The New York Yankees off-season has been such..a New York Yankees off-season. We’ve lost some big pieces of the team, but counter attacked with commitments of $465 Million to names such as Tanaka, McCann, Beltran, Kuroda, Ellsbury among others. Cashman and the Steinbrenner’s have never been afraid to spend and they might not be done yet.
Being a pitcher my whole life, I’m going to start with the pitching depth, starters and bullpen the Yanks are putting out there in 2014. Even though New York just brought in Tanaka who they made the fifth highest paid pitcher in baseball, there ace of the staff will be the big, now skinny, man CC Sabathia. Since arriving to NY he’s 88-42, 3.52 ERA, with a 3/1 K/BB ratio (996 K’s/311 BB’s). But 2013 was CC’s worst year as a Yankee. He was hovering around a 5 ERA all-season, ending with a 4.78 earned run average, while giving up the most ER’s (112) in a single season of his career, most home runs (28), and the most hits per nine innings (9.6). CC was anything but an ace last year and the Yankees aren’t looking for another 4th place finish and that is clear with all the spending the front office has done thus far. It starts with CC setting the bar for the rest of the rotation. Following CC is the most coveted pitcher this off-season, Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka, last year in Japan, was 24-0 in the regular season, in 27 starts. In the past 3 seasons for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles he’s been a sub 2 ERA pitcher, and has THIRTY complete games. Only being 25, the 7 year contract doesn’t bother me all that much. Especially that he can become a free agent after 4 years in New York aspect. The Yanks brought him in to be the number two behind CC and that’s what I’m expecting from him. Nineteen days until pitchers and catchers report and than we will start to get a grasp on what this guy is all about. The Yanks best 2 starters last year are at the 3-4 spots in the rotation. Nova, his last 15 starts, was the bombers best pitcher. He only failed to make it to the 6th inning twice in that span and was pitching some of the best baseball of his career by basically becoming a two pitch pitcher; Fastball and Curveball. If Ivan continues that into this year we could be looking at a top of the rotation guy we want in a big series. Same goes for Hiro, but his great pitching was in the beginning stages of the season. His first nine starts or so he was a sub 2 ERA starter and was 6-2 and dominating games. He was consistent until the end of August when Hiro lost all steam and started getting hit around a little bit. Hopefully the off-season rest will bring back the Yanks best pitcher over the last two seasons. The 5th starter is the issue surrounding the Yankees staff. As of now, David Phelps is slated as number 5, Michael Pineda if he ever returns from injury could also see himself in that role. With all the money spent this winter, I wouldn’t mind an ex-Yankee, current free agent AJ Burnett get a call for a second stint in New York. Nobody can deny how good he was for Pittsburgh over the past two seasons he was there. In 2012, for a major part of the season, he was a legitimate Cy Young candidate and last year he pitched even better but had less support behind him. AJ had the highest K per 9 numbers of his career last year at 9.8. 2011, AJ’s last year in NY, he gave up 31 home run’s and his last two seasons in Pittsburgh he’s only allowed 29 combined. Can’t deny the improvements. It really only benefits NY. One, if he isn’t successful, it gives Michael Pineda more time to build his arm strength and ease into the rotation. Two, if he pitches like he has in Pittsburgh with the pinstripes that’s another dangerous arm the Yanks can throw out every five days and be confident in getting a W. All in All, signing AJ gives the Yanks rotation the potential to have all 15 game winners. It won’t happen, but they’ve all done it during there respective pitching journeys. The rotation has the firepower to be a better than average rotation, everyone just needs to stay healthy and be consistent.
Onto the bullpen! Where unfortunately, number 42 won’t be running out of that bullpen ever again so there will be a new regime at the closer position. Entering the season, the job is David Robertson’s. He’s been one of the best set-up men in ALL of baseball over the last couple seasons and they need him to step his game up and shut the door at the end of ball games now. Likely set-up men are Shawn Kelley, emphasis on the K and newly acquired Matt Thornton, left handed fire-baller. Middle of games will most likely see some young guys like Preston Claiborne, Dellin Batences and Adam Warren as the presumed long reliever, while David Phelps is still in that number 5 rotation slot. Another veteran other than Thornton may get signed to help out the young bullpen of the Yanks but each pitcher is very talented and can hold there own in games they enter. I’m actually excited to see the young-bloods get chances when they get into games.
Good-bye Robinson Cano, thank you for helping bring a championship to New York but it’s time for a new era in NY. The biggest addition, maybe in baseball, was the Brian McCann signing. It’s the biggest positional upgrade at one position across baseball going from Chris Stewart and Austin Romine to Brian McCann. McCann has been an All-Star seven out of his nine seasons in major league baseball, has lead catchers in Fielding percentage before (2012) and has a career .277/.350/.473 splits while playing the hardest position on the diamond. The potential opening day lineup has a lot of new faces, five to be exact. two Others, Jeter and Teixeira barely played last season and Soriano was acquired during the season. Therefore the only everyday starter in the lineup from last year is Brett Gardner. Don’t be alarmed, firepower was added even with all the new faces. Jacoby Ellsbury, projected leadoff hitter, just finished second in the MVP race two seasons ago. He’s electric in all facets of the game and adds another threat on the bases and can get into scoring position by himself. The rest of the projected lineup has Jeter batting second, followed by Beltran, Teixeira, McCann, Soriano, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brett Gardner as the anchor. A healthy Jeter and Teixeira can make a big difference. Both veterans presence on and off the field is a model for how the rest of the guys carry themselves and it doesn’t hurt both, when healthy, can play some pretty good ball. Although a lot of Yankees fans are wondering what’s going to happen at third base, for now, Kelly Johnson seems like a pretty good option. During an eight year stint, Johnson has hit more than 15 homers in five of those seasons. The elephant in the room that needs to be addressed is his experience at third. KJ has played 16 career games at third, only TWELVE where he started. A grand total of 116 innings. That’s the best option they have, to this date. I am NOT in favor of moving Nuney to third. AT ALL. The Yankees have trained him, sent him down to the minors and back up to mold him into a shortstop. His worst fielding days came as a utility player and has been significantly better as a shortstop only. Yanks have relatively good speed this year and should be near the top of the league in stolen bases. After the obvious, Gardner and Ellsbury, Jeter has always been reliable for a few per year, 4 of the new guys; Beltran, Soriano, Johnson and Roberts can all be double digit stolen base guys as well. Don’t forget about Ichiro and Nunez coming off the bench!
The combination of veterans and young guys is a perfect mixture. The class and maturity of the older players will help the younger guys and make this a contending team. The current team in place has a lot of talent, talent that I believe can translate into a division title and more. A few signings more, one I mentioned earlier, can take certain aspirations to new heights. I, for one, am extremely excited for New York Yankees baseball in 2014.