It was a rough season for the New York Yankees in 2013. The Yankees were seemingly made of glass last year as Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and even the Yankee Captain Derek Jeter missed significant time due to injury. The team’s ace CC Sabathia saw his velocity decline a considerable amount as his pitch count is beginning to catch up to him. On top of all that, it was an end of an era seeing Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte make their final appearances in pinstripes. Due to all this animosity, the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in my lifetime (I was born in 1995), the other time was in 2008.
Just like they did after the 2008 season, the Yankees broke open the piggy bank again. With the acquisitions this team has made this offseason, it is clear that the Yankees are back in business. But more importantly, they are giving Derek Jeter the best chance to hoist the World Series trophy one last time.
Let’s break it down:
It was the end of an era for the Yankees as both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte have played there last games in pinstripes. But perhaps neither of the two Yankee greats were the biggest loss for New York. The loss of Robinson Cano gives the Yankees a huge whole in the middle of the lineup that the Yankees must immediately fill if they expect to compete in Jeter’s last season. Though the loss of Cano leaves a big void for the Yankees, at his asking price Cano can have fun in Seattle. Seeing “Greedinson Cano” struggle in Seattle, which he surely will with the lineup he is in, will undoubtfully be amusing for Yankee fans.
Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Chris Stewart, Travis Hafner, and Mark Reynolds.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Matt Thornton, Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson
With the Yankees losing countless big name players this off season the Steinbrenner’s were ready to open up shop this offseason in hopes to replace the production they previously got from Robinson Cano and others.
After rightfully backing off Robinson Cano and his tumultuous contract proposition the Yankees looked to the next most sought after free agent bat, Jacoby Ellsbury. This is a very different signing then the Yankees have been accustomed to for the sole reason that Ellsbury is expected to hit leadoff. The Yankees haven’t been worried about speed at the top of the lineup because that has been Jeter’s spot since 1995, before I could walk. But with Jeter coming off a serious injury and soon to join Mariano and Pettitte in retirement, it was time for the Yankees to find a new leadoff hitter.
Not only does Ellsbury give the Yankees speed but he also gives them a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. Not to mention Ellsbury will thrive of the Yankees short right porch which will lead to a rejuvenation in his power numbers. We know the man can run but with the likelihood of increased power numbers it isn’t farfetched to assume that Jacoby Ellsbury will be an MVP candidate.
Perhaps the most important acquisition of the winter for New York was the signing of 25 year old Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka. With the Yankees ace CC Sabathia coming off the worst season of his career in which he saw his velocity greatly decrease, the Yankees needed to bolster their rotation. After going 24-0 in Japan, Tanaka fits the bill. Tanaka is a groundball pitcher and is more than capable of striking batters out. Think of Tanaka as an Andy Pettitte in his prime, with the potential to get even better. Tanaka gives the Yankees a much deeper rotation that was already headlined by CC and Hiroki Kuroda, as well as the promising young Ivan Nova who continues to impress. Though a learning curve is expected for Tanaka with the move from Japan style baseball to the MLB, he should still perform at the level of a number 2 or 3 starter and should only get better with experience.
Seeing Texas’ Yu Darvish and Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma come over from Japan and becoming immediate Cy Young Award contenders is definitely an encouraging sign for Yankee fans. Not to mention the fact that Masahiro Tanaka is claimed to be the best pitcher to ever come out of Japan.
Former Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann was signed by the Yankees this offseason. McCann will provide the offensive production the team lacked with Chris Stewart and Andrew Romine sharing time last season. So yes, McCann is a considerable upgrade. The 30-year old already has 7 All Star Game appearances and will give the Yankees their first everyday catcher since Jorge Posada retired.
With the loss of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson the Yankees looked for a power bat this offseason to replace the former All Star’s in the middle of the lineup. The Yankees decided on Carlos Beltran. Beltran is already a house hold name in New York after his stint with the New York Mets. The addition of the 8-time All Star not only gives the Yankees another power bat to compliment Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann but he supplies a veteran presence that compliments Derek Jeter’s leadership very well. Though the Yankee’s lineup is older than most in baseball, the Yankees have the advantage of experience and the desire to win.
The Yankees also signed less pivotal players but are important nonetheless.
They signed Kelly Johnson who has traditionally played second base throughout his career but will man the hot corner for New York. He has plenty of power but has the downfall of being a very streaky hitter and will likely find himself with an average below .250.
Former Baltimore Oriole Brian Roberts was signed to replace Robinson Cano at second base. He was one of the top second baseman in the game from 05’-09’ but has failed to stay healthy enough to accumulate over 300 At-Bats in any season since then. Eduardo Nunez will likely get plenty of playing time if Roberts is to miss any time.
Veteran reliever Matt Thornton was also signed as the new lefty specialist. Thornton takes over for the Yankees previous specialist Boone Logan who signed with the Colorado Rockies.
With all of the additions this offseason the Yankees lineup is predicted to look like this:
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Derek Jeter
- Carlos Beltran
- Mark Teixeira
- Brian McCann
- Alfonso Soriano
- Kelly Johnson
- Brian Roberts
- Brett Gardner
Though there are many reasons to be excited about this team we can’t overlook the issues this team still have.
The biggest issue the Yankees had last season was health. Derek Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson, and others all missed time that lead to a significantly depleted Yankee lineup. The health of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira will play a pivotal role in the team’s success this season, especially Teixeira. The loss of Granderson and Cano means the Yankees lost their two biggest power bats. Sure they added McCann and Beltran to make up for some of the missing power, but without a healthy Teixeira power will be an issue this season. Not to mention without Cano, there is not a single power hitter on the Yankees that can hit over .300. Beltran is the most likely to maintain a .300 average but for a guy turning 37 in April that is a lot to ask. Without getting men on base one can assume a lot of solo home runs coming from the Yankees meaning a good possibility for slumps.
While the Yankees rotation looks a lot stronger than previous years, questions still remain about CC Sabathia. His velocity has dropped the past 2 seasons and right now he clocks in at around 88mph. Sure it may improve but for someone who has made a name for themselves in this league for being a power pitcher it is something to take note of. According to Newsday.com, Andy Pettitte is helping CC develop a cutter in hope to make up for lost velocity. Inking the best pitcher from Japan this offseason eases some of that pain though.
The last issue to discuss before I move on to my season predictions is an issue that the Yankees haven’t really had in 20 years, the bullpen. Mariano Rivera will no longer be closing games for the Yankees. The heir to the throne, David Robertson, will be taking over the 9th inning this season. He has arguably been the most consistent set-up man in the league in recent years but has struggled in save situations in the past. A combination of that and having a reputation of throwing too many pitches makes Yankee’s fans nervous. That being said, I wouldn’t give the closing job to anyone else, Robertson deserves a shot after his success in the set-up role in recent years.
The Yankees made the bold move here, instead of signing a new closer like Grant Balfour or Joe Nathan in favor of the deserving Robertson. The real question is the rest of the bullpen. The bullpen is probably the weakest part of the team. Shawn Kelly and Preston Claibourne must be ready for a heavy workload because there is not much help behind them. Let’s hope Dellin Betances can continue to evolve as a reliever and become “Bullpen Phil Hughes 2.0.”
I don’t want to be like the typical New York Sports fan and expect them to win the World Series and then call out my team if they don’t meet expectations. I do believe with health the Yankees could win 93 games or so and win this division. The Red Sox had everything fall perfectly in place for them last season with Victorino, Nava, and Uehara so I don’t see a repeat. As I said before I believe the Yankees will come into this season with a different type of energy. I expect them to win the AL East this year lead by a monster season from Jacoby Ellsbury and I see them making it to the ALCS to lose to the Tigers. But this team when healthy can do much more than that but with injuries being a regularity these days it is difficult for teams to reach their full potential.
Regardless of my own prediction, Derek Jeter announced 2014 will be his final season. Because of this, expect the Yankees to give off a different vibe this time around. Their roster is revamped, this team is healthy again (We hope), and Derek Jeter is determined to end his career the way it began. Winning the World Series.