30 Clubs in 30 Days: New York Yankees

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

nyuThe Evil Empire. The Bronx Bombers. The Stankees. Whatever you call them, they’ll always be the most prolific franchise in all of American sports. They’re also one of the more intriguing story lines heading into 2014. The Yankees, fresh off just their second missed playoff appearance since 1994, went all in this offseason following the loss of Robinson Cano to the Mariners. Their signings of Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran have invigorated the fanbase. New York, despite the loss of their Gold Glove second baseman, believes that it has the best team in the division. They just might be right. But, there are still plenty of holes that could rupture if a few things go wrong.

Offensively, the Yankees are quite talented and achieved. But, they’re also incredibly old. Of their starting nine, only Ellsbury and Brett Gardner bring any semblance of speed to the equation. Derek Jeter is a bit of a mystery. Yes, the future Hall-of-Fame shortstop’s farewell tour should be gratifying. But, if he can’t play like he used to; how will his return help a Yankees team with a lot of strikeouts in the middle of their lineup? Beltran had a great season with St. Louis in 2013. But, he’s in his late-30s. As is Alfonso Soriano, who came back to New York last July from Chicago and is going to be expected to hit over 20 homers as the team’s primary DH. Perhaps their biggest offensive questions comes at second base, where the team will rely on former Orioles’ All Star Brian Roberts. Always considered a talented hitter, Roberts hasn’t played much over the last few years due to rampant injury problems. Unless those issues were confined to Camden Yards, Roberts will find it hard pressed to play in more than 100 games this season for New York.

The Yankees’ bench is actually quite strong, as Ichiro Suzuki, Brendan Ryan, and Eduardo Nunez provide the primary backup duties. Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine are adequate backup backstops for McCann, who is one of the finest offensive catchers in the game.

As for their rotation; well, it’s a wait-and-see game. Really, that’s the case for their entire pitching staff. CC Sabathia’s dramatic weight loss is expected to allow him to flourish later in games for the Yankees. That would certainly be an improvement, as the southpaw labored Yankemesdramatically at times during the worst season of his Yankees’ career in 2013 (14-13, 4.78). Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda provide the Yankees with a quality 2-3 punch behind C.C. That’s where the quality ends and the questions begin. Ivan Nova was strong in his first year with the club. But, 2013 saw the RHP bounce between AAA and the majors multiple times. He was adequate with New York (9-6, 3.10). But, they’ll need more consistency from him if they are to contend in the difficult AL East. David Phelps brings up the rear, and he’s not exactly a great fifth option for a contending club. Look for Michael Pineda or Adam Warren to be the next guys up if anyone is injured or falters.

The bullpen is where the changes will be most noticeable. After all, the retirement of Mariano Rivera left a chasm in the ninth inning for New York for the first time in 20 years. Having neglected to replace Rivera in the offseason, the Yankees will opt to go with David Robertson as their closer (at least to begin the season). The veteran righthander has been brilliant in recent years (5-1, 2.04 in 2013) and has the makeup and stuff to be a quality ninth-inning reliever. But, so much of the success of a closer is psychological. It remains to be seen whether or not Robertson has the mental makeup to thrive in such a high pressure role. If he does struggle, the team signed veteran southpaw Matt Thornton, who struggled in 2013. But, the lefty does have closing experience with the White Sox if it comes down to that.

Key Acquisitions

C Brian McCann (Atlanta Braves)
2B Brian Roberts (Baltimore Orioles)
3B Kelly Johnson (Tampa Bay Rays)
OF Carlos Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston Red Sox)
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (Japan)
LHP Matt Thornton (Boston Red Sox)

Key Departures

C Chris Stewart (Pittsburgh Pirates)
1B Lyle Overbay (Milwaukee Brewers)
1B Travis Hafner (Unsigned)
2B Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners)
2B Jayson Nix (Tampa Bay Rays)
3B Kevin Youkilis (Japan)
OF Vernon Wells (Retirement)
OF Curtis Granderson (New York Mets)
RHP Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins)
LHP Andy Pettitte (Retirement)
RHP Mariano Rivers (Retirement)
RHP Joba Chamberlain (Detroit Tigers)
LHP Boone Logan (Colorado Rockies)

Projected Lineup and Rotation

OF Jacoby Ellsbury – .282-13-58
SS Derek Jeter – .289-6-35
OF Carlos Beltran – .278-20-76
1B Mark Teixeira – .242-25-77
C Brian McCann – .257-23-75
DH Alfonso Soriano – .247-24-75
OF Brett Gardner – .267-9-57
3B Kelly Johnson – .228-14-50
2B Brian Roberts – .255-6-27

LHP CC Sabathia – 12-9, 3.81
RHP Masahiro Tanaka – 13-10, 3.63
RHP Hiroki Kuroda – 12-9, 3.77
RHP Ivan Nova – 11-10, 3.91
RHP David Phelps – 6-5, 4.28

RHP David Robertson – 4-3, 2.76, 30 sv

Outlook

The Yankees have newfound star power. But, will that convert to wins? When looking at the makeshift roster of last year, it’s actually quite impressive that New York even won 85 games. We’re talking about a starting lineup that included Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Eduardo Nunez, and Jayson Nix for nearly 100 games in 2013. That’s more like a championship level AAA team than a playoff caliber MLB squad. Nonetheless, New York managed to finish above .500 with that cast of characters manning the diamond. If their new, improved lineup can stay healthy, there’s no doubt that the Yankees’ offense will be much improved in 2014.

The pitching staff is a different tale. Yes, Tanaka should be an improvement over Andy Pettitte and Sabathia couldn’t possibly mimic his mediocre performance of a year ago. But, the team’s lack of depth at starter is obvious. Nova should be good enough as a number four. But, David Phelps is not going to cut it. If anyone gets injured, the Yankees are going to need to find someone or hope that Michael Pineda finally pans out after being acquired from Seattle two years ago. The bullpen, of course, will go as far as Robertson will take them. I think that David will replace Rivera quite adequately, and allow the Yankees to focus on adding a starter at the deadline.

New York, like I’ve stated, won 85 games last year with a real cluster%#$^ of a roster. The improvements they made offensively should be enough to overcome whichever losses they sustained in the pitching staff. Signing Tanaka was huge, as New York barely had a major league rotation prior to his addition. If the team can stay healthy and perhaps add a starter at the trade deadline, this is a championship roster. As currently constructed, I think they’re the best team in the American League East. New York will win between 89 and 95 games, capturing their second division crown in three years.

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Comments
  1. Gerison says:

    I just can’t see the yankees winning the AL East. The world series champions (Boston Red Sox) have a better team than they had last year and they basically own the division. The Yankees lost their only chance of winning in Robinson Cano, one of the greatest hitters to ever play for the Yankees.

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