Wednesday, 22 February 2012

2012 Previews: New York Yankees

They're getting older...

The Majors
I feel like I could probably copy and paste my Red Sox preview in to this one, for the most part, because these are two really similar teams.  Vicious offenses, amazing bullpens, and up until about 3 weeks ago, questionable rotations.  Consider this: Brian Cashman moved a somewhat extraneous DH for a starting pitcher with 5 years of control, signed another pitcher to a low-risk contract, and traded away a massive disappointment, whereas Ben Cherington traded his starting shortstop for nothing -- Advantage: Yankees.  The result is an improved Yankees rotation, complimented by an excellent bullpen and a rapidly aging lineup that probably wouldn't have had room for Jesus Montero anyway.

This is still a great team that won the toughest division in baseball by several games last season, but at some point, you have to worry about guys like ARod (age 36), Jeter (Age 37) and Mark Teixeira (age 32) all still being under contract for five, three (2+ a player option), and four more years, with all of them well in to the decline phases of their careers.

Based on the above contracts (plus CC Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, and commitments to AJ Burnett) and the new CBA payroll restrictions, it's tough to envision the Yankees hanging on to Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher,  and Curtis Granderson over the coming years.  The Yanks can no longer just spend their way in to remaining in contention.

Fortunately, Brian Cashman is a wise man, and appears to be trying to cut costs.  The Yankees have always scouted and drafted well, and consistently have up-and-comers within their system, allowing them to compete year-in and year-out.  I still see a decline in the future with all of the long-term contracts entering their back halves, but it shouldn't be too steep, and can certainly be managed with their payroll capabilities.

The Minors
First off, I'm a firm believer in the conspiracy theory that Yankee prospects get overrated simply by virtue of being in the Yankees' system.  Having said that, most of the talent in this system is a few years away from doing much at the major league level, with the exception of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, considering ARod and Jeter are going to continue getting playing time until the end of their contracts anyway.  I'd rather have my prospects be far from the majors than have a couple of geezers blocking them.  They got a potential ace in the Michael Pineda deal in Jose Campos.  Of course, the Yankees don't really keep their prospects, preferring to use them as trade bait, so that might not matter (and could actually hurt in terms of trade value).

The Verdict
They'll win the wild card (or the division), barring any hilarious Red Sox-style setbacks.  I think we're actually going to see a slight improvement out of ARod if he can stay healthy, but he's 36 years old, so I could be very wrong.  Expect Granderson to regress.  They'll still be a really good team, but I think they're going to be worse than last year as a whole.

Projection: 94-68, 2nd in the AL East.

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