Opening day is here for MLB and the New York Yankees, who will take on the Houston Astros on the road at Minute Maid Park. Espectations are, as is typical in New York, extremely high. The Yankees are a unique beast, and their fans are too; no other locale puts as much pressure on their team to win. Before missing out last season, the previous time the team failed to make the playoffs they proceeded to spend almost half a billion dollars on free agents.
This time around the team acted in a similarly excitable manner, throwing down $155 million for Masahiro Tanaka, $153 million for Jacoby Ellsbury, $45 million for Carlos Beltran, and $85 million for Brian McCann. They also re-signed Hiroki Kuroda for $16 million in 2014. That went a long way towards shoring up the team, but there are still big holes. Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the 2014 MLB season. While he is off of the payroll–for this season anyway–he could still hit. They also are down their best player in Robinson Cano. That leaves two gigantic gaps at second and third base, with the rest of the infield in Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira coming off of injuries and disappointment.
The trouble the Yankees are running into this time around, as opposed to before 2009, is that their spending spree was to try and completely revamp an old, broken roster, rather than to complement decent existing pieces. The Yankees farm system is not nearly the joke a lot of people make it out to be, but they do not have any major impact players due to graduate early this year. The signings the Yankees recently made are a good thing, but they need to come in conjunction with having young talent so that the team does not have to rely heavily on old and hobbling players like Brian Roberts.
Another one of the problems that the Yankees are going to face is that they play in the most competitive division in MLB. The team absolutely has enough talent to make a playoff run this season, but the Red Sox and Orioles have a few of the best offenses in baseball and the Rays might have the best pitching. Even the Blue Jays, likely headed for a last place finish in the division, have a decent amount of talent if they stay healthy.
It is very hard to peg the Yankees for a projection, since they are filled with so many question marks; although, having a team filled with question marks is a major issue in and of itself. The team is old, no way around it. If they stay on the field, if the big names in the infield can hit for one more season, and if Michael Pineda can find the spark from his rookie year that made him such a desirable piece to Brian Cashman, the team is a 90-win capable squad who can run at one of the wild cards. If most of those things do not happen, then the Yankees are looking at a third or fourth place finish, as well as being one of MLB’s most boring teams.
Yankee fans should certainly stay optimistic, though. Whether or not this team makes the playoffs, the team may be a bit closer to infusing itself with young talent next year with Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams on the way up. With the retirement of Jeter and the expiration of Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki’s deals the team could have a few dollars to add another piece through free agency. The future of the team is looking up; it is the pressure of New York’s fans is what makes things seem like they are a lot more dire. The influence of George Steinbrenner lives on.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for New York Baseball