Trailing the Detroit Tigers 3-0 in the ALCS, the New York Yankees 2012 Season is likely coming to an end. The Yankees are looking to become just the second team in MLB history to overcome such a deficit.
For the title-rich Yankees, anything short of a championship is considered a failure. The team led the American League with 95 wins, but is on the verge of missing the World Series for the third-straight year.
In order to compete for a title next season, the Yankees may have to make some major changes in the offseason. They have decisions to make on free agents, and general manager Brian Cashman may consider pulling the trigger on some vital trades.
Here are five things the Yankees should do to help them win a title in 2013:
Let Swisher Walk
After four years, it’s probably time for the Yankees to say goodbye to Nick Swisher. He’ll be a free agent in the offseason, and will likely command more than the $10.5 million he made in 2012.
The outfielder has been very productive during the regular season, averaging 26 home runs and 87 RBI per season. His poor postseason performances have, however, begun to overshadow his regular season success. In 35 playoff games with New York, he’s hitting just .159.
Swisher is known for his excitable nature, one that seemed to benefit the Yankees in their 2009 championship season. Now, many in New York have grown tired of his act. Once a fan favorite, Swisher has developed a contentious relationship with the fans.
It’s hard to predict how a player will perform in the postseason, but Swisher's struggles have become tiresome. The Yankees can’t afford to keep playing a high-priced hitter who perpetually falls short of expectations when it matters most.
Bring Back Ichiro
When the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki in the middle of the season, the deal was intended to be a rental. Suzuki's production had decreased significantly, and it looked like the 38-year old was towards the end of his career.
Since arriving in New York, however, Suzuki has been rejuvenated. He hit .322 in 67 regular season games in pinstripes, and has continued his hot hitting in the playoffs. Unlike Swisher, Suzuki has proven that he can handle the pressure that comes with playing in the postseason.
Suzuki also gives the Yankees a different dimension on offense. New York’s lineup is filled with home-run hitters, but very few players that can manufacture runs. Suzuki can still steal bases, and is one of the toughest hitters to strike out in the baseball.
Even if he’s not the same player he was when he came into the league, Suzuki could be a key piece in helping the Yankees make a title run in 2013.
Convince Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera to Play One More Year
They may be two of the oldest players in baseball, but they are still very effective, when healthy.
The Yankees pitching has been phenomenal in the playoffs, but the staff has some questions entering the offseason. Other than C.C. Sabathia, New York doesn’t have a reliable starter signed for 2013. Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent, and Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova were inconsistent all season.
Pettitte has had another good postseason and pitched to a 2.87 ERA in 12 regular season starts. At 40 years old, the Yankees can’t expect him to remain healthy all year long. However, his injury in 2012 was somewhat of a fluke. If Pettitte can make 20 starts and take the mound in the playoffs, the gamble on re-signing him would prove to be worth it.
New York has survived without Rivera for much of the season, but bringing back the closer would give them one of the strongest bullpens in baseball. He hinted at retirement before the season started, and the Yankees could be in trouble if he doesn’t return.
Acquire a Third Baseman
Alex Rodriguez’s recent play has called into question how much the future Hall of Famer has left. Including the playoffs, he has just one extra-base hit in his last 23 games. He’s been so bad that Joe Girardi has benched him in favor of Eric Chavez.
Rodriguez has the worst contract in the sport, and is owed $114 million over the next five years. At 37 years old, he’s practically untradeable.
The Yankees have to be prepared for the fact that A-Rod will be a below-average player. With plenty of third basemen available in free agency, New York should sign one, in case Rodriguez remains unproductive. If they are unable to move Rodriguez and he does well enough to earn playing time, one of them can start at designated hitter to keep both of them in the lineup.
Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds have team options for $13 million and $11 million, respectively. If one of them becomes available, the Yankees should consider bringing either one to the Bronx.
Lower Ticket Prices
Yankee Stadium used to be one of the toughest places for road teams to visit. Since the team moved into the new stadium in 2009, the atmosphere has not been the same.
Not only are the fans not as loud in the new building, but New York has difficulty selling out games. Having empty seats during a playoff game seemed unfathomable in the late 1990’s. In the new Yankee Stadium, it has become the norm.
Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry admitted that it’s no longer intimidating for visiting players to come to the Bronx.
“This is a very easy place to play now,” he said. “Coming from Oakland, the fans there were so rowdy. It was easier to come here.”
In order to improve their home-field advantage, the Yankees should lower ticket prices, to ensure that every seat is filled for the playoffs. It would also eliminate some of the more apathetic fans, and make it a tougher place for opposing teams to play.