his contract, but it's clear that there will be major changes at the catching position in 2011. He just can't throw people out anymore and opposing teams are wreaking havoc on the bases, unnerving Yankee pitchers and creating tension between Posada and his staff. Brian Cashman doesn't have much room to maneuver with his roster, but one move I definitely expect is for him to free up the designated hitter spot for Posada, Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and either bring up one or two of his stud catching prospects or make a trade.

For the Core Four, knowing they might not all be back next year must have made the ugly loss to the Texas Rangers a bitter pill to swallow.

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