With A-Rod ban settled, where do the Yankees go from here?

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The Yankees can finally move forward with their plans for 2014 now that Alex Rodriguez has received a 162-game ban which also includes the postseason. And they have to be pretty happy with how things have worked out.

It’s easy to see the benefits of having Rodriguez off the books for 2014, as he was due to make $25 million. Much has been made about the Yankees trying to get under the $189 million threshold, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears that they will still be charged $3,155,737.70 for A-Rod for luxury tax purposes for 2014 since the suspension is for 162 games and not a full year. That could cut things very close depending on what else they do this offseason.

On a related note, the Yankees are believed to be one of the front-runners for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. The savings from A-Rod, at least for 2014, should come in handy, but Tanaka is going to be very expensive. Due to the changes associated with the posting system, it will likely require a contract north of $100 million in order to sign him. That could easily push them over the $189 million figure.

Yes, the Yankees will save money with the suspension and won’t have to deal with the daily sideshow like we saw during the second half last season, but the loss of Rodriguez adds yet another question to the team’s infield going into 2014. Derek Jeter is no sure thing after being limited to just 17 games last season and the Yankees will attempt to piece together second base following the departure of Robinson Cano. As of now, they are counting on Kelly Johnson and the injury-prone Brian Roberts to be major contributors.

There’s still a chance that the Yankees could upgrade their infield via trade, as a Brett Gardner-for-Brandon Phillips swap has been mentioned in the past, but Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reported this morning that the Yankees were still looking at free agents Mark Reynolds and Michael Young as possible fallbacks at third base. Of course, neither are inspiring options, but there’s slim pickings out there.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”