March 2, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (25) works out prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Yankees have been a fixture in the postseason, appearing in the playoffs 17 of the past 18 years. But a slew of preseason injuries have put a damper on Yankee spirits during preseason. Though Brian Cashman appeared to have plugged the holes in his lineup during the offseason, additions may be needed before the Yankees head north.
Two major power sources in the Yankees lineup will miss significant time to start the year. Curtis Granderson broke a bone in his forearm in a spring training game and will miss the first four weeks of the season. More troubling is Mark Teixeira, who injured his wrist playing with Team USA during the World Baseball Classic. Teixeira’s injury may be worse than first reported. Besides their power bats, both players are solid fielders.
Former bitter rival Kevin Youkilis ($12 million one year) was signed to replace the injured Alex Rodriguez. Though Youkilis has faded the past two years, he will provide the New York Yankees with a right handed power bat. In 438 AB between the Red Ox and White Sox in 2012 he hit 19 HR despite batting only .226. Rodriguez will reportedly be back around the All-Star break, but how effective he will be is unknown.
Ichiro Suzuki was a bright spot for the Yankees down the stretch and in the postseason in 2012. He hit .322 for the Bronx Bombers after being acquired in a July trade. Though Suzuki is 39 years old, he rarely misses a game and managed 29 steals in 2012. He was signed to a $13 million two year deal in the offseason.
To replace the departed Raul Ibanez the Yankees signed Travis Hafner to fill the DH role. Though Hafner has not exceeded 400 AB since 2008, he still slugs in the neighborhood of .450. In 2012 he hit 12 HR in 219 AB.
The Yanks re-signed number two starter Hiroki Kuroda ($15 million one year)and presumed three man ($12 million one year) Andy Pettitte. Kuroda was the Yankees best pitcher in 2012, going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 219.2 IP. Pettitte was off to a fine start before a line drive off his leg derailed his season. In 75.1 IP he had a 2.87 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Staff ace CC Sabathia spent the offseason recovering from left elbow surgery and should be set to start opening day.
The closers role will once again be manned by Mariano Rivera ($10 million one year). In 2011 Rivera had 44 saves, a 1.91 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Rafael Soriano, who filled in brilliantly for an injured Rivera, signed with the Nationals in the offseason.
Effective setup men Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson will return in 2013. The wild card in the bullpen may be former Mariners closer David Aardsma. Aardsma was signed last offseason despite needing Tommy John surgery, may be the Yankees 2013 version of Jon Lieber.
This is the first time in many years there are so many questions surrounding the New York Yankees leading into a season. Despite the injuries and the aging roster, the Yankees still have significant resources to add players. It’s tough to imagine Rivera and Boesch being the long term solutions to the Yankees injury woes if Teixeira or Granderson are worse than expected.
Given the amount of talent on the New York Yankees roster and their ability to accept payroll, they should be able compete for the AL East title. But for the first time in years, they will not be a prohibitive favorite out of the gate. In order to make it 18 out of 19 postseasons, Joe Girardi will have to coax the maximum out of his aging roster while waiting for the next round of Yankee prospects to develop.