NEW YORK — Joe Girardi understands that by signing on for three more years with the New York Yankees he’ll have the delicate task of guiding an aging Core Four through the final stages of their careers.
The Yankees and their manager finalized a new contract Friday that runs through the 2013 season.
Next up for the ball club: finding a pitching coach and negotiating deals for possible free-agent icons Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, if the latter wishes to return.
“I know I’m going to be the one that’s going to have to handle it,” Girardi said on a conference call.
“I think the most important thing is you handle it with respect for each individual.”
Should the crew that has won five championships in New York remain together, Jeter will turn 37, Pettitte 39 and Jorge Posada 40 during next season. Rivera will be 41 on Nov. 29.
A person familiar with Girardi’s contract told The Associated Press on Thursday that the deal is worth US$9 million.
Girardi would be able to earn about $500,000 more each year in bonuses based on the team’s performance. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the terms publicly.
Girardi is finishing a $7.8-million, three-year contract that he signed as Joe Torre’s successor following the 2007 season.
As defending World Series champions this year, the Yankees finished 95-67 and earned the AL wild card but were thoroughly beaten by the Texas Rangers in the AL championship series.
In that matchup, Jeter was outplayed by his 22-year-old counterpart, Elvis Andrus, on offence and at shortstop. Girardi was asked whether it’s time to start thinking about moving Jeter to another position or dropping him from the top of the order.
“I think you have to watch the level he plays at,” the manager said.
But Girardi did say that “our lineup is maybe something that could change next year,” when analyzing it top to bottom.
General manager Brian Cashman showed his support for the captain: “He’s the best candidate to play shortstop for this franchise.”
Cashman will head to Tampa, Fla., on Monday to meet with Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ co-chairmen, to map out an off-season plan.
Initially, Cashman sounded focused on starting pitching — Cliff Lee? — and a left-handed reliever to complement Boone Logan.
Finding a pitching coach to replace the fired Dave Eiland could take a while, though. Neither Cashman nor Girardi would discuss candidates from outside the organization, but Cashman said bullpen coach Mike Harkey and triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred would get consideration.
Girardi also revealed CC Sabathia had issues with his right knee “fairly early” in the season. The ace left-hander had surgery earlier Friday.
“At times he had to back off some of the things he was doing,” Girardi said, but “he never missed a start.”
A catcher on the Yankees’ World Series championship teams in 1996, 1998 and 1999, Girardi managed the Florida Marlins in 2006 and was voted NL Manager of the Year.
When Torre left New York following 12 seasons, Girardi was hired for the Yankees job over Don Mattingly.
New York missed the playoffs in Girardi’s first year, then beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series. The Yankees have a 287-199 regular-season record in three years under Girardi.
This summer, there was speculation that Girardi might want to replace retiring Cubs manager Lou Piniella in the city where he got his start as a player — Girardi spent seven seasons over two stints in Chicago. Girardi also has roots in the area, having grown up in nearby Peoria and gone to college at Northwestern.
He lost that bargaining chip, though, when the Cubs removed the interim tag for Mike Quade and made him their manager.
In the end, it didn’t matter.
“I didn’t really think about leaving the Yankees,” Girardi said. “My focus the whole time was on our club.”
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.