The goal of the Yankees every year is to get to and win the World Series, but this year, for the first time since the 1960′s, the goal has changed as winning has taken a backseat to getting the payroll under $189 million.
That means that re-signing Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were out of the question. Luxuries like Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, and mutli-year contracts are gone as well. The Yankees still have the highest payroll in baseball, despite the Dodgers best efforts, but future commitments have been limited and with $88 million on the payroll there certainly will be a drop off in the team from 2012 to 2013.
No, this Yankees team will not be winning 95 games again, but, with luck, they could still make the playoffs this year.
That all starts with the the pitching staff. CC Sabathia is coming off offseason elbow surgery, but it was nothing major and he has seemed fine so far based on his Spring Training performance. He’ll lead a rotation with Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte behind him.
On the back end of the rotation there is Phil Hughes who is on the DL now, but his back injury isn’t serious and he should be joining the team soon. Ivan Nova will be in the No. 5 spot behind him and David Phelps looks like a strong depth option in the event of an injury.
That is as good a rotation as anybody has and if they stay healthy the Yankees will have a chance to win most games even with a weaker offense.
Mariano Rivera obviously heads this year’s bullpen in what will be the final season of his career. He has a pair of healthy setup men in David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain in front of him. David Aardsma was expected to be a part of the setup as well, but the Yankees were not impressed with him this spring and decided to cut him loose.
Behind Mo, D-Rob, and Joba it there aren’t a whole lot of flashy names. The biggest is Boone Logan, but I worry about him as he’s already dealt with elbow problems this spring after a season in which Joe Girardi used him heavily.
After that it’s a bunch of random names which are surely to change throughout the season. It’s one thing that Brian Cashman has been very good at is keeping a revolving door in the pen going trying to find talent that will, at least temporarily, be useful to the team. They may even turn to prospect Mark Montgomery, who was easily the best reliever in the farm system last year, at some point.
The bullpen is a strength and they’re going to need it to help them pull out as many close games as possible. Just look at last year’s Orioles teams, if you can win 1-run games you can surprise people.
Injuries have left the Opening Day lineup almost unrecognizable. I mean, who would have guessed we’d see Ben Francisco, Vernon Wells, or Lyle Overbay. 194 homers from last season have either left the team or are currently on the DL and the middle of the order is dependant on Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner.
It’s ugly, but it might be doable. With Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and Eduardo Nunez in the lineup, the Yankees will have more speed than they are used to. Youkilis is still a capable All-Star if healthy, and they will eventually get Jeter, Granderson, and Teixeira back. Even Alex Rodriguez will return eventually and could be a pleasant surprise.
One of the biggest gripes people have had this offseason is with losing Russell Martin. No, Martin was not the best catcher in baseball, but he was solid defensively and could come up with the occasional big home run. He told the Yankees he would be willing to return on a one-year deal, but that was still too rich for them. Instead, they’ll go with Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, who will be a collective black hole offensively, but coud provide decent defense.
This lineup won’t be at the top of the MLB in runs scored like the Yankees are used to, but once they get some of the injured players back it will still be decent. They can’t sustain many, or any, more major injuries though which will be the key. If they can catch lightning in a bottle, as they say, with a few of these guys and stay relevant while they are waiting for people to heal it won’t be as bad as some of the doom-sayers would have you believe.
The bench is a little thin this year mostly because of injuries, but also because the Yankees refused to spend on players like Eric Chavez. Brennan Boesch is interesting because he has had recent success, but he’s coming off a downright ugly 2012 season. Once the lineup gets healthy the bench will look better, but as it stands right now they can’t deal with many/any more injuries.
Injuries are big for any club, but this team has already been rocked by injuries before the first game of the season even happens and any more loses might be the nail in the coffin. There is quite a lot of parity in baseball this year though and it’s not impossible seeing the Yankees make the playoffs with an 88-win season. Guys need to step up though and the pitching staff needs to be great and consistent.
This team is walking a fine line. The playoffs are still possible, but seeing them in 4th or 5th place wouldn’t be a huge surprise either.