MLB PREVIEW: 2014 NEW YORK YANKEES
February 25, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
As has been the case for the New York Yankees, there is never a dull moment. We can’t seem to take the winter off without hearing about the Bronx Bombers.
This past off-season was filled with news about Robinson Cano and his complaining about the lack of respect from Yankees management. New York also signed former Mets OF Carlos Beltran who then bad-mouthed his former National League employer at the Yankees signing press conference. And how can we forget about Alex Rodriguez? A-Rod leaves the grievance hearing, goes on New York radio and does a tell-all and then backs off, accepting his punishment for the use of PED’s. Then there is veteran shortstop Derek Jeter who is coming off an injury in 2013 and the possibility of retiring.
All of the off-season news didn’t make Yankees fan forget the team didn’t make the playoffs in 2013 and they want to know if this current crop of players will have enough to make a playoff run in 2014. 10 different players who wore Yankee pinstripes have departed either through retirement, trades or free agency. That’s means New York fans will have to buy a program to see where the new blood will be playing.
Like every other major league baseball team, the Yankees need pitching. But unlike many other franchises, New York likes to go out and buy their hurlers. 2014 was no different after paying big time for Japanese right hander Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka cost New York a $20 million posting fee and then they signed him to a seven-year deal worth $155 million. Tanaka is 25 years old and won 99 games (ERA of 2.30) in a seven year career in Japan. He throws a three-quarter, drop-and-drive motion, with a fast ball that is in the mid-to-upper 90’s. Tanaka will also throw a slider in the low 80’s and a splitter (with downward action) that can reach 88 mph. If Tanaka pitches like this with the Yankees, he will be well worth the investment.
Joining Tanaka will be veteran CC Sabathia, who many feel is no longer a #1 starter. His velocity is down and his breaking pitches don’t have the bite they did when he signed that seven-year deal worth $161 million. Hiroki Kuroda is 39 and he too is beginning to show a decline as evidence of his second half decline in 2013 (3-7 4.25). Other in line for a spot in the rotation will include Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Adam Warren. Everything about this staff after Tanaka spells average.
New York’s bullpen won’t be the same after the retirement of Mariano Rivera. The closer’s job will be turned over to David Robertson who is an above average reliever, but he isn’t Rivera. Robertson did put up some impressive numbers as a set-up man in 2013 with a 5-1 record and an ERA of 2.04. His K/9 ratio was an impressive 10.45. The Yankees signed (two years, $7 million) former Boston cast-off Matt Thornton, hoping he can turn things around after the Red Sox left him off their post-season roster. New York will also look to Shawn Kelly, Preston Claiborne, Cesar Cabral, David Herndon, David Huff, Jim Miller and Chase Whitley to fill out the bullpen. Don’t be surprised if General Manager Brian Cashman looks to add a veteran reliever before the season begins.
Former Braves catcher Brian McCann will bring stability and consistency to the Yankees pitching staff. McCann is a seven time NL All-Star who ranks first among catchers in HR’s (171) and RBI (638) since 2006. Some MLB scouts feel McCann could hit 40 HR’s in Yankee Stadium. McCann isn’t a great defensive catcher but handles the pitching staff as well as anyone in baseball. Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine will look to give McCann a day off now and then.
The rest of the Yankees infield will consist of 1B Mark Teixeira, 2B Brian Roberts, SS Derek Jeter and 3B Kelly Johnson. Teixeira is another Yankee showing signs of decline and is becoming injury prone. Teixeira played in only 53 games in 2013 because of a wrist injury. Roberts (replacing Robinson Cano) is a former Oriole who is injury prone. Roberts has appeared in only 192 of a possible 648 games in the last four seasons. Jeter appeared in only 17 games last season because of an ankle injury and turns 40 in June. Missing last season and his age will be a factor in 2014. Johnson is expected to be the starting third baseman but may share the duties with Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan.
New York signed former Boston CF Jacoby Ellsbury hoping he can be their lead-off hitter and steal bases. Ellsbury was impressive with the Red Sox in stealing bases (84% success rate). Ellsbury can also hit the long-ball (24 HR’s in 2013) but comes with the risk of injury. Carlos Beltran will take over in right field after hitting .296 with 24 HR’s and 84 RBI with the Cardinals last season. Beltran isn’t as good in the field as he was years ago but his bat is still very dangerous. New York and LF Brett Gardner recently agreed to a four-year contract worth $52 million. Gardner led the Yankees in triples (10), steals (24) and tied former Yankee Robinson Cano in runs scored (81). Alfonso Soriano will be looking for playing time after hitting 17 HR’s in 58 games after coming over from the Cubs. Veterans Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells will also need to get some AB’s if they plan on staying sharp.
It will be a long summer in New York. Manager Joe Girardi did a great job managing this club in 2013 but this team is old and injury prone. The organization lacks fresh, young talent to replace the aging line-up and pitching staff. Because of the lack of young talent, they have had to throw more money at free-agents, which we know, isn’t always a recipe for success.
PREDECTION: 4th AL East