Joe Girardi: Yankees' plans on hold

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the drawn-out Alex Rodriguez appeal hearing is impeding offseason plans because the team doesn't know whether the third baseman's 211-game suspension will be upheld.

"I think it complicates," Girardi said at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.

Rodriguez's appeal of punishment for violating the joint drug agreement and the collective bargaining agreement resumes Nov. 18 in Manhattan. At that point, his side will begin its defense. Joe Tacopina, one of Rodriguez's lawyers, said the process will last at least five days.

If it doesn't conclude by the end of that week, then the two sides, along with arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, would have to figure out another date to convene. When the appeal does end, Horowitz is expected to decide within 25 days. So the Yankees will likely not find out until sometime in December, perhaps even later.

"It's important that we know," Girardi said. "Because if we're not going to have him, we need to fill that void. It does cause us to think a lot about, 'Do we need a third baseman or do we not need a third baseman?'

"Hopefully we'll know sooner rather than later."

Meanwhile, lawyers for both sides spent Thursday morning in a Manhattan courtroom for the first conference of Rodriguez's lawsuit against commissioner Bud Selig and MLB for what his side describes as a "witch hunt."

On Thursday morning, Girardi joined former teammate and current Yankees TV analyst David Cone in the Bronx as the team and the USO hosted approximately 150 volunteers to assemble 5,000 Big Apple Packs for active servicemen and servicewomen.

Although the Yankees are attempting to lower their payroll to $189 million to reduce their luxury-tax exposure, they have devised a plan that could see them spending in excess of $300 million. Sources have told ESPN New York that the Yankees' top priorities are re-signing Robinson Cano, winning the bidding for Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka and signing free-agent catcher Brian McCann.

The Yankees have offered Curtis Granderson a $14.1 million qualifying offer, which he has until Monday's 5 p.m. ET deadline to accept. If he does not, the Yankees could be major players for Carlos Beltran. Shin-Soo Choo could also emerge as a possibility if the Yankees' initial plans do not work out.

The Yankees have money to spend because they have around $85 million to $90 million coming off their books from last season.

If Rodriguez's suspension is upheld, the Yankees would save $25 million in salary and a $6 million bonus he would likely reach by hitting six more homers to tie Willie Mays on the all-time list.

Girardi said he is not intimidated by having to challenge the world champion Boston Red Sox. He reasoned that if the Yankees -- who finished 85-77 -- had just won one more game per month, they would have made the playoffs in 2013. They finished above .500 despite using the most players in a season in franchise history.

Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Rodriguez and Granderson were among the players to suffer major injuries.

"I think we need to get a little healthier," Girardi said. "Tex was a big loss. Derek was a big loss."

Jeter, 39, has already begun offseason workouts in Tampa, Fla. He was limited to 17 games this season because of ankle injuries and other ailments related to them.

The Yankees will have a new look to their rotation next season as CC Sabathia, who is recovered from a hamstring injury that ended his subpar 2013, and Ivan Nova are the only set starters. Andy Pettitte has retired, and Phil Hughes is expected to depart as a free agent.

The Yankees hope to retain Hiroki Kuroda, who was given a qualifying offer. Michael Pineda, who has not pitched in the majors since the Yankees acquired him two winters ago, is expected to compete for a rotation spot with his shoulder healed.

David Robertson is the favorite to replace Mariano Rivera as the closer, but Girardi said nothing is set.

"I know we haven't anointed anyone as a closer, and we've got to see what happens," Girardi said. "David Robertson has had a number of very good years here, but we've got to see what we can put together as a team as a whole before we do anything."