Mar 1, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) is congratulated by managerJoe Girardi
(left) after he scored a run during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Recap of 2013
Record: 85-77, tied for 3rd in the AL East with Baltimore
Entering into 2013, the pressing question for the New York Yankees, was whether or not would they be a competitive team. In a typically difficult American League East, which in 2013, was once was home to four teams that were either in the hunt for the playoffs or were attempting to make a run. The Yankees fell into the latter category despite getting off to a hot start. They eventually cooled off as injuries began to mount and the apparent lack of depth in the roster began to show. In all, it was impressive that the club was able to scrape out a third place finish. At times they had a revolving door of players, mostly those past their primes, such as Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells.
But there were bright spots.
While it was the swan song season for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, it was also a season that showed signs that the Yankees needed an overhaul in order to compete for years to come. Don’t need quick, short-term fixes each season. Need to add some depth to fill long-term solutions going forward. Entering into this season, the Yankees once again have these questions surrounding them, but hopefully this time they learned the lessons from 2013 and the years prior.
Once again, the Yankees broke the piggy bank this off season, even though there was talk from the front office that they were going to spend either just below $189 million mark in order to skirt just at or below the luxury tax. However, the club went out and made multiple splashy moves on the free agency market, bringing in the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and more importantly, landing Masahrio Tanaka on a seven year, $155 million contract.
They also extended the contracts of David Robertson, Brett Gardner, and With all of this in mind, the Yankees payroll for this season is a cool $194 million. And along with this they will have to pay the luxury tax on twenty players, most notably being the contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and C.C. Sabathia, which are starting to loom like albatrosses around the necks of the Yankees finances.
In order to contend, it became apparent that they would need to break the bank, especially after the departure of Robinson Cano to Seattle. Well through the off season they did just that, adding possibly new life to the roster.
Player(s) to Watch
There are two answers here, one is obvious and the other is not as obvious. The obvious one, is Masahiro Tanaka, who will be bringing his trade to the Majors from Japan, including an devastating splitter. Tanaka is poised to either be the second or third starter in the rotation, and will provide a necessary boost, that missing from last year.
Now the less obvious one, is Ivan Nova, who in the second half of the season, finally began to show signs of maturity as a pitcher, and at times was simply the best pitcher in the Yankees rotation, as Sabathia and Kuroda were both faltering in their starts. If Nova can continue to make strides this season, then this may very well be his opportunity to have a break out year and more importantly for the Yankees, the opportunity for them to have three front line starters in the rotation.
The newly trimmed down C.C. Sabathia needs to regain his form this season as he is the anchor of this rotation. Based off last year, that could potentially be difficult for the thirty-three year old left-hander. Last season was the first time that Sabathia showed signs that he may be on the down trend in his career. The most telling sign was the decrease in velocity of his pitches, as he could no longer rely on just getting guys out with an out pitch. Instead if he wants to return back to the pitcher that he was in year prior, he needs to rework his pitching to adjust to the loss in velocity, mainly to pitch more to contact. If Sabathia can get back on track, then it is an added boost for the Yankees rotation.
Mark Teixeira will most likely continue his regression as a ballplayer this season given his recent injuries and now the inability to remain healthy. It does not seem positive that he will have a rebound year this season. Though, he may put up some numbers, it is most likely that he will continue a gradual decline at the plate. If he does regress, that will present a hole in the Yankees lineup, that could have come at a price if he is placed in a spot in the order where he is to be a reliant member of the order.
Another choice for regression, could potentially be Carlos Beltran as well, given his age and that he very well may be slowly on his way out of baseball. Then again he’ll look to benefit from the right field power alley, though there could be some regression.
Well as of now there are two things that are guaranteed heading into this season. The first one is that this is Derek Jeter‘s last season in pinstripes. The second one is that the Yankees will be in contention for both the American League East and the American League Wild Card. Once again, it looks as if the AL East will once again be a difficult division.
Even though the Yankees should be and will most likely be in contention, that does not mean that there are a lot of new parts on this team which need to perform well. The most notable of this, is the infield, which could potentially have more issues in it, as Brian Roberts may not be a completely viable option at second base and maybe just a short term solution until Scott Sizemore is called up from Triple A or the Yankees look for a market for a second basemen at some point before the trade deadline this year. Then there’s also whether Derek Jeter is still considered the day-to-day shortstop or will it be a platoon rotation with Eduardo Nunez, picking up the slack every now and then for Jeter.
For one thing, the addition of Beltran, McCann, and Ellsbury, will provide an added boost for the batting order, especially with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury batting at the top of the order, providing a speed option of the base paths for Joe Girardi. McCann, will also be a big piece for the pitching rotation as well, one that looks rejuvenated, although it should be interesting as to who will get the fifth spot in the rotation, as at the moment the rotation based off of projections, looks to be C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and then David Phelps rounding it out as the fifth starter. For now it is Phelps’ spot to lose, as Adam Warren and Michael Pineda could potentially also be candidates for the fifth spot as well. In bullpen, David Robertson should do well for the Yankees as closer. The one worry is that tight rope that he’ll walk when he pitches. He has the stuff to be an effective closer.
Will they contend though?
Yes the Yankees will, but it will be a tough race again as Boston looks to potentially be the odds on favorite to win the division. Then there is Tampa Bay who is usually in contention as well. The 2014 Yankees are a unique team that where if everything clicks together will find a way to get into October, but if not could be looking from the opposite side again. For now though, they are a team that will be exciting to watch, and have the drive to get ring number twenty-eight and also one for more their captain Derek Jeter.
92-70 (Second in the AL East)