Seven issues facing the 2013 Yanks

As they try to balance their dual goals of winning another World Series and lowering payroll by 10 percent for 2014, the Yankees are going to have to make a ton of huge decisions this winter. To get under $189 million by 2014 and still win, GM Brian Cashman is going to have to be right a lot.

So in honor of The Mick, here are the top seven issues facing the Yankees going into the offseason, plus our predictions.

1. What to do with Alex Rodriguez?

The $114 million question will be the most popular one this offseason. The tumultuous A-Rod Era may be over. In his nine years with the Yankees, A-Rod led the team to the 2009 World Series title, won two MVPs and, on average, batted .292 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs per season.

But with five years left and $114 million remaining on his deal, the Yankees will try to divorce themselves from him this winter. While benching and pinch-hitting him throughout the playoffs, the Yankees decided that he can't hit right-handed pitching anymore.

Prediction: A-Rod is traded, most likely to the Marlins. The Yankees will eat most of the money and get little back. However, there is the tantalizing possibility the Marlins want to cut their losses and include someone like Jose Reyes.

2. Which of the Core Four will be active on Opening Day '13?

Derek Jeter's ankle is going to need at least four or five months to recover. That means Opening Day is in question for the Captain. At 38, Jeter became the second-oldest player ever to lead the majors in hits. Pete Rose was 40 in 1981. How much will Jeter's ankle impact his rebirth? What will it do to his range?

Mariano Rivera should be ready for the first day of spring training with a fully recovered right knee. Rivera will be 43 on Opening Day and he will have a chance to add to his legend if he is as good as ever.

Andy Pettitte hopes to decide within the next month if he is going to come back or not. After a year off, Pettitte was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA. He seemed to really enjoy the competition again.

Prediction: Who is going to bet against the three remaining members of the Core Four? These guys are special players. However, at some point they are going to lose their fastball, cutter and ability to go the other way. Who knows if it is next year? But I expect all three to be there on Opening Day. What they will look like by this time next year could very well determine if the Yankees are still playing late into 2013.

3. New outfield?

Who would have thought this on July 23? By the middle of October, Ichiro Suzuki could be the most likely Yankee to return next season. Ichiro may want to try to win again with the Yankees, who will surely offer him nothing more than a one-year deal.

Nick Swisher is surely a goner. He will want too much money and the Yankees are ready to move on. Curtis Granderson has a $12 million option that the team probably will pick up, likely with the intent to make a deal.

Add Brett Gardner back into the mix and the Yankees' outfield may look a lot different at the start of next season than it did at the end of this year.

Prediction: Swisher is gone. Granderson is traded. Ichiro is in right. Gardner is in left or center, depending if the Yankees sign center fielder Michael Bourn or Torii Hunter for a corner. Josh Hamilton won't be a Yankee.

4. Robbie Cano, what do you know?

Do the Yankees try to sign Cano, who turns 30 on Monday, to a long-term contract? Between what agent Scott Boras will want for his client to skip free agency and the Yankees' doubts about Cano, despite his greatness, it is hard to imagine a deal gets done that can fit into the $189 Million Plan.

Prediction: A year from now, we will be talking about Cano's impending free agency.

5. Soriano, will you go?

Rafael Soriano really saved the season this year. He arguably was the Yankees' MVP. He will probably opt out to try to secure a multiyear deal as a closer. He probably won't get the $14 million he would make for the Yankees next season, but someone should want him to close.

Prediction: Soriano is a goner.

6. Young Guns?

To save money, the Yankees need some major league innings from young pitchers. It starts with Michael Pineda, the biggest disappointment from 2012. You know the story -- from overweight to hurt to arrested for DUI.

Pineda is going to have to earn his spot. Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances will be non-factors. Banuelos is out with Tommy John surgery, while Betances could not control his pitches this year and was demoted to Double-A. David Phelps could fight for a rotation spot.

Prediction: Pineda starts next year at Triple-A after failing to crack the rotation. He is still a kid so all is not yet lost. Phelps is the fifth starter.

7. Old "Young Guns"

The Yankees have to decide what to do with Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Both can be free agents after next year. Hughes is a proven young starter now, but he is only a No. 3 or 4, at best. Should the Yankees trade him now before possibly losing him or being forced to pay him more than he is worth? Chamberlain is streaky, but his role could increase with Soriano's departure.

Prediction: One of these two are traded. Maybe both.