The Yankees offense used to be the safest bet on the roto board, the ideal place to park your money and collect your rewards. But in 2013, this looks like a pedestrian and star-crossed group, a franchise in search of its identity (if not a start-fresh blueprint).
Curtis Granderson's arm injury was the first bombshell from Tampa, and it didn't take long for a second shot. Mark Teixeira felt a pop in his right wrist during Tuesday batting practice and the timetable came down Wednesday: he's out for 8-10 weeks. Tough times for the 30-something Yankees.
But what does this mean for you, the average fantasy baseball owner who's looking to put together a draft board?
Teixeira's draft stock took the expected tumble as the Yahoo! crew assembled fresh ranks at first base. While the Yankees are calling it a wrist strain for Teixeira, this is the type of injury that could sap power for most or all of the season. Brandon Funston is now slotting Teixiera 22nd at the position; that's the highest in the group. Brad Evans, Andy Behrens and Dalton Del Don consider Teixeira the No. 24 option, while yours truly is the pessimist in the crowd (No. 28). Season to taste.
The Yankees didn't have obvious replacements for Granderson, and the same goes for Teixeira. This is an aging team with spotty depth. If you're in a mixed league, you probably know to avoid the Juan Riveras and Dan Johnsons of the world. Perhaps Eduardo Nunez can run into our hearts, subbing at third base if Kevin Youkilis slides to first. Maybe an ordinary free agent could be added, an Aubrey Huff or a Carlos Lee. Bottom line, these injuries aren't opening the door for hot prospects or blocked assets. For the first time in the Derek Jeter Era, the Yankees might be in a bit of trouble.
To be fair, let's appreciate just how dominant the New York offense has been through the years. Here's New York's run-scoring rank over the last 11 years, starting with 2012: 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 10th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 1st. Big names, big contracts, big stats, big flies all over the place. Go where the runs are.
[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
Alas, most of the offensive pieces are past their ideal ages, and there are some dreadful contracts on the books (looking at you, Alex). It's disconcerting to see Granderson and Teixeira get hurt this quickly because you have to reasonably assume some of the older and more fragile players will eventually follow suit (looking at you, Youk).
In the past it was a folly to underestimate any Yankees roster in March, given the resource advantage the team enjoyed. You always knew New York at any point could throw money at the problem, trade for reinforcements no matter the salary cost. But Brian Cashman might not have that luxury this year; for the first time in a generation, New York can't simply operate like it owns the Monopoly set (meanwhile, the Dodgers are spending money like their budget is unlimited – and maybe it is).
Las Vegas isn't enamored with the Yankees, either. The current over/under win total for New York is 86, an ordinary expectation when you consider the Yankees have topped that number (usually with ease) in every full season since the strike. Joe Girardi's teams have averaged 95.8 wins over his five years at the helm. Joe Torre averaged 97.8 wins over 12 seasons.
The last time the Yankees fell under a .530 winning percentage came in 1992, a team led by Melido Perez, Danny Tartabull and Mel Hall. Andy Stankiewicz was the shortstop, Buck Showalter the field manager. Jeter was finishing up high school. Esteemed colleague Dalton Del Don was ten years old.
There's one more elephant in the New York room, a circulating rumor about a likely suspension for Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez. (Ryan Braun is also mentioned in the rumor.) It's a tricky story to discuss because the source is a non-sports entity that doesn't have any built-up credibility. Then again, the site did report the Melky Cabrera suspension several weeks ahead of time in 2012, for what that's worth. (I was discussing this backstage with Andy and Brandon, which led to this Behrens gem: "The only other thing I'll say about this rumor is that the source site isn't even dedicated to sports. It's basically pop culture, cat pictures, hot models ... that sort of thing." I'm telling you, I work with the greatest people.)
We're not in the business of chasing down every odd whisper and rumor of the Internet, but we can't necessarily dismiss it out of hand, either. You can decide what you want to do with the story. Anyone worried about Cano as we enter the teeth of draft and auction season? Anyone in this New York lineup that you're excited about? Is there a Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki sympathizer in the house? Let's try to figure out Yankees 2013 in the comments.
I wish I had a cat picture or a hot model for you now. Alas, you'll have to settle for this fresh Yahoo! Sports video, our buddy Bradley Evans talking about college hoops. I can assure you, gamers – The Noise is not on the juice (well, or he's one step ahead of the testers. You decide.)
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