To do that, they had to let free agents such as Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez go. The Yankees found out in the middle of the off season that Alex Rodriguez would undergo hip surgery, putting his 2013 season in jeopardy. Add in the fact that Derek Jeter is recovering from a broken ankle and Mariano Rivera is recovering from a torn ACL, the Yankees thought their situation could not get worse. Then spring training started and Curtis Granderson broke his right forearm during a spring training game and Mark Teixeira broke his wrist playing in the World Baseball Classic. A team that had given themselves limited options to begin with looks even worse.
Rafael Soriano (2-1, 42 saves, 2.26 in 69 games) had a tremendous season filling in for Rivera, but he opted out of his contract to sign a two year deal with the Nationals. David Robertson (2-7, 2.67, 81 Ks in 60 2/3 IP) was more hit-able than in years past, but is still considered one of the best 8th inning pitchers in MLB. Rivera is expected to go out with a bang, as he has announced that he will end his future Hall of Fame career after this season. David Aardsma, who had 38 saves in 2009 and 31 in 2010 for Seattle, will make the back of the bullpen even better than it has been if he returns to pre-surgery form. If Joba Chamberlain can stay healthy and pitch effective, the Yankees will have four strong back of the bullpen arms. Boone Logan (7-2, 3.74 in 80 games) was very effective as the lefty specialist. 2012 surprises Clay Rapada (3-0, 2.82, 70 games) and Cody Eppley (1-2, 3.33 in 59 games) are expected to return. The Yankees also signed Shawn Kelley (2-4, 3.25 in 47 games fro Seattle) leaving the potential for one of the deepest bullpens in all of baseball.
The starting pitching is good, but older, with guys like CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda leading the way. CC (15-8, 3.38 in 28 starts) had a very strong season last year despite his two DL stints. He led the AL in K/BB ratio and is 9 wins away from 200 in his career. Kuroda (16-11, 3.32) pitched a career high 219 2/3 IP at age 37 last season, but proved he can be depended on in 2012. Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 in 12 starts) is going to be leaned heavily on at age 41. However, Andy pitched very well last season when healthy. Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23) is interesting because he is entering his free agent year. A solid season could but him in the running to get an Anibal Sanchez type contract. Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02) is expected to be better than he was last season, leaving the Yankees with a starting five that should provide them with innings. David Phelps is their first option for a sixth starter and Michael Pineda is expected to be healthy by the second half of the season. If the Yankees are in contention, Pineda could be as good as any deadline pickup in regards to starting pitchers.
The Yankees lineup will eventually include Teixeira and Granderson and maybe A-Rod, but the organization has to go on without them to start the season. Optimistically, both can be back by early May, and if that is the case, the impact of their losses may not be that devastating. The Yankees also will not be able to play Jeter every day at SS, making Eduardo Nunez (26-89, 1, 11) and Jayson Nix (.243, 4, 18) more valuable. Free agent DH Travis Hafner, who projects to 25-30 HRs a season if he is healthy, should be able to add to his 204 career HRs playing his home games at Yankees stadium. Juan Rivera (.244, 9, 47 with Dodgers) and Dan Johnson (8-22, 3, 6 with White Sox) are the favorites to play 1B in Teixeira's (.251, 24, 84) absence. Kevin Youkilis (.235, 19, 60), in my opinion, was a good move by the Yankees as his leadership will be needed early on in the season.
Robinson Cano (.313, 33, 94), Ichiro (.283, 9, 55) and Brett Gardner (10-31, 3 RBI, 2 SB) should be the incumbents who will simply go out there and play. Jeter (.316, 15, 58) led the AL in hits last season and is considered a force until it is proven otherwise. The Yankees will use their catchers, Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, as defensive players. OF Melky Mesa looks like a good player; he has a chance to make this team also. The team also signed OF Ben Francisco, recently released by Cleveland. Without Teixeira and Granderson, here is how I would line them up: Ichiro RF, Gardner CF, Jeter SS, Cano 2B, Youkilis 3B, Hafner DH, Rivera LF/1B, Johnson 1B/Francisco LF, Cervelli/ Stewart C. Of course, the lineup looks different with the two back: Jeter SS, Ichiro RF, Cano 2B, Teixeira 1B, Granderson LF, Youkilis 3B, Rivera/ Hafner DH, Cervelli/ Stewart C, Gardner CF.
The problem for the Yankees is they do not have the same confidence than in past seasons. Of course, the players will tell you otherwise. In my opinion, too many things have to go right for this team to win the 88-91 games it would take to make a run for a postseason berth. The injuries and inability to replace many of their lost off season pieces will make this a tough year. Vegas puts the over/ under at 86 1/2, while I take the under, at 82-80, 3rd place in the AL East. No question the AL East's parity will play a factor in the teams' records.