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An early look at the coming Yankees offseason

The race for the AL East is maddeningly close. Let's take our minds off of that for a moment and look to the future.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Today is September 7th. The regular season is not yet over, and the playoffs have not yet begun. There is a healthy portion of meaningful baseball left to play in the 2015 season. For this reason, I have decided to forego all rational baseball analyzing habits and dip a toe into the madness that is the standard MLB offseason. Let's consider what the the Yankees might do this winter.

Whether the they finish in first or second place, the 2015 regular season will largely be considered a success. An aging roster was kicked into high gear when Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, two players that had very little (or nothing, in Rodriguez's case) expected of them turned back into offensive dynamos. Some great pitching by the bullpen, the starting rotation and wunderkind Luis Severino have the Yanks in the playoff hunt, and there are very few holes opening up on the roster. Chris Young and Stephen Drew will be hitting free agency, and Brendan Ryan has a player option that he's likely to exercise. Everyone else is under contract. For the most part, that's a good thing. That doesn't mean there isn't some finagling to be done. Brian Cashman and his compadres in the front office have some questions to answer this offseason.

Second Base

The Yankees still haven't found a real replacement for Robinson Cano at at second base, Stephen Drew's little offensive renaissance aside. Cashman seems hesitant to hand Rob Refsnyder the keys to the car, so they'll need to look outside the organization to see who exactly they can plug in at the position. There's a non-zero chance Drew is back in pinstripes next year because of that. His frustrating bat aside, Drew is probably going to finish the season with 20 home runs. Only Brian Dozier has more homers at second base. When you add in his fair glove and ability to play shortstop, that's not a bad deal, and he'll come cheap. If his reemergence as a league-average hitter continues through this month and into the playoffs, then perhaps Drew is the best bang-for-your-buck deal to be had on the market.

As for the other free agents, there are some interesting options. Howie Kendrick has been a steady producer but is currently out with an injury. His replacement, Chase Utley, is probably too old for Cashman's tastes these days, but would be an intriguing proposition on a short deal. Ben Zobrist doesn't hit as well as he once did, but his versatility is an asset and he wouldn't be called on to carry a major offensive load. Then there's crosstown favorite Daniel Murphy, who can hit but may be best served as a first baseman these days. The trade market is also pretty murky at this time, and many trades seem to materialize out of thin air. The only painful obvious trade candidates among second basemen right now are Jedd Gyorko, Brandon Phillips and Martin Prado, but none of them are enticing options due to either age, ineffectiveness, contract, or a combination of them all. There's a possibility of Ian Kinsler being made available by the Tigers, but we don't know enough about new head honcho Al Avila to say if he's feeling that plucky.

One very interesting buy-low candidate to keep an eye on is Jurickson Profar. The former top prospect, who's dealt with injury upon injury, is set to see some reps in the Arizona Fall League and it's safe to say the scouts will be particularly interested in him. The Rangers seem to be happy with Rougned Odor at second base, and Profar might be their most fascinating bargaining chip.

Backup Outfielder

This is another spot where the Yankees could simply re-sign Young. He proved his worth as a platoon bat off the bench that provided contrast to the lefties in the starting lineup. Young will probably be looking for more money now, however, and his inability to hit right-handed pitching hamstrung the Yankees at times. Yet the more interesting bench outfielders on the market this winter, such as Gerardo Parra, may be looking for starting gigs. Young could simply be the most efficient allocation of resources.

Backup outfielders change hands quite a bit over the winter and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Yankees try to fill the spot in this way. They have a small army of relievers at their disposal to use as trade chips to get their man. Any bigger targets would require clearing space by trading Brett Gardner. It's also worth noting that Dustin Ackley is under contract for next season as well. He hits left-handed, but is a better fielder than Young and the Yanks have always been fascinated by him, but that hardly solves their need for some right-handed power.

Starting Pitching

There are no spots opening through free agency in the starting staff, but Luis Severino has clearly demonstrated that he belongs in the rotation. The Yankees currently posses six starting pitchers and barring the transition of someone to the bullpen, something's got to give. Nobody in their right mind would take on CC Sabathia, so Ivan Nova seems to be the odd man out. Nova has had a rough time in his return from Tommy John surgery, but that's to be expected, and should probably be much sharper next year. He'll still be inconsistent, but he can take up a spot in the back end of a rotation quite nicely. A team like the Giants that's starved for starting pitching could take a chance on Nova. They're losing Mike Leake and Ryan Vogelsong to free agency, and while some expect them to make a serious run at retaining Leake, Nova would fill a need. Nova also seems like a prime candidate for Pirates pitching coach/magical guru Ray Searage to transform into a quality pitcher, and the Pirates like to do business with Cashman. There's also the chance that Cashman tries to sign one of the bigger free agent pitchers on the market because these are the Yankees we're talking about here and roster spots be damned. If he wants a big pitcher, he'll make room for them.

These aren't the only moves the Yankees need to think about as they head into the winter. For instance, Greg Bird has shown that he's a big league first baseman. However, Mark Teixiera will be back. Are the Yankees happy to let Bird be his caddy and wait for the inevitable injury? Are the Yankees going to make the bullpen even more unfair by signing someone like Darren O'Day? How many of the top prospects will be left in the system come spring training? It's a long time between now and then, and there's still plenty of 2015 baseball left, but these are fun things to think about, and it will be interesting to see how Drew and Young make their cases to be retained down the stretch.

Nicolas Stellini is a staff writer at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankees and covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.