Inbox: What to expect from A-Rod in 2012

Inbox: What to expect from A-Rod in 2012

Inbox: What to expect from A-Rod in 2012
There's activity on the fields and in the bullpens down at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., and the official report date for pitchers and catchers is less than a week away. The winter thaw is finally upon us, so let's take one last offseason dig into the Inbox.

How healthy is Alex Rodriguez? Is it reasonable to foresee a return to his levels of 40 home runs and 100 RBIs?
-- Jason D., Bronx, N.Y.

We haven't heard much from A-Rod this offseason, which isn't a bad thing, considering how he has tried to keep a lower profile in recent years. There was the blip with the Kobe Bryant-recommended surgery in December, but other than that, Rodriguez has said little, except that his workouts are going great and that he is looking forward to Spring Training.

That's good news for the Yankees, but let's point out that Rodriguez was in a similar state of mind last spring and wound up fighting through one of the most frustrating years of his career. It's clear, though, that the Yanks still believe that a healthy A-Rod can be among the best players in the game.

Getting back to the levels of 30 homers and 100 RBIs, which Rodriguez did for 13 straight seasons before his streak ended in 2011, shouldn't be out of the question as long he can stay on the field for 120-130 games. But that superhuman 2007 MVP season, when he played 158 games, hit 54 homers and drove in 156 runs, is probably a thing of the past.

Is Russell Branyan the big lefty bat the Yankees were looking for? Or are they still looking to sign another veteran?
-- Danny E., Bethlehem, Pa.

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I wouldn't bank on Branyan being with the team to open the season, but you never know. As with non-roster invitee Bill Hall, Branyan's invitation is a no-risk opportunity to take a look and see if there's anything more in the tank. He's left-handed, and obviously he has proven he can hit some tape-measure bombs in Yankee Stadium, so there's no reason not to entertain the idea.

The Yanks still seem high on the idea of offering Raul Ibanez a guaranteed contract. Ibanez didn't hit lefties much last year in Philadelphia, but he wouldn't have to do that with Andruw Jones on the roster, and Ibanez can still play the outfield when needed. He's also said to be a good clubhouse guy and could fit in well.

Did the Yankees invite Cesar Cabral to Spring Training? Do you think he's capable of backing up Boone Logan in the bullpen?
-- John C., Bellmore, N.Y.

They did, and he could be. General manager Brian Cashman lumped Cabral, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Red Sox's system, with Hideki Okajima as part of what he called his "wide net" to see if the Yankees find a high-reward piece in the spring. The Yanks definitely noticed what Cabral did in the Dominican Winter League with Aguilas: he allowed a run on seven hits in 20 appearances spanning 12 2/3 innings (0.71 ERA), walking three and striking out 13.

Would the Yankees attempt to trade for Bobby Abreu if the price is right?
-- Matthew W., St. Charles, Mo.

Abreu isn't an awful idea for the DH spot. He's a left-handed hitter who figures to be a ready-made piece for the Yankees' assembly line of patient hitters; after all, he fit into that lineup for two years. But if New York is trying to stick to a ballpark salary of $1 million to $2 million for a DH, I don't see how an Abreu trade could be completed. The Angels don't seem like they're itching to get rid of Abreu, even though they don't necessarily have a place for him to play on paper, and he's due $9 million this year.

When do you think Yankees prospect Mason Williams will make an impact with the big league club?
-- Eric L., Cincinnati, Ohio

It's always tricky projecting prospects, especially those who haven't had a professional at-bat above the New York-Penn League, but Williams promises to be fun to watch. He has a long way to go up the chain, but it's not impossible to think he could be in Yankee Stadium by late 2014 or '15, if everything breaks right. Williams won't turn 21 until August, so he has a good head start.

What are the odds that Cory Wade will see playing time for the Yankees in 2012?
-- Kyle F., Stevens Point, Wis.

Pretty good. He offers some versatility for manager Joe Girardi's bullpen, and he can slide into a lot of different innings when needed. Wade also offers the ability to pitch multiple innings, so it's not difficult to see his name getting called fairly often. Girardi seemed to like having him last year.

With Jorge Posada's retirement from baseball, will his number be retired? What criteria do the Yankees use to make this decision? Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth were no-brainers, but there are some questionable ones, like Reggie Jackson.
-- Rob L., South Orange, N.J.

Uniform number retirements are always a popular topic in the Inbox. To start, Jackson is obviously worthy of his place in the Hall of Fame, but it's true that he did only spend five years in pinstripes. In that case, as the story goes, the decision to retire Jackson's No. 44 was made by George M. Steinbrenner, with Reggie Jackson Day celebrated in August 1993 -- 12 days after Jackson's induction to the Hall. In part, it was in gratitude for Jackson agreeing to go into the Hall as a Yankee, but Steinbrenner also said often that one of his greatest regrets was allowing Jackson to go to the Angels after the '81 season.

In any event, the Yankees haven't retired a number since Ron Guidry's No. 49 in 2003, and there are no definite plans in the works to add more to the list. One would think Bernie Williams' No. 51 would be the logical next choice on the agenda, though it might help move things along if Williams officially confirms he is retired.

If and when the topic comes up in a meeting, the Steinbrenner ownership group would have input on the decision, as well as others, like Cashman, team president Randy Levine and chief operating officer Lonn Trost.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.