Yanks facing questions

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

NEW YORK -- If 2008 turns out to be everything the Blue Jays hope and believe it will be, then their timing could be right on the money. There might just be a glimmer of opportunity at the top of the American League East next season.

As the New York Yankees disperse to the four winds, there are more questions than answers and the prevailing sentiment in the South Bronx is that the end of an era arrived at precisely 11:41 p.m. on Monday night.

That was when the lights went out at Yankee Stadium for another season; another season without a World Series title. Now that the Cleveland Indians have eliminated the Yankees, an off-season that promises dramatic change has begun in New York.

Now the Yankees don't ever actually rebuild. With their wealth and their willingness to spend it, there never will be a lack of talent. But as Joe Torre was saying the other day, it isn't always about talent.

"It's what's in their heads and what's in their hearts that really counts," said Torre, who probably has managed his last game in pinstripes. News on that front isn't likely to happen in the next day or two but the writing seems to be on the wall. Even though he's managed the Yanks into the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons and into the World Series for six of those 12, owner George Steinbrenner is getting antsy for change. He was talked out of firing Torre last season but that was when Joe had $7 million remaining on his contract.

Now his contract is done and while money is seldom an object in Yankee-land, there are no financial arguments to be made to keep Torre on, just his impressive past record.

Then there's the matter of Alex Rodriguez, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this fall and almost certainly will do so. Even though he still has four years remaining in which he could be paid $27 million US a year, the marketplace is overflowing with cash and a guy coming off a 54-home run, 156-RBI season at the age of 31 can almost set his own numbers.

The numbers being talked about are $30 million a year over the life of a five or six-year contract.

The Yankees are one of the few teams who could be in that bidding process. It will all depend upon A-Rod's willingness to stay in the fishbowl of New York.

Closer Mariano Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada are both free agents this year and, once again, you have to think the Yankees will be highly-motivated bidders, but at this point, nothing is certain. Rivera has been just about the best closer in the game over the past 10 years but he'll be 38 on opening day next year. Posada is coming off a career season in which he hit .338 and 20 homers but he, too, is no youngster at the age of 36.

From a pitching standpoint, the Yanks have plenty of work to do. Their massive offensive output this year -- almost six runs a game -- tended to mask some serious pitching problems, especially in their rotation. Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang did excellent work and young Phil Hughes looks like a keeper, maybe Ian Kennedy as well, but there is very little depth. Joba Chamberlain was a hit in the bullpen but he is still very young and untested.

All that said, there are some excellent young parts in place. Robinson Cano already is a star at second. Melky Cabrera could be a future batting titlist. And then there's always Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu.

They're already talking about Tony LaRussa as a replacement for Torre. Steinbrenner likes to have somebody on the marquee and would no doubt be intrigued by LaRussa's pedigree. New York is special and it takes a certan type of strong personality to handle it. LaRussa certainly qualifies on that front.

So, for the first time in a long time, there is uncertainty in the Yankees inner sanctum. GM Brian Cashman has already done an excellent job of replenishing the farm system and with plenty of cash on hand, he'll no doubt have his pick of the best free agents.

They'll have the talent. But will they have the chemistry?


Videos

Photos