As fun of a ride as it was, the 2010 New York Yankee season is over. And now, the Yankees will have to do the only thing they know to help alleviate the stress of losing in the ALCS to the Texas Rangers: spend, spend, and spend.

Let’s take a look at the top priorities for the Yankees as they look forward to the 2011 season.

Deep in thought over whom to intentionally walk next - Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

1. Resigning the Legends – The Yankee ownership cannot afford to mess around with the expiring contracts of three Core Four members Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte. Although I do believe that all three will be back in pinstripes in 2011, the process will certainly net between $50-60 million of a salary liability for the year. The Yankees will certainly overspend for the services of Jeter, whose 2010 WAR was 1.3, his worst in a full season. Mariano Rivera was as dominant as ever and has probably another year or two left. Andy Pettitte will be a question mark as he has been for the past few seasons. Expect a Brett Favre-esque off-season from Andy before teammates CC Sabathia and Jorge Posada convince Andy to have another go-around to win his sixth World Series. Do you think Andy wants to be remembered standing on the dugout steps as the Bombers were eliminated in Texas? I think not.

One more ring will make him a guaranteed Hall of Famer.

Joe Girardi isn’t exactly a Yankee legend, but keeping the cool-mannered manager will be one of the Yankees top priorities. It almost a lock that he’ll return for at least three more seasons.

2. Pitching, Pitching, and Pitching – If the 2010 postseason proved anything to us, it is that pitching is what wins games. Although most would take the threesome of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and Andy Pettitte over Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, and Colby Lewis, the latter trio outperformed the Yankee starters in the ALCS. The Yankees will add another starting arm to the rotation to firm up the top and the bottom. Obviously, the number one pitching free agent this offseason will be Cliff Lee, CYD (Certified Yankee Destroyer). He will not be cheap, but I’m not sure if the Yankees can afford to pass him up. Until this postseason, I didn’t think there was any way he’d make more than CC Sabathia ($23M in 2011), but his postseason accolades could net him CC-type money (7 years/$161 million). Remember, Lee will be 32 when he signs this contract. Sabathia was 28. Lee and Sabathia were close friends when they were teammates in Cleveland. Lee and Burnett are both from Arkansas (That means nothing, but its fun to add more facts)

If this signing were to go down, the Yankee rotation would be:

Projected 2011 Rotation (with 2010 stats)
1. CC Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 ERA)
2. Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.18 ERA with Seattle and Texas)
3. Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.18 ERA)
4. Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.28 ERA)
5. AJ Burnett (10-15, 5.26 ERA)

That’s obviously a very strong rotation. AJ Burnett would be the real wild-card in my book. If he can overcome the voices in his head, he could easily revert to 2009 form. What if Cliff Lee doesn’t come to New York? There’s still other options available, but none as dominant as Lee. If Lee doesn’t come to town, I expect the Yankees to make a play at Royals ace and 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Grienke, who is reportedly available via a trade. This option would be considerably less, which could be used for any number of options, including bullpen/bench help.

3. Various Position Players – The Yankee lineup will be as formidable as ever in 2011. Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, and Robinson Cano are all top 10 MVP candidates when healthy. Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter will already be back in pinstripes, as I discussed above. Nick Swisher was a first-time All-Star in 2010 and will look to build on his career year. Curtis Granderson‘s .958 September/October OPS will make everyone forget about his abysmal start and Austin Jackson’s remarkable luck in Detroit (.396 BABIP). Brett Gardner may be one of the best value’s in the league, posting a 4.0 WAR with a meager salary of $482,000. Some fans will be calling for Carl Crawford, the left-fielder from Tampa Bay or Jayson Werth, the right-fielder from Philadelphia, but neither will be able to replace Gardner or Swisher, respectively. Crawford and Werth will obviously produce better stats than the two Yankees, but the combined cost of the two (about $14M for 2011) will be less than the 2011 salary of each one of the two top options. The money saved there can go to where it is needed most: Cliff Lee.

The only real question is the DH spot, but the Yankees struck gold with Marcus Thames against lefties and getting Lance Berkman in the Houston clearance rack before the trade deadline. Marcus is a free agent and his 2010 salary was $900,000, which is about his market value for next year. Another team will likely offer Thames a full-time opportunity and more money than the Yankees could offer, similar to what happened with Eric Hinske in 2009. Lance Berkman has a $2 million buy-out, which will probably be executed considering his hefty 2011 contract ($15 M). One wild-card that could fill the DH role is uber-prospect Jesus Montero, who has teared through the minor leagues. Just twenty years young, Jesus hit for a triple slash of .289/.353/.517 with 21 home runs and 75 RBIs. If Montero continues to grow at this exponential rate, he will at the very least be a call-up when the rosters expand next September.

What do you think the Yankees need to prioritize to make 2011 a better season than 2010. Pitching? Hitting? Managing?