The last time the New York Yankees missed the playoffs (2008), the organization felt a sense of urgency and went on a spending spree which netted them free agents CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett. Of course, that resulted in the team winning the World Series in 2009. The Yankees missed out on the playoffs last season. Once again, they signed the marquee free agents, this time landing RHP Masahiro Tanaka, catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. In the process, they lost 2B Robinson Cano, who signed a deal with the Seattle Mariners. All time closer Mariano Rivera retired as well as LHP Andy Pettitte. And during the offseason, it was confirmed that 3B Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the entire 2014 regular season and playoffs due to his involvement with Biogenesis. Additional newcomers to the Yankees include 2Bs Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson and LHP Matt Thornton, who replaced Boone Logan. They also signed former closer Andrew Bailey, though Bailey will not be available to pitch until about midway through the season.
One of the major downfalls the Yankees had last season was the amount of injuries that hit them at one time. It started with A-Rod having his second hip operation and Derek Jeter never getting healthy enough to make an impact after breaking his ankle in the playoffs in 2012. Freak injuries ruined the seasons of Teixeira and OF Curtis Granderson. Things could have been much different if they had the core of their lineup during the entire season. But, injuries happen and cannot be used as an excuse.
They also underestimated the value of a quality catcher. Letting free agent Russell Martin walk after the 2012 season was a terrible move. Francisco Cervelli was never able to get it together before his season was interrupted by his PED ban and Chris Stewart was just not very good. The Yankees addressed that by signing McCann (.256, 20, 57 for Atlanta) who has hit 20 HRs in 6 straight seasons and 7 out of the last 8. To try to offset the loss of Cano (.314, 27, 107) offensively, the Yankees added Ellsbury (.298, 9, 53, 52 SB) and Beltran (.296, 24, 84). Roberts (.249, 8, 39 in 77 games) will be the starting 2B with Johnson (.235, 16, 52) starting the season at 3B in place of A-Rod. Other options are Eduardo Nunez (.260, 3, 28) and minor league invite Scott Sizemore. Brett Gardner (.273, 8, 52) will be playing LF with Alfonso Soriano (.255, 34, 101) getting the most of the DH duties. Soriano had 50 RBI in 58 games for the Yankees and OPSed almost 100 points higher than he did in almost 100 games for the Cubs. Teixeira played in just 15 games last season while Jeter played in just 17. They were a combined 20-116 (.172). The Yankees lineup I'd go with is Ellsbury CF, Jeter SS, Beltran RF, Teixeira 1B, Soriano DH, McCann C, Johnson 3B, Roberts 2B, Gardner LF. The Yankees bench will consist of Ichiro, Brendan Ryan (will start the season on the DL) and Nunez.
Tanaka's 2013 stats for the Rakuten Golden Eagles: 24-0, 1.27 in 28 games, 27 starts (1 save) with 183 Ks in 214 IP and 8 CG, 2 SHO. Based on what the Yankees paid him, they expect Masahiro to be the ace of this staff regardless of what they say. Sabathia (14-13, 4.78 in 32 starts) is coming off his worst season of his MLB career based on winning percentage, WHIP and ERA. He also gave up more runs (112) and HR (28) than any other season of his MLB career. The fact that CC is in the best shape of his career provides some optimism that he can rebound from last season. Ivan Nova (9-6, 3.10, 20 starts) pitched well towards the end of last season and is probably the Yankees 3rd starter after CC and Tanaka.
One pitcher I do not expect to see a lot from is Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.31 in 32 starts) this season. He has proven some wrong with his ability to pitch successfully through age 38, but concerns have to exist over his second half last season. I feel that he is shot- though I would like to be proven wrong. Kuroda will put some more pressure on RHP Michael Pineda, who has not pitched in the major leagues since 2011. David Phelps (6-5, 4.98 in 22 games, 12 starts) and LHP Vidal Nuno (1-2, 2.25 in 5 games, 3 starts) will be important as well filling in.
It is completely impossible to replace Mariano Rivera as closer of the Yankees. David Robertson (5-1, 2.04, 70 games, 77 Ks in 66 1/3 IP) gets that opportunity with no safety net. I would have liked to see the Yankees bring in a proven setup man with closing experience. Shawn Kelley (4-2, 4.39 in 57 games) is likely to be the primary setup man with LHP Thornton (0-4, 3.74, 60 games) replaces Logan (5-2, 3.23, 61 games) as the lefty specialist. Phelps, Adam Warren (3-2, 3.39 in 33 games) and Dellin Betances along with Cesar Cabral will likely round out the bullpen.
The Yankees will go as far as their pitching takes them. I expect Robertson to be ok, and the starting pitching will be fine even if they do not get a major contribution from Kuroda. Pineda, if healthy, will give the team a solid season similar to his rookie season in Seattle. The team will score a ton of runs and I do feel this team is stronger than both the Rays and Orioles. Vegas has them at 86.5 as their O/U and I go with the over at 88-74, 2nd place in the AL East division. They will make the playoffs as the first Wild Card team.