Yankees are set up for future, but have five decisions to make

  • Mike Mazzeo
  • New York Daily News
6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 Sports
Howard Simmons/TNS
New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka worked seven shutout inning against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Tanaka has to decide by three days after the conclusion of the World Series whether to opt out of the final three years and $67 million of his contract. (Howard Simmons/New York Daily News/TNS)

The Yankees' season came to an end in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Astros, but the future looks bright. And the groundwork has been set for what could potentially be a sustained run of success.

Still, there are a few significant questions that need to be answered for 2018: 

1. Will Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi be back? 

The GM and manager are both in the final years of their respective deals, and both seem like locks to at least be asked to return. Cashman seems a lock to come back given that he rebuilt the roster in a hurry, allowing the Bombers to be way ahead of schedule. It features a homegrown core, and a strong farm system. 

Girardi is more of a question mark, given rumblings that the family man may want to walk away after a decade at the helm, including his 2009 World Series championship. Still, regardless the criticism over his reliance on data over feel, several young players have taken massive strides forward, and he could be walking away from a potential dynasty in the making. His postseason talk with his family will be significant in determining his future. 

2. Will Masahiro Tanaka opt out? 

It is, obviously, a three-year, $67 million question that has gotten more complicated given Tanaka's incredible run in the playoffs, where he posted a marvelous 0.90 ERA after posting a miserable 4.74 ERA in the regular season. Still, Tanaka has been pitching with a partial tear in his UCL since 2014, granted he's been very durable ever since. Tanaka enjoys playing in New York, which could factor into his decision, as could a very mediocre free-agent pitching market outside of Yu Darvish and Johnny Cueto. 

Given that the Bombers want to get under the $197 million luxury-tax threshold in advance of the loaded 2019 free-agent class, they may elect to let Tanaka walk rather than risking paying him extra given his injury history. The 2018 rotation will presumably already include Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. And it's plausible that the Yankees will try to keep CC Sabathia on a one-year deal, though it also stands to reason that money could be tight. Chance Adams, 23, was named the organization's pitching prospect of the year, and could potentially factor into the mix as well. 

3. Will the Yankees be able to recruit Shohei Ohtani? 

He's 23, he can pitch and hit, and, because of free-agency rules, he'd come extremely cheap relative to his real worth. That's why the luxury-tax conscious Bombers need to wow him in what is essentially a college-like recruiting process. No financial advantage this time. 

Ohtani would be extremely valuable as he could slot in at DH when he isn't pitching, essentially one player filling two roster spots. Sounds like a guy that could sell some tickets, too. Expect the Yankees to make a serious run at Ohtani, with several other powers like the Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox in the mix as well. 

4. Where does Gleyber Torres fit in? 

At second? At third? The organization's top position-player prospect recently began hitting again after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. The 20-year-old is expected to be ready for spring training, though Cashman has suggested that he won't start with the big club given that he hasn't had a full season at Triple-A yet. Either way, Torres should eventually become a factor in pinstripes in 2018. He ended 2017 as MLB.com's top prospect in all of baseball. Will the Bombers elect to keep Starlin Castro, Torres' mentor, around, or trade him? Aside from Torres, Miguel Andujar is another top prospect that could figure in the mix. 

5. Will the Bombers pursue a top free agent? 

With them, you never want to say never. But there doesn't really seem to be a need for Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas. After all, the 2019 crop of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado certainly seems worth saving for, as a year is still a very long ways away, and who knows what could happen by then. The core has been built around homegrown, cost-controllable talent like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird. Sabathia ($25 million), Alex Rodriguez ($21 million), Matt Holliday ($13 million), Michael Pineda ($7.4 million), Todd Frazier ($5 million adjusted) and Jaime Garcia will all come off the books. 

Other questions include: Will Didi Gregorius get an extension, or will the team continue to take advantage of having cost-control via arbitration? It seems likely the Yankees will shop Jacoby Ellsbury with Aaron Hicks having supplanted him in center, but what could they even get? And what do they plan to do with Dellin Betances, again arbitration-eligible, after his rough end to the year?