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The New York Yankees Need Mark Teixeira to Bounce Back in 2014

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COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees signed Mark Teixeira to a massive, 8-year, $180 million contract prior to the 2009 season.

The deal paid immediate dividends as the Yankees went on to win their 27th World Series title that season and Teixeira was a major contributor.

Unfortunately, ever since, Teixeira's production has waned and now he'll be returning from a wrist injury that ultimately forced season-ending surgery in 2013. What should the Yankees expect from their first baseman in 2014?

Teixeira is a very important piece to the Yankees' offense in 2014. Yes, the Yanks have some new faces that have big expectations of their own, but Teixeira will sit firmly in the middle of the Bombers' order hoping to put aside physical issues that have impacted his last two seasons.

Teixeira played in at least 156 games in each of his first three seasons in pinstripes. He then appeared in just 123 games in 2012, followed by last season's 15 games.

Beyond Teixeira's recent bouts with injuries, his overall production has waned since his inaugural season in the Bronx. His OPS from 2009 through 2012 -- .948, .845, .835 and .807 sequentially -- show a significant drop. His batting average, once a given to land between the .280s to low .300s, has dropped into the .250 range for the last three full seasons. His OBP has also decreased each season since 2008.

For Teixeira, who turns 34 in April, there is reason to be concerned with what he has to offer. Wrist injuries for any hitter can be an issue, but for power hitters it can be an absolute hindrance to their performance. At this point, one of the only things that Teixeira provides offensively is a power bat, giving him the ability to drive in runs from the middle of the order.

Projections for 2014, gathered by FanGraphs and calculated by ZiPS, Oliver and Steamer are not promising. His projected WAR was set at 1.7, 1.5 and 2.2, respectively. Any of those numbers would represent Teixeira's lowest WAR output in a "full" season since his rookie campaign.

ZiPS is not very confident about Teixeira's ability to stay on the field, estimating just 356 plate appearances. There is some concern about Teixeira's isolated power estimations, with ISO ranging from .195 to .219, which would be down from his last full season measure of .224 recorded in 2012 and much lower than his .242 career mark.

Teixeira's production is unlikely to get all the way back to his 2009 level, which would make his contract -- he is due $23.125 million in each of the next three seasons -- cumbersome for the Yankees. Based on his downward trend and simple aging, there is little chance that Teixeira's production will reach the metrics required to balance out his salary commitment for the remainder of his contract.

In my view, the Yankees would likely be very happy with a season resulting in 30+ doubles, 25+ home runs and 100+ RBIs from Teixeira; 55 or more extra-base hits would obviously indicate he still has the ability to drive the ball. A higher batting average and a return to a lofty OBP would be a welcomed bonus. Such counting stats would mean he is the guy predominantly playing first base and certainly would provide more production than any potential replacement at the Yankees disposal.

One very important key to the Yankees' 2014 season is that Teixeira needs to be on the field for at least 150 games in order for the Yankees to be competitive and to extract decent value from him. These numbers will not come to fruition in 120 games.

In addition to the Yankees' offensive needs, Teixeira's much more valuable as a first baseman than a DH, though the Yankees will likely spell him on occasion. Teixeira has been an above-average fielder at first base, and there is little to suggest that cannot continue provided he is healthy.

In the end, anything the Yankees receive from Teixeira is going to be predicated by whether he can stay healthy and whether the wrist is completely healed and as strong as it was prior to the injury. Any lingering wrist issues will sap Teixeira's power and reduce his effectiveness at the plate.

If Teixeira cannot produce a season with 55+ extra-base hits and drive in 100+ runs across 150 or so games, the Yankees could find themselves struggling to produce runs from the first-base position. Further, should Teixeira manage to stay on the field for a majority of the season and his numbers continue to trend downward, the Yankees will feel an immense burden on their budget which no longer pays off.

The 2014 season will be a telling one for Mark Teixeira's future, and, in turn, the New York Yankees' potential for success through the end of his contract.

Salary figures provided by Cot's Baseball Contracts

Chris Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work as a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports, Chris created and maintains his own blog site, The Baseball Stance, which provides commentary about all of Major League Baseball. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
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