The New York Yankees are well aware that the team has to get younger this offseason and there are already signs that change may start with some of the franchise's most historic players voluntarily not coming back.
Yesterday, general manager Brian Cashman said that he doesn't know if baseball's all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera is definitely returning next season.
"He said he doesn't know what he is doing yet," Cashman said, referring to a conversation he had with his 42-year-old closer on Tuesday. "I asked him what his plans were and he said, 'I haven't decided yet.' He said he was working his way through about 2013 and he would let me know soon."
Combine that with the similar talks the Yankees are having with 40-year-old Andy Pettitte and the retirement of Jorge Posada last year, and the Core Four could become the One-and-Done with a hobbled Derek Jeter left as the only link to the Yankees glorious 17-year run.
When Rivera suffered his season-ending torn ACL on May 3 in Kansas City, he vowed to return in 2013. He even gave some thought to getting back this season, but was convinced otherwise.
"I'm coming back," Rivera said the day after he fell in the Kauffman Stadium outfield, clutching his right knee. "Put it down. Write it down. Write it down in big letters. I'm not going down like this. God willing and given the strength, I'm coming back."
Cashman isn't holding Rivera to his words and will take a wait and see attitude on his future Hall of Fame pitcher.
"He might retire, he might play. he doesn't know yet." said Cashman. "I told him when you know where you are at let us know."
Rivera has been working hard to rehab the knee and says he will be healthy enough to pitch again but the Yankees have to be concerned about him coming back from a serious injury at such an advanced age.
Asked if the Yankees want Rivera back in pinstripes, Cashman was adamant. "Yes," he said.
But the GM and free-agent still haven't talked money. Rivera made $15 million last season and may be using his indecision as leverage in negotiations.
Cashman knows Rivera — the most consistent closer in history — wants to end his career as a Yankee and isn't interested in pitching anywhere else. The same with Pettitte. Both legendary Yankee players will be free agents immediately after the final out in the World Series.
"I talked to them because they are unique," said Cashman. "I don't have to ask [free agents] Russell Martin and Nick Swisher if they are going to play [next season]."
It's hard for the Yankees to get younger when they still cling to so many emotional ties to the past. It's the old story — youth vs. experience. But we're talking about a lot of success in those tired bones.
For now, Cashman may hoping to steal one more year from the aging Key Three — Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera.