Five questions for Yankees heading into GM meetings

It’s been less than a week since the Cubs won the World Series, but this week in Scottsdale, it’s time for baseball’s 30 general managers to get back to business.

For Brian Cashman, that primarily means figuring out what his pitching staff looks like, deciding whether Brian McCann has a place on the roster and if he’s satisfied with the current everyday lineup.

The only departing free agent the Yankees have this winter is Billy Butler, who was the designated hitter for the final five minutes or so of 2016. So there will be no qualifying offers to ponder and no drama playing out such as the one between Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets on the other side of town.

So what are the major questions facing Cashman and the Yankees as this week’s general managers meetings commence?

Brian Cashman knows the Yankees desperately need pitching

1) Do the Yankees need more starting pitching?

Every team could use more starting pitching, but the Yankees’ current rotation seems thin despite its technical depth.

Masahiro Tanaka returns as the team’s No. 1 starter, and although he can opt out of his contract after the 2017 season, that’s not a concern for the Yankees at the moment. CC Sabathia has one year remaining on his deal now that his option has vested for 2017, but can the Yankees expect another solid season from the 36-year-old?

Nathan Eovaldi, out for the year following Tommy John surgery, is a likely non-tender candidate, while Michael Pineda had another up-and-down season in 2016 and shouldn’t be trusted with anything more than a back-end spot in the rotation.

No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress.

CC Sabathia has one year left on his contract, but how will the rest of the Yankees’ rotation shape out?

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Youngsters Luis Cessa and Chad Green showed promise, but how much can the Yankees lean on them? Adam Warren is also a possibility to start, though Joe Girardi loves what he offers in the bullpen.

Yanks pitcher who gave up Maz homer has message for Indians’ Shaw

Then of course there’s Luis Severino, who followed up his dazzling 2015 debut with a horrific performance (0-8, 8.50) in his 11 starts but was superb (0.39 ERA) in 11 relief outings.

Cashman’s biggest pitching issue this winter? There is very little of it available on the free-agent market, so if he wants to make a splash, it might require some creativity in the trade department.

2) Is Dellin Betances the Yankees’ closer?

Unlike the starting pitching market, the closer market has several solid candidates if the Yankees believe Betances is better suited in a setup/fire extinguisher role. He excelled in the closer’s spot for more than a month after taking over on August 1, but Betances had a tough two-week stretch in mid-September that contributed to the Yankees falling out of the race, leading to some questions about his ability to hold the job.

Despite his Game 7 meltdown, Aroldis Chapman will command a huge contract from someone in the coming weeks, and given how much he enjoyed his time in the Bronx, it wouldn’t be stunning to see him return.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen made himself some good money with a strong postseason showing, and there’s plenty of buzz that Los Angeles plans to make a play for Chapman, leaving Jansen looking for a new team. If the Yankees are looking to add a proven closer without spending on the top two, Mark Melancon – a former Yankee draft pick who came up in the organization – could be another option.

Dellin Betances struggled a bit in the closer role last season.

Dellin Betances struggled a bit in the closer role last season.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

3) Will Brian McCann be on the Yankees in 2017?

McCann’s role with the Yankees this season seems pretty straightforward: he’ll be the team’s primary designated hitter and catch a handful of games as Gary Sanchez’s backup.

Unless the Yankees trade him, of course.

With a scarcity of catching around the league, the Yankees should be able to find a team willing to take McCann, who has two years and $34 million remaining on his contract. The question becomes how much money would the Yankees need to pick up to deal him, and what type of prospects could they get in return?

Given Sanchez’s inexperience and the lack of another DH candidate on the team, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see McCann at George M. Steinbrenner Field when the team reports to camp in February.

4) Is this the winter Brett Gardner gets traded?

A year ago, there was talk of Gardner heading to the Cubs for Starlin Castro, though the Yankees wound up acquiring the second baseman without giving up their left fielder.

Gardner has been a popular trade target for years thanks to his reasonable contract, which has two years and $23 million remaining, plus a $12.5 million option for 2019. It also lacks a no-trade clause, which has been another reason Gardner’s name tends to pop up this time of year.

Brett Gardner could be subject of a possible trade this winter.

Brett Gardner could be subject of a possible trade this winter.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Yankees’ position players are set if the team wants them to be: Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks and Judge in the outfield, with Gary Sanchez, Bird, Castro, Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley in the infield. The only question is whether Cashman is satisfied with that lineup. If he’s not, he could look to make a deal, at which point Gardner’s name could resurface once again.

5) Are the Yankees ready to sink or swim with the Baby Bombers?

If the season was to start today, Sanchez, would be behind the plate, first base would be filled by Bird and Tyler Austin, while right field would likely be Judge’s job to lose – to Hicks.

That’s an awful lot of inexperience for a team that hopes to contend for a postseason berth.

But just as the Yankees got a lift from their young players last August, this season is likely to be more of the same. With blue-chip prospects Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield and Jorge Mateo trying to push their way to the majors, the Yankees need to see whether this first crop of youngsters are the real deal.

The only way to do that is to play them, regardless of what it winds up meaning for the 2017 record. Last summer’s trade deadline moves were about setting up the future for the organization. That future is now, though true contention could still be a year or two away.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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