2013 Preview: New York Yankees
WHO'S NEW: 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis (BOS,CWS), DH Travis Hafner (CLE), OF Matt Diaz (ATL), 1B Dan Johnson (TB), OF Juan Rivera (LAD), RP Shawn Kelley (SEA).
WHO'S GONE: OF Raul Ibanez (SEA), OF Andruw Jones (Japan), OF Nick Swisher (CLE), C Russell Martin (PIT), 1B/3B Eric Chavez (AZ), INF Casey McGehee (Japan), INF Steve Pearce (BALT), SP Freddy Garcia (SD), SP Derek Lowe (FA), RP Cory Wade (CHC), RP Rafael Soriano (WAS).
After another A.L. East crown and Division Series playoff win against Baltimore, New York's 2012 season was culminated in offensive futility on the wrong end of an ALCS sweep by Detroit and a Derek Jeter season-ending injury. For a team whose resources are unlimited, the Yankees were somewhat conservative by their own standards this past offseason. New York enters the 2013 season with more questions than expected and were dealt a tough break, literally, when Curtis Granderson broke his right forearm during his first Spring Training plate appearance, sidelining him until early May, leaving a gaping hole in their outfield. Granderson, along with the departing Ibanez, Swisher and Jones combined for 100 home runs in 2012. The outfield depth and production is now a major concern. The Yanks will have Brett Gardner command center, who is coming off an elbow injury, limiting him to 16 games last year. Juan Rivera signed a minor-league contract and will likely start in left field in front of Matt Diaz and Yanks farmhand Melky Mesa, who should get an opportunity in Spring Training. Ichiro, who re-sigend for two years, is in right. Aside from Travis Hafner signing for one year to DH, the Yankees only transaction in terms of a notable name was Kevin Youkilis. The former Red and White Sock will back up Teixeira at first while taking over third base as A-Rod recovers from offseason hip surgery which will keep him out until after the All-Star break. Jeter is back at short for his 18th season. Look for him to possibly platoon DH'ing with Hafner a little more regularly or take more than one day off a week, considering his age, ankle injury and mobility. Cano and Teixeira round out the right side of the infield. 2013 is Cano's walk year. Expect him to sign a lengthy extension in-season based on his production and importance to the franchise. Utility man Eduardo Nunez is a solid back up (.292 avg. in 38 games) at the middle infield positions. With Russell Martin leaving for Pittsburgh, the catching duties belong to Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli. Both are excellent defensively and light-hitting. Based on the overall lack of team depth, it would make sense for the Yankees to reach out to remaining available free agents yet without a team like Orlando Hudson, Scott Podsednik or Johnny Damon to provide an experienced veteran presence as stop-gap players. The pitching looks strong and is tentatively set up with Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Nova and Hughes one through five. Michael Pineda, coming off shoulder surgery which sidelined him for all of 2012, might pitch himself into the rotation or serve as a long man to begin the year. He's an excellent insurance policy. The bullpen is equally solid with Kelley joining Chamberlain, Robertson and Aardsma. Logan and Rapada are the platooning lefties. Mariano Rivera postponed his retirement after a freak injury in Kansas City derailed his season last year, but how long can he be dominant with one pitch at age 43?
BOTTOM LINE: You can never count the Yankees out, but their season will begin with adversity with A-Rod, Granderson and holes in the outfield and at catcher. On paper, this team looks more like The Bronx Manufacturers than The Bronx Bombers, relying on pitching and defense rather than hitting the long ball. Offensively they will go as far as Jeter, Cano and Teixeira until Granderson returns. The pitching will keep them in most games. They're not as talented as Toronto, and didn't upgrade as much as Boston, but they're experienced enough to perservere. Battling Baltimore and Boston for the second wild card spot is a forseeable scenario. If they make the playoffs or get healthy at the right time, look out.