What are the Yankees going to do with Jeter, Rivera and Girardi?

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The New York Post says that the Yankees aren’t talking extension with Jeter, Rivera or Girardi.  This is not a surprise, really, as the Yankees have a pretty solid track record of not negotiating with their own free agents until their deals actually expire. Such an approach makes perfect sense for them, of course, because the one reason you try to lock up guys before they hit the market — to keep from having to fight off higher bidders — is not exactly a concern in New York.

Of course the Post does its damndest to try and make it an issue by slapping a quasi-inflammatory headline on the story and playing a breathless what-if game, but what else do you expect from the Post? The day they stop trying to make mountains out of molehills is the day I start worrying. But setting aside the timing and dramatics of it all, what do you do with these guys if you’re the Yankees?

I think you have to treat Girardi like a cog. Sure, if he manages another nice no-drama year and the Yankees make a good showing of it you offer him another year or two in the interests of consistency. But I’ve not seen anyone argue that the difference between success or failure in Yankeeland is whatever managerial genius Girardi possesses.  Is he really telling Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez anything they don’t already know about how to play baseball? He’s Ralph Houk to Joe Torre’s Casey Stengel, isn’t he? Some people may argue that having him as a lame duck manager is a distraction. I think that locking him up for multiple years would create a much larger distraction later when the team wants to fire him.

Rivera is a toughie.  He’s still awesome. He’s the best ever at what he does. He’s also 40, though, and while we all want to see him pitch forever, he won’t.  If he’s still dominant this year I think you’re obligated to give him a contract with some risk attached (i.e. multiple years), knowing that you may eat most of it, because how do you say no to a legend who’s still got it?  Likewise, if the wheels fall off in 2010 it’s not going to be too terribly hard to say “Look Mo, we love you, but this is probably it.”  The real hard thing is going to be if he falters this season but is still generally OK. Like, if he becomes Bobby Jenks or Chad Qualls or someone like that. Superficially he’ll still look like an elite closer, but in reality he won’t be worth that kind of commitment.  Such a dynamic could make for a very, very thorny fall and winter.

Jeter is kind of a no-brainer. He’s going to get a big fat contract that pays him just as much if not a little more than the $21 million he makes now over fewer years. Everyone will know the moment it’s signed that the back end of it is going to be ugly and no one will really care because he’s Derek Jeter.  If a situation presents itself in which he’s making $22-25 million and can’t hit his weight, he and the team will get creative and turn his money into some lifetime contract, he’ll retire and become the greatest ambassador the Yankees ever had.  The details aren’t important. What’s important is that both the Yankees and Jeter have zero desire to see the Captain in any other uniform, and no matter how it’s dealt with, it won’t happen.

Ultimately there will be an inverse relationship between the amount of ink that is spilled over these three guys’ contract status and how difficult the Yankees’ decisions with respect to these guys ultimately will be.  We’ll hear about Jeter’s contract all season, but that gets done quickly. There will likewise be tons of hand-wringing “lame duck” articles regarding Girardi, but his deal (or termination) will only take about ten minutes more consideration than Jeter’s thing.

It’s Rivera’s situation that I’m planning on watching the closest, because if things break just wrong, it could be royal pain for the Yankees and Rivera and a total field day for the Post.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.