In reality, they spent oodles of money with the hope that newcomers at other positions -- catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury -- would compensate for Cano's absence in a deeper and more balanced lineup in 2014.
Roberts, though, will start the season following Cano at second base -- where the $240 million Mariner made five All-Star teams and won two Gold Glove awards after arriving in the Bronx in 2005.
"When you play here, even though you're taking over for Robbie, I still don't think anyone is expecting or thinks that I have to go out and do a ton," Roberts told the New York Daily News. "They just want me to be on the field with a uniform on for the most part. The rest is icing on the cake."
Roberts, 36, made two All-Star teams in 13 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, but none since 2007. Due to various injuries, he managed no more than 265 at-bats in any of the past four seasons, appearing in just 192 games.
"He's been a featured guy in the lineup for a long time," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He was a pest. Being on this side, there were big situations you didn't want him to come up."
Roberts also is relishing blending in among the Yankees' cavalcade of big names and no longer having to be the face and spokesman for his team.
"It's just different to be the guy in the back that nobody cares about or knows about," Roberts said. "I understand that I'm 36 and very few guys are that guy at 36. I don't really need that, I don't really have any interest for it, and I don't care.
"I just want to win some games and have fun playing baseball."
--SS Derek Jeter's announcement that he would retire after the 2014 season didn't surprise longtime teammate Andy Pettitte, who retired for the second time last fall. "We talked obviously a lot about it last year," Pettitte said. "When we'd be talking, he'd be like, 'Y'all better retire or I'm going to get out of here before you guys.' You kind of look at him like, 'Yeah, right, whatever.' But I kind of had a feeling. I just saw a little bit of a difference in Derek last year, as far as seeing me and (Mariano Rivera) go through the last year."
--LHP CC Sabathia, coming off a season in which he posted a career worst 4.78 ERA, saw his fastball top out at 88 mph in his first spring start. "My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will. If it's not, it won't," Sabathia said. "I can pitch. I'm fine. As long as I'm healthy, I'll be good."
--RHP Ivan Nova, the Yankees' likely No. 4 starter, had an impressive start to camp, according to manager Joe Girardi and new C Brian McCann. "There is no ceiling on a guy like him," McCann said. "He can do whatever he wants. If he gets into a groove, he can ride it out for a full season. Certain things click and players take their game to another level. He's looking really good down here."
--RHP David Robertson says he is concentrating on getting in his work during spring training, not on replacing retired legend Mariano Rivera as the Yankees' closer. "Just get back out there and get the feeling back of having players behind you, no net in front of you," Robertson said after his first spring outing on March 3. "All in all, it was a decent outing. I would have liked to have thrown a few better pitches, but I'll get another chance."
--SS Brendan Ryan, who will serve as SS Derek Jeter's primary backup and a utility infielder this season, was clipped by a line drive near the base of his left thumb March 5, but he avoided a serious injury. "I was lucky," Ryan said. "Could have been a much worse spot. Pretty scary, kind of escaped one there."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a little pressure, because I know the legacy and the man that carried No. 42. But I said, 'Well, I'm going to take it as a challenge and give my best so I can make Mr. Jackie Robinson proud.' I took it seriously. And I think I did OK." -- RHP Mariano Rivera, on being the last player in baseball history to wear No. 42. The number won't appear again after Rivera retired last fall.
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
RHP Ivan Nova
RHP Michael Pineda or RHP David Phelps
Pettitte (retired) and RHP Phil Hughes (free agency, Minnesota Twins) are gone, prompting the Yankees to flex their financial muscles in an otherwise so-so free-agent market for pitchers to import 25-year-old Tanaka, who went 24-0 last season in Japan. The rotation still is riddled with questions, beginning with Sabathia, who lost a noticeable amount of weight after going just 14-13 with a career-worst 4.78 ERA in 32 starts in his age-33 season. Kuroda, who turned 39 just before camp opened, also faded late in 2013, finishing with an 11-13 mark. Nova is the No.4 starter, but one-time All-Star Pineda might be the x-factor after missing the past two seasons following shoulder surgery.
RHP David Robertson (closer)
RHP Shawn Kelley
LHP Matt Thornton
RHP Adam Warren
RHP Preston Claiborne
RHP David Phelps or RHP Dellin Betances
The Yankees had no bigger edge against their opponents over the past two decades than they did with Rivera, whose five-year wait for the Hall of Fame started after he finished his illustrious career with the most saves (652) and best postseason ERA (0.70) in baseball history. The Yankees believe setup reliever Robertson has shown the stuff and the proper makeup to make the transition to the closing role, but replacing Rivera figures to be a daunting challenge, particularly for someone with just eight career saves. Rivera's absence also will affect the rest of the bullpen, with Robertson likely leaving the eighth-inning void to RHP Shawn Kelley and veteran LHP Matt Thornton.
1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2. SS Derek Jeter
3. RF Carlos Beltran
4. DH Alfonso Soriano
5. 1B Mark Teixeira
6. C Brian McCann
7. 3B Kelly Johnson or 3B Eduardo Nunez
8. 2B Brian Roberts
9. LF Brett Gardner
Cano has been a fixture in the middle of the lineup for nine seasons, averaging 24 homers, 97 RBIs and a slash line of .309/.355/.504 over 162 games in his career. The Yankees took a spread-out approach to replacing Cano and suspended third baseman Rodriguez, adding a dynamic leadoff hitter in Ellsbury, a huge upgrade behind the plate in McCann and a dependable corner outfielder known for postseason heroics in Beltran. If OF Alfonso Soriano can continue producing as he did following a midseason trade and if retiring captain Jeter and returning first baseman Teixeira return to form after an injury-plagued 2013 campaign, the Yankees' order still has a chance to be one of the deeper and more diverse lineups in baseball.
TOP ROOKIES: No one should be expecting a perfect 24-0 season from Tanaka, which was his record last season in Ratuken's run to the Japan Series championship. But after an outlay of $175 million in salary and posting fees, the Yankees really need Tanaka to produce better than the "No. 3 starter" label GM Brian Cashman recently projected the 25-year-old righty to become over the next seven seasons in the Bronx. No other rookies are expected to immediately play key roles in the Yankees everyday plans to start the season, although former starting prospect Dellin Betances could compete for a spot in the bullpen after a late-season transformation to a reliever produced decent numbers at Triple-A.
No major injuries.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mariano Rivera
- Robinson Cano
- Derek Jeter
- Brian McCann
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Carlos Beltran
- David Robertson
- Andy Pettitte
- Brian Roberts