The 2011 season seemed like the typical New York Yankees season. They won an AL-high 97 games and the AL East division crown….and then lost to the Tigers in five games in the ALDS. The Yankees are mainly an older team, and they didn’t get much younger this offseason….with one notable exception.
Depth Chart (as of 3/14)
C: Russell Martin
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Robinson Cano
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Alex Rodriguez
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Curtis Granderson
RF: Nick Swisher
DH: Raul Ibanez
SP: CC Sabathia
SP: Hiroki Kuroda
SP: Michael Pineda
SP: Ivan Nova
SP: Phil Hughes
CL: Mariano Rivera
Raul Ibanez was brought in by the team for the expressed purpose of keeping him off the field on defense, which is probably the best move at this time in his career. Michael Pineda was acquired from the Mariners to add a legitmiate studly young pitcher to the rotation. The team also signed former Mariners closer David Aardsma, who won’t be available unitl the middle of the season at the earliest. Former Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda was given a one year deal to shore up the rotation a little more after the Pineda trade. And that…is really about it for the Yankees additions.
Top prospect, and future DH masher, Jesus Montero was dealt to Seattle in the Pineda deal, requiring the signing of Ibanez to man the DH role. Long-time Yankee stalwart Jorge Posada retired in Janaury. Former starter Bartolo Colon signed with the A’s, as he was deemed expendable with the Kuroda and Pineda acquisitions. Relievers Luis Ayala, Sergio Mitre, and Damaso Marte all departed after the team didn’t show much interest in bringing any of the trio back. And finally, the much-maligned AJ Burnett was traded to the Pirates for a hunk of salary relief.
You know how it goes in New York. Rookies don’t usually get much of a chance on this veteran-laden club. The Yankees have a pair of starting pitching prospects, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, who could get shots in the majors if the starting rotation struggles. Also, if the veteran Russell Martin struggles behind the plate, prospect Austin Romine could get some playing time behind the dish.
Phil Hughes is penciled in as the fifth starter right now, but if he struggles this spring, veteran Freddy Garcia could get his slot. There’s also the question of whether or not Ibanez can play DH effectively every day, and he could lose at bats to Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez if he comes out of the gate whiffing.
The recently-signed Aardsma and former stud prospect Joba Chamberlain both had Tommy John surgery last summer, and if they do pitch in 2012, it won’t come until late in the season. David Robertson, who blossomed last season as one of the top setup men in the game, has as a bone bruise on his foot, but should be ready for Opening Day.
Will the upgrades the Yankees made to their rotation be enough to keep them over the hump this season?
Ibanez rediscovers his old self as DH, the rotation cumulatively has an ERA under 4.00, and none of the older Yankees players show their age. The team wins 95+ games and trucks to another World Championship.
They get nothing out of the DH slot, Pineda and Kuroda crumble under the big city lights, Jeter and A-Rod combine to miss 100 games, and the team doesn’t make the playoffs.
The Yankees are a great team, that’s for sure. It would take an act of god for them to not compete for the AL East championship this season. Last year was pretty much a worst case scenario on several accounts, and the team still had the best record in the AL. When one player struggles, another one steps up in their place. Who will it be this year? Maybe Nick Swisher.