With this looming $189 million budget, it sure feels like the Yankees are in rebuilding mode. Why not trade Robinson Cano for some great prospects instead of signing him to a long, bad contract?
-- Dave M., Benton, Pa.
There's a couple of problems with that, as I see it. First of all, there are plenty of teams -- everyone except the Dodgers, I suppose -- that would love to be entering a "rebuilding" phase with the goal of a $189 million payroll. The Yankees certainly haven't won any winter news-making awards and they would love if the player development side churned out more big league help, but they still believe they can field a championship-caliber team in 2013.
Since the Yankees aren't punting on 2013, their chances of winning are obviously better if you keep Cano right where he is -- playing a stellar second base and slugging in the heart of the lineup. It's true that Cano will be a free agent after this season, and it's also true that most guys don't switch to Scott Boras' agency if they aren't preparing to ask someone for the moon.
Maybe that all means Cano will be putting on a different uniform for 2014, though all indications thus far are that the Yankees still envision Cano finishing his career in pinstripes. Theoretically speaking, there is flexibility in building for next year. They could get Cano's name on the dotted line of a huge deal and still wind up under $189 million next season.
What do the Yankees realistically expect out of Andy Pettitte, considering how much he was limited by the late start and ankle injury?
-- Erik S., Torrance, Calif.
It's fair to say the Yankees are banking on a full season from Pettitte, even though he hasn't pitched one since 2009 because of injuries and retirement. At $12 million, they're certainly paying for a complete campaign. Pettitte said that he believes a 30-plus-start season is possible, because he has had the full offseason to train, and his body feels like it has plenty to offer because he wasn't able to exhaust himself last year. If Pettitte stays healthy, gives them 180-200 solid innings and a chance to win more often than not, they'll be thrilled. At this stage, Pettitte is relying on finesse to outsmart hitters, so you're not looking for him to blow lineups away. As long as he can take his turn every fifth day and put the ball where he wants, good results should be possible.
Why have so many seemingly given up on Ivan Nova? He struggled late in 2012, but it is not unusual for a young pitcher to have some problems.
-- Sharon L., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Nova took a step back last year and was left off the playoff rosters, but I wouldn't rule out the idea that he'll help the Yankees in 2013. As it stands right now, he'd compete with David Phelps to be the fifth starter. An increase in home runs allowed hurt Nova last year, and those sophomore hiccups probably dented his confidence, but it's interesting that his strikeout total jumped quite a bit. The Yankees do see him as a big league starter, but it's up to Nova to prove he's more than a back-end guy.
Why did no one see the signs that Michael Pineda was seriously hurt before trading away a potential star in Jesus Montero?
-- Sheldon B., East Brunswick, N.J.
The short answer, as the Yankees have told the story, is that he wasn't injured then. The Yankees had Pineda take an MRI and a full physical before the trade, and both came back clean. Another MRI taken last spring, when there were velocity issues early in camp, was also clean. It's possible that there was something dormant in Pineda's shoulder, but it must have been so small that the MRI and physicals didn't pick it up, and the Yankees say that Pineda didn't complain about anything. The velocity decrease raised some flags about weakness, but they wouldn't have kept him giving him the ball if they suspected he was in danger of tearing his labrum.
Should the Yankees have kept Russell Martin?
-- Kristina P., Howell, N.J.
Time will tell, but Martin's situation provided a good sense of how real the Yankees' fiscal restraint was going to be. They would have liked to keep him, and it was a surprise that they weren't able to keep pace with the two-year, $17 million deal he got from the Pirates. The Bombers may well have their Opening Day catcher in Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Austin Romine or Bobby Wilson, but none of those four players will be asked to replace Martin's power.
The Yankees have a pitcher in the Minors named Nik Turley. Is he related to Bob Turley, the Yankees pitcher from the 1950s?
-- Bob B., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Yes. It has been reported that Turley is a "distant third cousin" of "Bullet Bob," a three-time All-Star who pitched with the Yankees from 1955-62. Bob was a righty; Nik, a 23-year-old lefty, was 10-5 with a 3.00 ERA in 24 games at Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year.
I know this question is probably asked all the time, but what are the odds the Yankees trade for Giancarlo Stanton? Also, any possibility of Rafael Soriano returning?
-- Akira Y., New York
It has been asked, but unfortunately for the Yankees, the answer remains pretty much the same. The Marlins may not be hanging up the phone on callers, but their plan is still to keep Stanton in their lineup for 2013. The Yankees are among the teams that have checked in, and of course all 30 clubs could find a spot in their lineup for Stanton. The problem for New York is that it probably doesn't have the chips to outbid some other clubs (Texas, for example) if indeed Stanton were to be moved.
As for Soriano, general manager Brian Cashman has said that he is not looking for bullpen help. Of course, Cashman was against signing Soriano in the first place, but the Yankees' focus on reducing payroll makes it seem less likely they'd do better than the one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer Soriano turned down in November.
I love my Yankees, but I cannot root for Kevin Youkilis. I can't imagine any Yankees fan cheering him on. I won't.
-- Donna Q., Hicksville, N.Y.
Youkilis has always struck me as the kind of player that if he's not on your team, you probably don't like him too much. Joba Chamberlain sure never seemed to. Then again, Yankees fans have complained a lot over the last few years about needing more intense "grinders" who seem to live and die with each game. Youkilis made a lot of friends in Boston with that attitude. That, plus a few timely hits, could increase his popularity rating in New York. It's not as though Youkilis is the first Red Sox player to successfully make the switch; he's actually going to be the eighth member of the 2004 Red Sox to put on pinstripes. Something tells me that if he stays healthy and contributes, he won't have to wonder if he's hearing boos or "Youuuuks" in the Bronx.