It’s been a difficult offseason for Yankee fans. Derek Jeter broke his ankle, but should return for Spring Training. Alex Rodriguez, who is undergoing hip surgery, will miss at least half of 2013. Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, and Andruw Jones, who combined to hit 94 home runs, signed elsewhere. Rafael Soriano, who saved 42 games, is also expected to sign elsewhere. For better or worse, the Yankees were not linked to any top free agents. The Yankee brass is committed to spending less than baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014, so free agent spending sprees are off the table.
Brian Cashman always emphasizes the importance of keeping his ‘core’ together, so four key pieces were re-signed to team friendly deals. Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda signed one-year deals while Ichrio Suzuki signed a two-year deal. These deals should help the Yankees win in 2013, but each player is over 40-years-old and adds little value to the future of the team.
The Yankees are one of the oldest teams in baseball, but still boast some of the game’s best players. Jeter and Ichiro will set the table for Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson. CC Sabathia will be supported by Kuroda, Pettitte, and Phil Hughes in the starting rotation. Mariano Rivera and David Robertson will lock down the backend of the bullpen. This core won 95 games last season, so anything less will be a failure.
While the Yankees boast a strong core, many are questioning their complementary parts. As of today, the Yankees have not named a starting catcher or designated hitter. Cashman will not sign a free agent catcher, so expect a combination of Francisco Cervelli-Chris Stewart-Austin Romine to start. Kevin Youkilis will start at third base, but he was signed as A-Rod’s caddy. The Yankees will need Youkilis to play third base and DH, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. If Youkilis suffers another injury, will the team trust Eduardo Nunez to play third base? Nunez is currently the de-facto designated hitter, but Cashman always extends multiple Spring Training invites. The Yankees have a glutton of left handed hitters in its outfield, so expect a right handed bat to join this threesome. Remember, Marcus Thames and Raul Ibanez were signed late and played significant roles. Expect similar moves.
Going into 2013, the Yankees have a very small margin for error. The roster is primarily comprised of older players that may break down. Each AL East foe improved its roster and many are expecting the Toronto Blue Jays to win the division. However, the Yankees boasted baseball’s best run differential and have a roster full of players that have endured October battles. The Yankees continue to pour resources into scouting and player development, but don’t count them out. In terms of player development and a more cost conscious approach, the 2013 season may prove to be a transition year. That doesn’t mean the Yankees are incapable of raising another AL East flag.