The trade market had become tough for the Yankees due to their reluctance to move either Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos, the team's two top pitching prospects. They made a move with the Seattle Mariners, a move that I feel significantly helped both teams. The Yankees traded C Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners in a four player trade in exchange for RHP Michael Pineda. Though many Yankees fans did not want to see Montero go, a prospect like that had to be moved in order to land a pitcher like Pineda.
The rest of the offseason was fairly quiet. They signed RHP Hiroki Kuroda from the Dodgers and brought OF Raul Ibanez as a free agent from the Phillies. They brought back RHP Freddy Garcia, OF Andruw Jones and INF Eric Chavez to give the team the depth they have always had. The most interesting move the Yankees made was bringing back LHP Andy Pettitte, who retired after the 2011 season. Pettitte has been throwing and his return to the majors is expected to be sooner rather than later.
The starting pitching staff is very much improved from last season. AJ Burnett was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bartolo Colon, who had lost some gas at the end of 2011, signed as a free agent with the Oakland Athletics. CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00, 230 K) is the ace they hoped they were signing before the 2009 season. He has been tremendous and should continue to be a constant when it comes to the success of this team. Pineda (9-10, 3.74, 173 K in 171 IP, 1.099 WHIP), who may not be the #2 starting pitcher at this moment, will become the defacto second ace by the end of this season. Pineda throws in the high nineties and his slider could be as good as anybody in the game. Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70) will be the number 3 starter and Kuroda (13-16, 3.07) will be counted on to throw 200 innings and should win a more than the 12-13 games he has won over the last couple of seasons. Phil Hughes (5-5, 5.79) will battle with Garcia (12-8, 3.62) for the fifth spot in the rotation.
My opinion of the fifth spot battle is it will all have to do with how far Pettitte and how close he is to returning to the rotation. If Pettitte is a couple of months away, Hughes becomes the favorite to get the rotation spot as the Yankees do see him part of the future. If Pettitte is less than a month away from returning, they will pitch Hughes in the bullpen and use Garcia as a filler until Pettitte is ready.
The Yankees bullpen, of course, is led by Mariano Rivera (1-2, 44, 1.91). Rivera has given hints that this may be his last season. David Robertson (4-0, 1.08, 100 K in 66 2/3 IP) is the best set-up man in the game and Rivera's heir apparent. Rafael Soriano (2-3, 4.12) is looking to rebound from a difficult 2011 season and is a better pitcher than he showed last year. Joba Chamberlain, coming off of Tommy John surgery, had the freak accident this week where he severely broke his ankle and is likely out for the season. Pedro Feliciano, who missed all of last season, is unlikely to pitch this year as well. Boone Logan will be the lefty specialist and Hughes, if not a starter will join Cory Wade as extra right handed relievers.
The Yankees continue to have a loaded offensive machine. Derek Jeter (.297, 6, 61) showed he still has plenty left with a great second half last year. Curtis Granderson (.262, 41, 119) was their best all around player last season and Robinson Cano (.302, 28, 118) should bat after him. I expect a huge season from Alex Rodriguez (.276, 16, 62), who should be back at full strength after hip surgery two years ago. Mark Teixeira (.248, 39, 111) will play great defense at 1B and finish with similar HRs and RBIs. Nick Swisher (.260, 23, 85) has put up good regular season numbers but has to perform better in the postseason. Ibanez (.245, 20, 84) comes over from Philadelphia and gives the Yankees a better DH option than they had last season. Russell Martin (.237, 18, 65) will do the catching with prospects Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez spending more time in the minor leagues. Jorge Posada, of course, has retired. Brett Gardner (.259, 7, 36, 49 SB) is capable of hitting for a higher average and needs to get his average up if he expects to be part of the Yankees future. Jones, Chavez and INF Eduardo Nunez lead a fairly deep Yankees bench.
I went back and forth ranking my top three teams. The Yankees could easily be number one, as 1-3 were not separated by very much IMO. Vegas has them at 93.5 for the O/U and I see them finishing over, at 95-65, first place in the AL East. I feel strongly that their starting pitching will be very good. A-Rod will be a huge boost to them this year, please do not be surprised if he regains his past form. On paper, they have a better team than division rivals Red Sox and Rays. Over the past 15 plus years, it has never been a matter of whether the Yankees could get to the postseason. I do see them better equipped this season to go further than the last two seasons.