In 2013, the New York Yankees experienced their worst season in 20 years. With Opening Day 2014 on the horizon, the team looks to make a return at the postseason and contend for the World Series.
While most of the league begins playing regular season games on the final day of March, the Yankees will begin the year on April 1. New York returns many familiar faces from a year ago, but a large part of the team has been altered.
When the Yankees take the field against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, Brett Gardner will be the only player that was in last year’s Opening Day lineup. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira were both out with injuries, but the rest of the batting order is either on the bench or off the team. Most notably, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson signed with other teams. Cano won’t be easily replaced, considering he led the team with a .314 batting average, 27 home runs, and 107 RBI.
Even after losing Cano and Granderson to free agency, as well as Alex Rodriguez to a season-long suspension, New York’s offense should be stronger than in 2013. The organization ignored its previous goal of a $189 million payroll, and signed the best hitters available. The Yankees spent $283 million on Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. If the team can avoid injuries, they should easily surpass last year’s 650 total runs and .307 on-base percentage.
New York could have trouble, if its top stars don’t put up big numbers. Brian Roberts will start at second base, even though he hasn’t played more than 59 games in five years. Kelly Johnson, who had a .235 average last year year, replaces Rodriguez at third base. Eduardo Nunez wasn’t good enough to make the team out of spring training, and the organization will keep a couple of relative unknowns on the bench.
The Yankees made the biggest pitching signing of the offseason by acquiring Masairo Tanaka. New York signed the Japanese starter to a seven-year, $155 million contract. As a 25-year-old, the right-hander was dominant in his final season in Japan, winning all 24 decisions and recording a 1.27 ERA. It remains to be seen if that success will translate to the Majors, but he had a terrific spring. Tanaka pitched to a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings, striking out 26 batters. He’ll enter the season as the No.4 starter in the rotation.
As good as Tanaka might turn out to be, the Yankees still need C.C. Sabathia to have a bounce-back season. He enters 2014 as the team’s No.1 starter following the worst year of his career. New York is hoping a slimmed-down Sabathia will improve upon a 4.78 ERA. He’s joined by Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, who were the team’s best starters in 2013. Michael Pineda is the fifth starter, but hasn’t pitched since 2011.
For the first time in 20 seasons, Mariano Rivera is not on the roster. David Robertson takes over as the team’s closer, though he’s recorded just eight saves in his six-year career. A few relievers will compete to take over for Robertson as the 8th-inning setup man.
Projected Lineup Starting Rotation
C Brian McCann C.C. Sabathia
1B Mark Teixeira Hiroki Kuroda
2B Brian Roberts Ivan Nova
SS Derek Jeter Masahiro Tanaka
3B Kelly Johnson Michael Pineda
LF Brett Gardner
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Carlos Beltran
DH Alfonso Soriano
David Robertson Ichiro Suzuki
Shawn Kelly Francisco Cervelli
Matt Thornton Dean Anna
David Phelps Yangervis Solarte
The offseason additions will give the Yankees a more than serviceable offense, though injury concerns with the likes of Jeter, Teixeira, and even Ellsbury could hurt them. The starting staff might end up being New York’s greatest strength. Tanaka looks to be everything as advertised, and Pineda could be the X-factor that gives Joe Girardi one of the best rotations in the American League.
Predicted Finish In AL East: First
Predicted Wins: 94