The New York Yankees are retooled, reloaded, and ready to bring Championship number 28 to the Bronx. Here is the lowdown on their offseason, Spring Training and our prediction for their 2012 season.
Offseason: The Yankees’ offseason this year was unusually quiet. While huge free agent names (i.e Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder) were out getting massive contracts with other teams, it seems as if the Yanks finally realized they didn’t need to make any huge free agent additions to their already All-Star studded lineup. However, this is not to say they didn’t make any changes this offseason. Their biggest splash came via trade, when they shipped the immensely talented catching prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for the young Starting Pitcher Michael Pineda. Pineda, a rookie last season, made a big splash on the scene with the Mariners, finishing the season with 28 starts and a 3.74 E.R.A., quite impressive for a rookie. This trade provided a huge bolster to a rotation that was certainly not the team’s strength last season. (It has not worked out perfectly thus far, but we’ll get into that later)
Pineda was not the only pitcher the Yankees added this offseason. Just after they made the trade with Seattle the Bombers signed Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to a one year, 10 million dollar contract. Kuroda, who had a 3.45 E.R.A. in Los Angeles last season, will without a doubt benefit from the high-octane lineup that will be hitting for him this season. So far, so good for Kuroda, whose Spring Training E.R.A. was 2.96. These additions, combined with C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova should make the Yankees’ rotation one of the best in the American League this season. But wait aren’t we forgetting someone?
Oh yea, A.J. Burnett. The former free agent prize was shipped to Pittsburgh this offseason for two minor leaguers. Clearly, Burnett was not cut out for the Big Apple. He was an integral part of the team’s 2009 championship run, but the honeymoon was over. Fans no longer wanted to hear about AJ’s issues, and that was that.
One major signing of note includes that of former Yankee Andy Pettite. It took most people by surprise, but Andy could provide a veteran presence and some Champion experience to the clubhouse. Not to mention the fact that he still seems to think he’s got some gas left in the tank.
Another interesting departure from the team this offseason was the retirement of Jorge Posada. In pinstripes since 1995, Posada decided to retire instead of playing for another team. By doing so, he demonstrated some loyalty that we rarely see in sports today. It will indeed be odd to see a Yankee roster that does not include Jorge.
Spring Training So, we move ahead to Spring Training. Going into Tuesday’s game with the New York Mets, the Yankees sit at 17-11 in the Grapefruit League. While records don’t mean much, it is certainly good to see the Yankees getting good results. One of the major positives out of Spring Training is the health and numbers from Alex Rodriguez. The highly scrutinized (and paid) 3rd baseman has a .292 batting average and has gone deep a couple of times for the Yankees, and his swing just looks better than it has in years past. Healthy and prepared for the season, I think it’s safe to expect big numbers from A-Rod this season.
One major problem the Yankees have seen this Exhibition season is the problems the aforementioned Michael Pineda has encountered. He showed up to camp seemingly overweight, and his velocity was not where it was last year. He averaged a bit over 94 mph on his fastball last year, but is a bit down thus far with New York. Pineda has experienced shoulder soreness and will begin the season the 15 day DL. While the Yankees and their fans are a bit nervous about Pineda’s health, he should eventually regain his velocity and be the pitcher the Yankees traded a star in the making for. Pineda will be replaced in the Yankees rotation by Freddy Garcia for the time being.
Another issue that has received some attention is the diminishing range of Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter, 37, simply does not have the same athletic ability as he did earlier in his career. However, with the stellar offense he will continue to provide, I personally don’t see this as much of a problem.
Prediction: The Yankees will be battle-tested this season without a doubt. The A.L. East, as always, will be among the game’s toughest divisions. However, between their lineup (including Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and the reigning Home Run Derby Champion Robinson Cano) revamped rotation, and stellar bullpen anchored by David Robertson and the sure-fire Hall of Fame Closer Mariano Rivera, the Yankees have the firepower to win this division.
While I do believe the Yankees will win the A.L. East, I see them falling in the ALCS to the Detroit Tigers, who face a much less challenging path to the postseason in the less competitive AL Central.
The Yankees begin their 2012 regular season where their 2011 regular season ended, Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays at 3:05 pm this Friday April 6th. Their home opener is next Friday, April 13th against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium at 1:05 pm.