BY ZACK BECKER
2013 Record: 85-77 (3th Place AL East, 12 GB)
If we’re being honest, the Yankees 2013 season was over before it began. Their Opening Day lineup featured household names like Eduardo Nuñez, Ben Francisco, Jayson Nix and Francisco Cervelli.
They simply couldn’t keep up with the top dogs of the East, going a combined 13-25 against Boston and Tampa Bay.
All in all, a team decimated by injuries — All-Stars Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Kevin Youkilis played 165 games combined — did the best it could and to everyone’s surprise, competed for most of the year.
Not exactly the best time for ace CC Sabathia to have the worst season of his career.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (7yr/$153 mil)
RF Carlos Beltran (3yr/$45 mil)
C Brian McCann (5yr/$85 mil)
2B/3B Kelly Johnson (1yr/$3 mil)
2B Brian Roberts (1yr/$2 mil)
SP Masahiro Tanaka (7yr/$155 mil)
Well, what did you expect? The last time the Yankees missed the playoffs, they went on an offseason spending spree. This time around was no different.
If it can stay healthy, New York’s new-look outfield of Ellsbury, Beltran and newly-extended Brett Gardner should combine for 50 homers and 75 steals.
Don’t let the dollar signs fool you, though. After 2B Robinson Cano signed with Seattle, the Yankees signed two aging infielders to cheap deals to take his place.
Roberts has topped 50 doubles three times and 30 steals four times, but he hasn’t played more than half a season since 2009.
Johnson only has 118 innings of experience at third base, all of which came last season. He’ll see a boost in his power numbers playing at Yankee Stadium, but his defense needs to be strong to stay in the lineup over Eduardo Nuñez. He could slide over to second base if the oft-injured Roberts gets hurt again.
Winning the Tanaka sweepstakes was absolutely huge for this team. Its starting rotation without the Japanese star looks weak, but inserting the 25-year-old (who went 24-0 in his last season overseas) makes the staff a bit more formidable.
The club took care of its outfield and catching needs for the next five seasons, but there are still some holes they need to fill to be on top again.
2B Robinson Cano — Cano let his success get to his head and demanded a 10-year, $300 million deal from the only team he’s ever played for. Agent Jay-Z had 99 problems with the way the Yankees were handling negotiations, and ultimately, the two-time Gold Glover signed for $240 million in Seattle.
RP Mariano Rivera — How do you replace the best closer of all time? Mo saved 44 games in his last go-around with the Yankees, with a 2.11 ERA to boot. The team hopes ex-eighth-inning-guy David Robertson can handle following up the Sandman.
OF Curtis Granderson — The Grandy Man did very well in Yankee Stadium, hitting 115 homers and knocking in 307 runs in three and a half seasons. Injuries sidelined him for 100 games last year and he departs to the crosstown rival New York Mets. He’s replaced by Beltran.
SP Andy Pettitte — He’s retired. For real this time! He started 30 games and went 11-11 with a 3.74 ERA last year. Pettitte goes out as the active leader in wins (256) by a large margin. He’ll be missed in the rotation.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The Rotation. CC Sabathia slimmed down this offseason and is looking to avoid a career-worst slide after last season. He needs to get his velocity back to be the dominant inning-eater he was for so long.
Tanaka’s transition to Major League Baseball needs to be a quick one. If he struggles, his contract could end up among the biggest busts of all time. If he’s as good as he was in Japan, he’ll be a Masa-hero to many.
Ivan Nova showed signs of greatness towards the end of last season, tossing two shutouts in the last month of the campaign. He needs to consistently pitch late into games to keep the Yanks’ shaky bullpen at bay.
Hiroki Kuroda’s main concern is his age. He was among the league leaders in ERA for much of last season, so if he can dip into the fountain of youth for one more year, there should be no problems there.
Michael Pineda came to the Yankees in the Jesus Montero trade. We know how one end of that trade worked out, but Pineda hasn’t pitched an inning with in New York due to multiple injuries. He’s pitched well this spring, so things are looking up for the former All-Star.
The fifth spot is a free-for-all between Pineda and David Phelps, who was below-average in 12 starts last season (5-4, 4.93 ERA).
Projected Opening Day Lineup
Although their free agent signings don’t fill every hole in their roster, the Yanks get a lot more than what they bought this offseason, with Teixeira, Jeter and the mysterious Michael Pineda looking healthy for the first time in forever.