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The Yankees' next moves

10/19/2012
It'll be a long offseason for CC Sabathia and the Yankees, who have a hefty to-do list. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

DETROIT -- The clubhouse of any eliminated team is a strange place, but never stranger than when the New York Yankees are knocked out because of the enormous volume of media. Packs of reporters and camera crews with boom mikes and ladders stood in the middle of the room Thursday evening, silent in their respect for the competitively dead, waiting to see which members of the Yankees family would be the first to explain what was lost.

Eduardo Nunez and Hiroki Kuroda were the first, then Robinson Cano and others followed, each of them trying to explain the inexplicable, talking of what went wrong and how a team composed of so many accomplished hitters could look so terrible at the plate. The Yankees never led in the ALCS and scored in only two of 38 innings.

General manager Brian Cashman spoke at length, as well, and, in the days ahead, he and his assistants will pick through the pieces of the postseason, like a CSI team, and try to figure out what went wrong and what needs to change. Inevitably, they will hit on these points:

1. The rotation

Cashman's history is that he always -- always -- places the highest priority on pitching, and the dominance of the Tigers' staff in this series certainly will be a reminder that, ultimately, the strength of the rotation is the backbone of any team.

CC Sabathia will be back, likely after having some cleanup work done on his left elbow. His diminished velocity and his pitch selection down the stretch, with a focus on his changeup and his effort to get away from the torque of his cut fastball, were a sign of the discomfort he felt. The Yankees loved Kuroda, and, by all accounts, he really enjoyed pitching for them, so figure that they'll work out another short-term deal with the right-hander.

Andy Pettitte spoke after Thursday's game about his plans, and clearly he is torn: He loves pitching and loves being with the team and has been encouraged by his family to play, but, on the other hand, he hates being away from his kids, and his son Josh is headed to Rice to pitch, and he wants to be there. Pettitte intends to make his decision relatively quickly on whether he will pitch in 2013.

Michael Pineda had surgery earlier this year after hurting his shoulder, and the Yankees are hopeful that he'll come back and be something close to what they traded for -- a 23-year-old front-of-the-rotation talent. Given the nature of his injury, however, there's nothing guaranteed about that.

Phil Hughes is an innings-eater who went 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA, and, presumably, he'll be back. Depending on what Pettitte decides to do, the Yankees likely will be in the market for at least one veteran on a short-term deal, like a Jake Peavy.

"They've earned that," a rival executive said Thursday. "Players like to play there because they're treated well and they have a chance to win."

2. The bullpen

The Yankees expect Mariano Rivera to be back next year, but there's no telling what he'll be at age 43. Rafael Soriano can opt out of the last year of a contract that pays him about $10 million annually, and, if he decides he wants to leverage this into a multiyear deal, the Yankees are unlikely to chase him because they have other priorities -- and the Tampa Bay Rays and other clubs have demonstrated that bullpens can be built on the cheap.

There is an extensive list of relievers who will be available this winter if the Yankees want to build a safety net around Rivera.

3. The outfield

The Yankees will restructure their outfield in some fashion. Brett Gardner will be back, and, although Curtis Granderson was an incredible bust in the postseason, with 16 strikeouts and three hits in 30 at-bats, he has hit 84 homers and driven in 225 runs the past two seasons combined. He's 31 years old; it's a no-brainer for the Yankees to pick up his $13 million option for next season because he still represents a good value in the market. The Yankees almost certainly will turn the page on Nick Swisher, whose repeated postseason struggles have become a problem for an organization that defines itself by postseason success.

How will they round out their outfield? Well, Ichiro Suzuki really enjoyed playing for them, and, if he's willing to come back at a relatively cheap price, they'll be willing to have him back. If not, they theoretically could join what is expected to be a very competitive market for players such as Angel Pagan and Michael Bourn, but they might prefer to spend their money on other positions.

The Yankees will never abandon the philosophy of team building they have adhered to in the past two decades, of compiling a lineup with high on-base percentages and strong left-handed hitters who can take advantage of their home park. But it figures they will want to improve their athleticism and speed.

4. Catcher

The Yankees love Russell Martin, his toughness, his dedication to winning. If he is intent on a long-term, big-money deal, though, they likely will pass. If the Atlanta Braves decide not to pick up Brian McCann's option for next year, he could be a perfect fit for the Yankees because he could serve in a dual role as a DH and a part-time catcher after he recovers from shoulder surgery.

5. Alex Rodriguez

What should the Yankees do with him? They will weigh this in the same manner they considered A.J. Burnett's status last winter: Would the potential production offset the potential distraction? This season, Rodriguez hit 18 homers with a .353 on-base percentage, which ranked among the top half of third basemen in the majors. He's a decent defensive player.

But the Yankees have to decide whether they believe Rodriguez's struggles against right-handed pitching down the stretch -- he had a .453 OPS after he came off the disabled list in September, which ranked 170th among 173 players -- are a sign of things to come or whether they think he can bounce back. He has had 34 home runs in his past 957 plate appearances.

If the Yankees believe A-Rod's playing time must be reduced in the future, with Joe Girardi picking and choosing favorable matchups for him and resting him regularly, they must have a conversation with Rodriguez very similar to the one they had with Ichiro before they traded for him, in which they asked him how he would feel about being dropped in the lineup or being benched against certain pitchers or being pinch hit for.

That's a conversation Cashman and the club's leadership should have with Rodriguez in person. If A-Rod tells them he wouldn't be happy under those circumstances, they really need to move on and make the best deal they can, eating a whole lot of the $114 million still owed to him in the remaining five years on his contract. Lest there be any doubt, the potential for distraction is extraordinary: Rodriguez's situation will be the focal point of media and fan rubberneckers throughout the offseason, all through spring training and at the beginning of next season. Every at-bat will be scrutinized; each of his words will be dissected; every piece of body language will be examined for discontent.

Generally speaking, Rodriguez handled his playoff demotions well, taking responsibility. After Game 4, he told reporters that, if he had done his job properly, then Girardi and Cashman wouldn't have had a choice but to play him.

But Rodriguez might feel differently if the Yankees decide to reduce his playing time permanently. He will hover over an offseason that could be filled with significant turnover for a team with the highest payroll.

Pettitte wants to make a quick decision.

Flaws in the Yankees were exposed, writes Joel Sherman. Sabathia called it embarrassing.

The Yankees gave their poorest performance. New York made misplays. Rodriguez said he has no one to blame but himself. He said he'll be back.

Erik Boland writes of the five biggest questions facing the Yankees.

Brian Cashman defended Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.

Booing in New York spooked the Yankees players, a player tells John Harper.

It was an embarrassing defeat, writes Mike Vaccaro.

Lowest batting average in single postseason (MLB history, min. seven games)

2012 Yankees: .188

1965 Twins: .195

1956 Dodgers: .195

1974 Athletics: .198

1962 Yankees: .199

1920 Dodgers: .205

1921 Yankees: .207

For the Chicago White Sox, the addition of A-Rod is unlikely, writes Daryl Van Schouwen. There's no chance A-Rod will become a Marlin, writes Dave Hyde. Rodriguez is a temptation the Dodgers and Angels must resist, writes Bill Plaschke.

For the Tigers, it was a sweep. Their pitching has been ridiculously good, writes John Niyo. Phil Coke played a major role.

Jhonny Peralta has saved his best for the postseason. Delmon Young had a big series, as Drew Sharp writes.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Tigers are the second team to beat the Yankees in a postseason series in consecutive years (1921 and 1922 Giants). They are the first team to sweep the Yankees in a postseason series since the 1980 Royals and the first to do so in a best-of-seven series since the 1976 Reds.

Max Scherzer joins Adam Wainwright as the only pitchers in postseason history to strike out 10 hitters in fewer than six innings pitched. Scherzer is the first to do so in the postseason against the Yankees. How Scherzer won:

A) He threw 55 percent of his pitches away to Yankee lefties, generating 10 outs, including six by strikeout. Scherzer mixed up his pitch selection and worked out of the zone, as five of those six strikeouts were swinging.

B) Scherzer went to 2-0 in three of his 22 at-bats, allowing the righty to stay ahead in counts. In at-bats ending with Scherzer ahead in the count, the Yankees were 0-for-16 with 10 strikeouts.

C) Scherzer mixed in his off-speed pitches along with the fastball, throwing 39 percent sliders and changeups. Against both pitches, the Yankees were a combined 1-for-9 with four strikeouts (1-for-7, 3 K's against slider).

Lowest ERA by starting rotation in best-of-seven postseason series (MLB history)

1966 Orioles: 0.61 -- World Series vs. Dodgers

2012 Tigers: 0.66 -- ALCS vs. Yankees

1950 Yankees: 0.76 -- World Series vs. Phillies

1939 Yankees: 0.78 -- World Series vs. Reds

Giants-Cardinals

St. Louis is one win away from having a chance to be the first club since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back-to-back championships. The Cardinals won without Carlos Beltran. There are hints of inevitability. Stan Musial made a surprise appearance.

Tim Lincecum couldn't get it done as a starter. He was shaky from the start, writes Ann Killion. The Giants came up short on all ends, writes Daniel Brown.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Wainwright won:

A) He threw 34 curveballs, his most in a start since Aug. 18, 2010. Wainwright worked in and out of the zone, getting nine outs with three by strikeout. The Giants chased 10 curveballs out of the zone on 17 swings.

B) Wainwright showed improvement with his cutter by increasing its usage from 17 percent in his last start to 29 percent and allowing no hits after serving up a home run in his last start. Wainwright used the cutter in on lefties (19 of 28 pitches), getting two outs. Against righties, Wainwright worked away, getting three outs while throwing nine cutters.

C) The Giants could not hit Wainwright when he got to two strikes. He got the count to two strikes in 15 of 25 at-bats and did not allow a hit. Wainwright induced six groundouts, struck out five and got four fly outs. The 15 outs in at-bats going to two strikes ties a season high.

By The Numbers

From ESPN Stats & Info

4: Game-winning RBIs for Delmon Young in ALCS. Young is the first player with a game-winning RBI in all four wins in an MLB postseason series.

11: Hits allowed by Sabathia in 3 2/3 innings. Sabathia is the first pitcher in postseason history to allow 11-plus hits while recording 11 outs or fewer.

41: Wins for the Cardinals in the postseason in the last 10 seasons, the most wins of any team during that time period.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are negotiating the price for John Farrell. The situation is coming to a close, writes John Tomase.

2. The White Sox are lowering ticket prices.

3. Paul Daugherty wonders: Should the Reds bring back Josh Hamilton?

4. The Kansas City Royals signed some minor leaguers.

5. Gerry Hunsicker left the Rays for the Dodgers.

6. Mark Wiley remains the favorite for a position with the Colorado Rockies.

Other stuff

• The Arizona Diamondbacks named their new broadcast team -- including our cherished colleague, Steve Berthiaume.

• Rick Sutcliffe might be a candidate to replace Bob Brenly, writes Paul Sullivan.

• Kevin Sherrington expects to see less of Michael Young next season.

Clay Buchholz is looking to take the next step, writes Brian MacPherson.

Bo Porter is a born leader, say the Astros.

And today will be better than yesterday.