This offseason was a redefining one for the Yankees. Rather than hand out massive contracts to all comers as the Yanks have done in many an offseason, they stayed put and allowed big producers like Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, Raul Ibanez, and Russell Martin walk away. That saddles the rest of the offense with a lot of production to make up if they want an offense at all resembling their second-top scoring squad last year. Especially with Alex Rodriguez out indefinitely.
We know the rotation is solid but not great. We know the bullpen is solid. We know Teixeira , Cano, Jeter, and Granderson will do what they do. We know no matter who the Yankees tab at catcher can only be mediocre at best. Here are five question marks to watch as the Yankees face the most competitive AL East in years.
Mariano Rivera: He’s 43-years-old and coming off of a torn ACL and a year out of baseball. At the same time, this guy owns a 1.87 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and a 5.38 SO/BB ratio since turning 40. If any 43-year-old closer can come back from a torn ACL and a year of not pitching it’s this 43-year-old closer. The problem is if he can’t, there is no Rafael Soriano to pick up the slack anymore.
Kevin Youkilis: How do you replace an injury-prone aging third baseman on the decline? With a second injury-prone aging third baseman on the decline. Youk brings a certain sense of imminent disappointment to the Bronx, buy maybe it’s just the fact that the Yankees will spend $41 million on a third base position that will produce 80 RBIs at best. Of course Youk has only driven in more than 62 runs once in the last three seasons while watching his averages drop (.307, .258, .235) along with his OPS (.975, .833, and .745) and extra-base hit percentage (11.5%, 9.9%, and 7.1%).
Ivan Nova: The 26-year-old saw a massive drop off from 2011 to 2012, seeing his ERA jump from 3.70 to 5.02, his WHIP jump from 1.33 to 1.47, and his home runs allowed more than double from 13 to 28. He will likely remain in the rotation over David Phelps but needs to keep the ball inside the park if he wants to stay there.
Ichiro: It’s no secret that Ichiro has been on the decline for a few years now. The question is how steep will his decline be this season. He revived his season after the Mariners traded him to the Yanks but still finished with a .283 AVG, 29 SB, 55 RBI, and 77 R. Obviously this is no longer the guy to bat .350 but if he is anything like the Ichiro that batted .261 with a .642 OPS for the Mariners last season the Yankees may regret letting two outfielders walk away in the offseason.
Brett Gardner: Between Swisher, Ibanez, Martin, and A-Rod, the Yankees are down 265 RBI from last season. Since Youkilis makes up 80 at best, Gardner better come up with 185. He missed most of last season with an elbow injury but was a solid outfielder for the Yanks, putting up a league-leading 49 SB but just a .259 AVG and .713 OPS. The entire outfield will need to outperform expectations or the Yankees will definitely be buyers once again come trade deadline.