Do you expect the Yankees to trade Brett Gardner?
-- Jason C., Milford, Conn.
I think if we've learned anything this winter, it's to never say never -- after all, it seemed like most people went into the offseason expecting Robinson Cano and the Yankees to eventually work something out, and we know how that wrapped up.
A Gardner trade wouldn't be stunning, especially if it could fill some of the Yankees' other needs, but there is no reason for them to hurry into a move they might regret. That's part of the reason you saw the Yanks turn down the Reds' proposal of Gardner for second baseman Brandon Phillips at the Winter Meetings.
Right now, the Yankees are saying that they have no intention of trading Gardner, and they would have to get a premium starting pitcher in return if they did. They really do like the idea of having Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the same lineup as a speedy, dynamic one-two punch, and they'd be a good fit together in left and center field at Yankee Stadium.
"Brett's tremendous out there," Ellsbury said. "He's a very good outfielder. I'm excited to play with him. We're going to cover a lot of ground out in the outfield. Not a lot of balls are going to be falling."
General manager Brian Cashman said that he has not picked up the phone once to offer Gardner's name, but that doesn't stop other clubs from calling about him. It's easy to see why a team would have interest in dealing for Gardner, and those calls will probably continue for a while. The Yanks will keep listening to see if something matches up, but there is no urgency to force a deal to click.
What are the chances of the Yankees having Alfonso Soriano playing second base, with Kelly Johnson and Brendan Ryan as the backups?
-- Mike F., Commack, N.Y.
Close to zero -- or probably about as high as Vernon Wells thought his chances were of playing the infield this past season. The Yankees don't consider Soriano to be an option at second base, and while he'd probably give it a shot if they asked, Soriano has said that he believes those days are behind him.
When the Yanks were in Los Angeles last summer, there was some talk about Soriano giving first base a shot, just as a depth option. It never happened, but Soriano mentioned that when he was with the Cubs, he would occasionally wander back to second base during batting practice for a few laughs.
After seeing the speed of the balls rocketing his way, Soriano had been amazed that he was ever able to play the position, and he said he was happy that he had made the transition to the outfield. For what it's worth, Soriano did play much better defense than anticipated last year; so much that Joe Girardi often played him in the field and slotted Curtis Granderson as designated hitter.
How likely is it that the Yankees could make a run at Johan Santana as a low-risk, high-reward signing?
-- Joe K., West Islip, N.Y.
It's something they'll kick the tires on. Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, requested a time to chat with the Yankees at the Winter Meetings. Cashman said that he didn't know what to think of Santana at this point because he hadn't reviewed the lefty's medical records, but the Yanks are looking for pitchers with little commitment attached. If Santana wants to come to camp as a lottery ticket like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia a few years back, that'd definitely be in play.
Do you think that Cesar Cabral and Vidal Nuno have genuine shots at making the bullpen as lefty specialist and spot starter, respectively?
-- Lee J., Liverpool, England
They're in the mix. Cabral has a better shot of making the roster at this point, just because the pool of lefties trying to grab a bullpen spot is thinner. The Yankees had some interest in re-signing Boone Logan, who went to the Rockies, but they weren't willing to top the three-year deal he agreed to with Colorado. Nuno's fight for a roster spot figures to be more uphill with so much competition for the back end of the rotation.
Whatever happened to Zoilo Almonte?
-- Jason L., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Almonte is still with the organization, and he actually made it back to the big leagues in late September after his season was interrupted by an ankle injury. The Yankees may have rushed his development a bit, but with the rash of injuries hitting the team last year, they really had little choice. Almonte is being looked at as a depth option in the outfield, but with so many other players now in the picture, he's probably going to begin the year in the Minors.
What are the chances that Yankees fans will get to see Raul Ibanez back in pinstripes?
-- Ron C., Belmar, N.J.
It's something that's on the radar, but a lefty-hitting DH isn't high on the priority list right now. There is a sense that the Yanks made a mistake by not bringing Ibanez back after his memorable 2012 season, but they have to find answers for the question marks at second base, third base, the rotation and the bullpen as well.
What's the deal with Michael Pineda? Is he going to be ready for Spring Training?
-- Marc O., New York, N.Y.
That's the plan as of right now. The Yankees say that Pineda is healthy and will come to camp competing for a rotation spot. Cashman said at the Winter Meetings that Pineda was seen in the Dominican Republic about a month ago and is reported to be in "great shape," but he is still very much a question mark.
"He's all good, but those are just words," Cashman said. "'All good' means pitching seven innings and knocking the bats out of guys' hands at the big league level. That's 'all good.'"