Written by MLB.com Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch
When we last saw Yankee Stadium, there was a hockey rink covering
the diamond, and on Monday, there's snow piling up in the outfield. But
down in Tampa, Fla., players are roaming the team complex, and we're
just 11 days away from the official report date for pitchers and
catchers. In the meantime, let's take another dig into the Yankees
Will the Yankees sign Stephen Drew or Fernando Rodney?
-- Chris H., Syosset, N.Y.
You can make a solid case that they would be nice finishing touches
to the roster makeover, but so far, it does not sound like the Yankees
are going to begin the year with either player. The Yankees continue to
send up smoke signals that their big winter spending is done, and that
the Masahiro Tanaka signing emptied out what was left of the budget.
The Yankees have been cool on Drew for quite some time now, even as
they have legitimate question marks at every infield position. Scott
Boras, Drew's agent, has said that Drew would be willing to play second
base or third base; he'd fit at the hot corner, where Kelly Johnson is penciled in right now, but the Yankees don't like the price.
As for Rodney, the Yankees' bullpen still feels unfinished behind the crew paced by David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton.
Rodney would add power to that mix, but people familiar with the club's
thinking have been saying not to expect any substantial moves between
now and the beginning of Spring Training because -- again -- the money
has been spent.
I do believe those people are speaking at face value and not trying
to mislead, but consider this: Hal Steinbrenner could always decide to
stretch the budget. One such example came in January 2012, when general
manager Brian Cashman was believed to be out of spending money but
convinced Steinbrenner to authorize $10 million more to bring in Hiroki Kuroda. Stranger things have happened.
If Brian Roberts struggles at the plate, is there any chance Alfonso Soriano could be asked to move back to second base?
-- Matt G., Spring Arbor, Mich.
I don't see this as an option, and I'm told it is something that has
not been discussed within the Yankees' hierarchy. It has been a long
time since Soriano played second base -- he hasn't been there at all
since 2009, and hasn't played the position regularly since '05. He's
also 38 years old.
I've mentioned this before, but Soriano said last year that he would
occasionally wander to second base for batting practice when he was with
the Cubs, just to see what it looked like. Given the speed of the
rockets flying by him, Soriano said that he was amazed that he had ever
been able to play the position.
What are the chances of the Yankees pursuing Bronson Arroyo, even with the acquisition of Tanaka?
-- David H., Buffalo, N.Y.
It seems like it was one or the other there. If Tanaka hadn't signed
in New York, I would have expected the Yankees to be hot and heavy with
pretty much the whole remaining crop of free-agent starters. Arroyo
seems to be having a tough time drumming up the three-year deal he's
looking for, and the Yankees are comfortable with the idea of having a
Spring Training battle to fill the fifth starter's job. Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren will lead the pack there.
What are your thoughts of Derek Jeter playing next year?
-- Ebe A., Jersey City, N.J.
I think everyone, Jeter included, is taking a wait-and-see approach
until after we know how 2014 will work out. He's facing an uphill battle
as he prepares to turn 40 this June, and I don't think it's a stretch
to say that if he endures another "nightmare" year (17 games, four DL
stints, .190 batting average), Jeter would not want to tarnish his
legacy and risk further injuries by continuing to push himself.
That's a worst-case scenario, and in my mind's eye, I can already
feel Jeter glaring. So what if Jeter comes back and shuts up the
critics, as he did in 2012 (.316 average, 216 hits, 159 games played)? I
think Jeter wants to have the choice of playing in 2015, but it was
telling that he didn't ask the Yankees for a two-year contract; a
one-year deal and a pay bump over his player option was enough to work
out an agreement.
Jeter has always said that as long as he continues to have fun and
can be consistent, he wants to be in the lineup. If he can play at an
acceptable level in 2014, I think the door is wide open for 2015, and
he's prepared to work -- the blurry iPhone photos popping onto Twitter
from Tampa are evidence of that. But it is interesting that Jeter isn't
hiding that he has given thought to what will come after his last
inning; the book publishing and frozen food ventures seem to be
acknowledgments that he is much closer to the end than the beginning.
Mark Teixeira always starts slow and now has a tender wrist. With the shift they put up, shouldn't he try for bunts more often to help out?
-- Tom, Lafayette, Ind.
You'd think that a guaranteed hit would be appealing -- remember last September, when Robinson Cano
legged out a bunt double at Fenway Park? -- but Teixeira has argued
that the Yankees are paying him to hit for power, not to drop down
bunts. Manager Joe Girardi said that he's fine with that, since
apparently Teixeira doesn't feel that he can be successful doing it.
Teixeira wouldn't exactly be the only big leaguer who doesn't feel
comfortable bunting. I'll maintain that it wouldn't hurt to try it now
and then, but I'm not the one who has to stand in the box and try to
square up on Justin Verlander.
Do you think now that Joe Torre is being inducted in the Hall of Fame, they will retire some numbers this summer?
-- Greg S., Syracuse, N.Y.
It's a good bet that we'll see at least one, Torre's No. 6. Hal
Steinbrenner hinted last month that some more of the dynasty Yankees
could be on tap, saying, "We're going to figure out just who. [Torre]
may not be the only one."
Now that Mariano Rivera's No. 42 is in Monument Park, it's easy to point to the next likely suspects. Jorge Posada's No. 20 and Andy Pettitte's
No. 46 should be fair game, and no one has worn Bernie Williams' No.
51. The Yankees briefly put Paul O'Neill's No. 21 back into circulation
in 2008 before fan outcry changed those plans.
Given the group they can choose from, it sounds like the setup for what could be a very fun day in the Bronx.