NEW YORK -- The 72-hour period of mourning for the Yankees is officially over, which means George Steinbrenner's revolving door is now officially open. So who's going and who's coming? Get out your checklists.
Checking out: In the aftermath of the Game 7 debacle in the American League Championship Series, there has been considerable speculation about Mel Stottlemyre packing it in rather than enduring the inevitable slings and arrows from The Boss this winter. If so, look for the Yankees to invoke the "spirit of '78" and bring Ron Guidry in as pitching coach. Yankee insiders say Guidry is absolutely ready to resume a full-time baseball life after spending the last 16 years in comfortable retirement in Louisiana. Guidry's kids are grown now and the Yankee high command -- manager Joe Torre included -- has been waiting for him to tell them he's ready to expand his coaching duties beyond spring training.
Kevin Brown would dearly love to finish out his career back home in Georgia, and it might be a good fit with Braves general manager John Schuerholz potentially having to replace three free agent starters -- Russ Ortiz, Jaret Wright, and Paul Byrd. Schuerholz would only take Brown on the very cheap, but for a serviceable reliever (which the Braves have in abundance), the Yankees would gladly absorb most of Brown's $15 million next year just to get rid of him. As for Javier Vazquez, the other half of Torre's Game 7 suicide tag team, it appears the Yankees are resigned to trading him rather than attempting to resurrect him next spring. They'll undoubtedly try to revisit the Randy Johnson talks with Arizona, but as exciting as the prospect of the Big Unit in pinstripes may be, trading young for old with nothing coming in the barren farm system is a recipe for long-term disaster. Again, the failures of the Yankees' player development department over the last eight years have severely handicapped their ability to make necessary improvements and, as such, this team could get old in a hurry. Kenny Lofton, who extended his streak to nine postseason appearances without a ring, will be moved and, no surprise, Tony Clark and Felix Heredia are also history. By season's end, Miguel Cairo's limited speed, range, and hitting ability surfaced, and if he is re-signed it should be in a utility role.
Checking in: So much has been speculated about the Yankees signing Carlos Beltran to play center field, but before they do that, they'd better have a game plan for Bernie Williams, who otherwise becomes a very expensive 300-at-bat fourth outfielder. Assuming Carl Pavano is not inclined to come to New York, the free agent starting pitching market is thin. Lefthander Eric Milton has a Yankee pedigree but also had an ERA of nearly 5.00 in the DH-less National League. Odalis Perez and Matt Clement are both suspect makeup-wise. The Braves' Ortiz (15-9, 4.15) is probably the best of the lot, but faded badly down the stretch.
General manager Brian Cashman will need to be especially resourceful about finding starting pitching (as Schuerholz was last year when he cobbled together a rotation by signing Wright and John Thomson). Said one Yankee higher-up: "We'll probably have to trade for pitching -- that and keep a close eye on the non-tenders."
The Yankees need to re-sign Orlando Hernandez as a long man and spot starter, then build up the bullpen. Lefthanders Ron Villone and Rheal Cormier are both expected to be out there and they should try to sign both. Righthander Steve Reed is 39 and has been around (the Mets once traded Jason Bay for him), but he had a 3.68 ERA for Colorado, no small feat. Ricky Bottalico is another consideration. With Jason Giambi's uncertainty, the Yankees probably need to re-sign John Olerud. (Would Williams consider a switch to first base a la Mickey Mantle in his waning years?) No matter how you look at it, Cashman has a big challenge ahead of him. He needs two starting pitchers, three relievers, and a second baseman, and there's no money coming off the books, so a Beltran signing will only further bloat the payroll to more than $200 million.