Is A Front Office Purge Coming?

Aaron Boone not only put the Yankees into the World Series with one swing of the bat. He could have prevented a postseason purge. Scapegoats are always sought in defeat, so nobody knows who the victims of the fallout might be should the Marlins upset the Yankees and emerge victorious in the 99th World Series.

During the Division Series against Minnesota, owner George Steinbrenner promised Joe Torre, at $5 million, will return but made no such commitment to general manager Brian Cashman, who will make $1.15 million.

Cashman, on the receiving end of a Steinbrenner tirade, was told nothing is certain after 2004, and if he wanted he could go to the Mets.

"It comes with working here," Cashman said of wearing the bull's-eye in Steinbrenner's shooting gallery. "You're judged on results here."

The results have been good by anyone's standards -- six World Series appearances since 1996 -- but that means nothing with Steinbrenner, and if he should lose Cashman it will set back resolving the myriad of offseason issues that center around the pitching staff.

If not Cashman, it's anybody's guess where Steinbrenner's ax might fall in the front office.

In addition, Torre's staff must be addressed if pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre retires.

If not, Torre wants both him and bench coach Don Zimmer back, but hitting coach Rick Down could be singled out.

Talking Roger Clemens out of retirement is a fairy tale, and the Yankees will have to make decisions on left-handers Andy Pettitte (21-8, 4.02 ERA) and 40-year-old David Wells (15-7, 4.14).

"There are changes every year," Torre said. "Every year you lose people. That's part of the game."

If neither Pettitte nor Wells returns, the Yankees' rotation will include Mike Mussina and several question marks: Jose Contreras (Can he change promise to production?), Jon Lieber (Can he come back from elbow surgery?) and Jeff Weaver (Can he pitch in New York?).

The Yankees are also expected to make a run at power-hitting outfielders Vladimir Guerrero of Montreal and Atlanta's Gary Sheffield.

Because the Yankees don't have much bargaining power in their farm system -- highlighted by Drew Henson's slow development -- they are more likely to upgrade through free agency than by trading, which means their $180 million payroll could spiral even more.

Even with Clemens' retirement and if Pettitte and Wells aren't brought back, they would still have the major leagues' highest payroll.

Re-signing Pettitte, or replacing him with somebody like Kevin Millwood or Bartolo Colon, will boost the payroll again.

The Yankees' best trade option could be first baseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson. Last year, New York offered Johnson to Montreal for pitcher Javier Vazquez, but the deal never materialized.

As of now, Torre said the Yankees' upgrade plans for next season don't include moving Bernie Williams from center field to left and second baseman Alfonso Soriano to the outfield.

Despite advancing to the World Series and possibly beyond, the 2003 version of the Yankees has several glaring holes that will need to be addressed during the offseason. It remains to be seen whether or not Cashman and company will be the ones addressing them.

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