COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees look much different today than they did at the close of the 2013 season.
By the time 2014 spring training rolls around in February, it is almost certain that the Yankees' roster will undergo even more change.
Here is the question, though: Are the Yankees better, or worse, than they were when the season ended? They have spent a lot of money to bring in new players, but they have also lost iconic players like Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte to retirement and refused to meet the price tag for Robinson Cano, losing him to the Seattle Mariners.
Let's go through the comings and goings and see:
Catcher: In -- Brian McCann; Out -- Chris Stewart. Umm ... better. Maybe the only person who would argue otherwise is Stewart's mom. After suffering through a year where Stewart hit .22 and backup Austin Romine .207, the Yankees signed the lefty-hitting McCann, one of the best hitting catchers in baseball, to a five-year, $85 million contract. No matter what else they do this winter, this will be their biggest upgrade. Conclusion: Better
Infield: In -- 2B Brian Roberts, 2B Dean Anna, 2B/3B Kelly Johnson, SS-2B Brendan Ryan; Out -- 2B Robinson Cano, 1B Lyle Overbay. The Yankees have responded to the loss of Cano, the probable suspension of third baseman Alex Rodriguez, and the uncertainty over how often Derek Jeter will be able to play shortstop by collecting veteran players, many with positional flexibility. That's fine. What they haven't really collected are any everyday players, or anyone who can actually hit. Maybe you want to call Mark Teixeira and Jeter, who both missed most of last season, additions. I don't, really, since both guys were supposed to be there. Conclusion: Worse
Outfield: In -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran; Out -- Curtis Granderson. Did the Yankees overspend on Ellsbury, giving him seven years and $153 million? Certainly they did. Could the back half of that deal wind up looking bad if Ellsbury, a guy who relies on his legs, slows down or breaks down? Certainly it could. Could the Yankees have taken that money and given it to Cano, a better player right now than Ellsbury? Certainly they could have. Should they have? I think that is a question that can't be answered right now, and won't be answered until a few seasons down the road when we see how it all plays out. Purely looking at the outfield, though, Ellsbury is an upgrade over the strikeout-happy Granderson, and Beltran is an offensive upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki, who becomes the fourth outfielder. Conclusion: Better
Starting Pitching: In -- ?? Out -- Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes. This is still the major question mark for the Yankees as they continue their winter reconstruction. It was time for Pettitte to retire; he had given all he could. He hasn't been replaced yet, however. Hughes won't be a great loss, but we don't know yet who replaces him. Perhaps the Yankees will still get an opportunity to make a run at Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese ace who wants to pitch in America. Otherwise, the free-agent options are dwindling -- and aren't all that appealing to begin with. Perhaps David Phelps can fill a spot, or the Yankees can cross their fingers and hope Michael Pineda can give them something. This one is still up in the air. Conclusion: To Be Determined
Relief Pitching: In -- Matt Thornton, Out -- Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees won't miss Chamberlain. Good riddance to bad rubbish and all that when it comes to him. Thornton is 37, but he came a lot cheaper than Logan and can probably still do an adequate job against lefty hitters. No one, however, can replace Rivera. That includes both on the mound, and with what he meant to the franchise. With most free-agent closers already having found new homes it looks increasingly like David Robertson gets the ninth inning. Whether he can handle it, and whether or not the Yankees have enough arms to handle the set-up innings, is something we will just have to find out. Right now, this doesn't look promising. Conclusion: Worse
The Yankees are trying to change a roster that wasn't good enough in 2013, and they are managing to do that. They do have more depth, and if Teixeira and Jeter can give them reasonably healthy seasons, with reasonable approximations of their career norms, that will help. Of course, whether they can or not is a huge question mark.
At this point, though, it comes down to pitching. The Yankees don't have enough of it -- probably not anywhere close to enough of it -- to return to the playoffs. If they go the post in April with the pitching staff as it is currently constructed, it more than likely will be another October in the Bronx without playoff baseball.
-- Ed Valentine is editor of Big Blue View, covering the New York Giants for SB Nation. He writes about the Yankees and Giants for Yahoo Contributor Network.
- Sports & Recreation
- New York Yankees
- Mariano Rivera
- Andy Pettitte
- Robinson Cano
- Jacoby Ellsbury