More Questions Than Answers for Yankee Lineup

The Yankee lineup lacks the certainty we're accustomed to seeing

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Yankees aren't playing with a full deck right now.

    The predictable response to the news that Alex Rodriguez would miss four to six months after having surgery was snickering about the years and money left on his contract. 

    It's well-earned and well-deserved scorn for the Yankees' decision to negotiate against themselves for A-Rod's services after he opted out of his contract in 2007. But the problem for the Yankees isn't the waste of money.

    Amazingly, the problem is a lack of offense. With A-Rod on the shelf, the Yankees find themselves with more unknowns than known in the lineup. 

    They'll need a temporary third baseman, obviously, but they also don't know what kind of impact Derek Jeter's broken ankle will have on his ability in the year to come. There's no designated hitter and no catcher now that Russell Martin has taken his talents to Pittsburgh. 

    There are no corner outfielders other than Brett Gardner and there doesn't seem to be much interest in bringing Ichiro Suzuki back for another year. For those of you keeping track, that's big questions at six of the nine spots in the lineup. 

    Panic isn't necessary at the moment. Brian Cashman has shown plenty of ability for uncovering diamonds in the rough on the veteran scrap heap in recent seasons and we're still more than three months away from spring training. 

    It complicates matters that the Yankees are doing everything they can to avoid adding money to the payroll in 2014, limiting them mostly to players looking for one-year deals. Such players can be useful -- see Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez in the past couple of years -- but they are flawed products of a temporal nature that need to be replaced every year. 

    Further complicating matters is the fact that the Yankees' austerity push comes at the same time that the rest of baseball is moving in the other direction. Big revenues around the league, fueled in part by exploding cable television deals, have led to teams spending more than they have in the recent past. 

    That leaves fewer players to pick through at the low end of the market and it means that the Yankees will have to hope someone they like falls through the cracks. It would be much, much easier to implement this kind of plan if the Yankees had a minor league system producing players they could plug into some of these roles, but any good looking hitters aren't ready to get to the majors right now. 

    So that means the Yankees will have to spend money to stay competitive and they'll be old up and down the lineup, just like they were when they were juggling around injuries all of last season. It's a mode of operation that can work, but it's one with a high degree of difficulty for a team that's suddenly short on certainties.

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.