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Early exit marks start to offseason

Early ALDS exit means early start to offseason

ANAHEIM -- The Yankees' roller-coaster season came to an end on Monday night, bringing an offseason of change to an early start.

New York's charge for a 27th championship will have to wait until 2006, as the Angels took out the Yankees in the first round for the second time in four years.

The Yankees seem to experience turnover every season, and this year's team will be no exception.

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Free agency doesn't begin until 15 days after the last out of the World Series, but the Yankees will likely see significant turnover from the team that won 95 games and an eighth consecutive American League East title.

"It's frustrating that we didn't reach our final objective," said Randy Johnson. "The offseason will probably be a lot longer than it otherwise would have been, but it will be interesting to see what happens here."

But before the Yankees embark on the task of bolstering their roster, they must first figure out who will be making some of those decisions.

General manager Brian Cashman's contract expires on Oct. 31, putting the GM on the free-agent market. Cashman, who has held his position since 1998, has given no indication whether he plans to return for a ninth year as the team's GM.

Whoever is calling the shots, they won't have to worry about the starting pitching, as the Yankees can conceivably return seven starters from this season.

Johnson, Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright are all under contract, while Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small are under the Yankees' control as long as the club offers them arbitration. Kevin Brown, a free agent, is not expected to return.

The bullpen is sure to be an area of interest for New York, which will feature Mariano Rivera in his 10th year as the closer.

Tom Gordon, who has been the Yankees' primary setup man for the past two seasons, is a free agent, and could be lured elsewhere to close for another club. Tanyon Sturtze has a club option, while Scott Proctor remains under the team's control.

Al Leiter, Alan Embree and Felix Rodriguez are all free agents, though none are expected to be retained.

One of the most enticing free agents on the market is Orioles left-hander B.J. Ryan, who will surely receive several offers to close around the Majors. The Yankees could make a charge for the southpaw, who would set up Rivera, eventually taking over as the closer when Rivera retires.

The Yankees don't have many holes to fill in their starting lineup. Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada all return to their starting spots in the infield, while Gary Sheffield is back for the final year of his three-year contract.

Hideki Matsui is a free agent, though the left fielder is expected to remain in the Bronx with a new three- or four-year contract.

Bernie Williams is also a free agent, though his return is not a sure thing. Williams, who has played 15 years in pinstripes, could come back on a one-year contract as a role player, but his days as the team's starting center fielder are likely a thing of the past.

New York could pursue a new center fielder via trade, with Minnesota's Torii Hunter and Florida's Juan Pierre as potential targets. Boston's Johnny Damon and Washington's Preston Wilson are the two biggest center-field names on the free-agent market.

Tino Martinez has a club option, and could return or choose to retire. Backup players John Flaherty and Ruben Sierra are free agents, though both could return again on one-year contracts. Mark Bellhorn is arbitration-eligible, while Bubba Crosby remains under club control. Tony Womack, who has one year remaining on his deal, could be traded this winter.

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre's contract is also expired, and the 64-year-old is unlikely to return for an 11th year on Joe Torre's staff. Torre may find himself looking for a new bench coach, too, as Joe Girardi appears to be this year's hot managerial candidate.

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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