Editor's note: Yahoo Sports will rank every team in Major League Baseball from 30th to 1st before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the New York Yankees.
2013 record: 85-77
Finish: Tied for 3rd place, AL East
2013 final payroll: $237,018,889 (1st of 30)
Estimated 2014 opening day payroll: $203.8 million (2nd of 30)
Yahoo Sports offseason rank: 11
Yankees in six words: They should have kept spending money.
It only seemed like the entire New York Yankees offseason was spent hanging around with Alex Rodriguez and his lawyers. While the brass was curious to know whether they’d have $20 million-$25 million more with which to improve the roster because of A-Rod’s Biogenesis suspension, general manager Brian Cashman and friends mostly were busy putting a plan together that would lift the squad back into the playoffs. That plan involved spending the Steinbrenners’ money. The Yankees opened their checkbook, as is their wont, and replenished their roster by buying several strong assets.
They signed catcher Brian McCann for $85 million. They swiped outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the Boston Red Sox for $153 million. They committed to a three-year, $45 million contract for Carlos Beltran, who turns 37 in April. It wasn’t spending money just to spend it, either. With Derek Jeter turning 40 and coming off a serious injury, with A-Rod suspended and with Mark Teixeira’s career fading, McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran are the Yankees’ best players – along with Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano. That’s the new core. How ya like it?
They also spent lesser amounts on infielders Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts and reliever Matt Thornton to fill in some holes. And they kept starter Hiroki Kuroda in the fold. And yet, their offseason would have seemed like a failure if Brian Cashman hadn’t somehow persuaded Masahiro Tanaka (cough, $155 million, cough) to come over from Japan and pitch in the Bronx. His purchase put them over the $189 million luxury tax threshold.
It’s a good thing Tanaka’s coming to New York, because the rotation would have been pretty lean without it. CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career, leading the league in earned runs allowed. Three times before that, he finished in the top four in Cy Young voting and made three All-Star teams. That’s the kind of CC the Yankees need. He appears to have lost some weight, or gained some tone, or a combination of both. Will it make him a better pitcher? Not necessarily, but the self-improvement should make the grind of the season easier on him.
Kuroda is the No. 3 starter, so they’re OK there. But Joe Girardi has Ivan Nova, David Phelps and Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Pineda was a big talent and still might be, but it’s been three years since his great rookie season. It’s kind of scary. The Yankees probably won’t be in World Series contention if Sabathia can't resemble an ace once again. But they won’t seriously compete for the playoffs if the back end of the rotation is a disaster again.
And then there’s the bullpen, which got little attention in the offseason – a funny thing, considering that Mariano Rivera retired. David Robertson might be a good closer, but there’s also a matter of the eighth, seventh and sometimes sixth innings. Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne are next on the depth chart, so that’s not too encouraging. Dark horses include Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, both high-end prospects at one time. They have upside potential, as the scouts like to say, but only Betances has major league experience. Seven innings worth.
The Yankees plan on Beltran playing right field, but his defense with the Cardinals in 2013 should have been discouraging. No metric makes him look good out there. They’ll have to save a spot for him at DH sometimes, which would take Soriano out of the lineup. He’s one of the Yankees’ few right-handed power threats. Ichiro Suzuki is in this mix, too, for better or worse at this point in his career.
Johnson is set to play third, and Roberts will get a crack at second, even though it’s been 3 ½ years since he’s been healthy. Free-agent acquisition Brendan Ryan would be great on defense at short and probably fine at second. Eduardo Nuñez is in the mix, too, as he has a lifetime contract with the Yanks, apparently. Stephen Drew, still a free agent, might be a prudent addition.
O Captain! My Captain! As usual, it’s up to Derek Jeter to save the day. If able to play shortstop effectively for 150 games, at age 40, he would join exclusive company to play short at that age. Like, three other guys have done it, ever: Honus Wagner, Luke Appling and Ozzie Smith. Those shortstops, all Hall of Famers like Jeter will be someday, produced more than 1 win above replacement after turning 40. But they probably weren’t coming off ankle injuries. If he can do it, Jeter will not only accomplish something that’s basically unprecedented but he’ll probably inspire the other Yankees to take the AL East, win the World Series, and bust A-Rod out of Bud Selig’s one-man prison.
A-Rod’s gone, Jeter’s
Old, Anything higher than
Third place would be bold
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