While division titles and pennants aren't clinched between the months of November and February (see 2012 Miami Marlins and 2011 Boston Red Sox), reasons to get giddy about this offseason have been few and far between. In a little over a month, The New York Yankees will make their way down to Tampa and hit the ground running on George M. Steinbrenner Field to begin their quest for number 28. Needless to say, some voids have yet to be filled and there hasn't been this much uncertainty since after the 2008 season, which went down as only the second time in 19 years the Yankees missed the postseason (1993 being the last time). However, looking at “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of this offseason, there have been a few “on paper” victories of note for General Manager Brian Cashman.
The Good – With third baseman Alex Rodriguez out until mid-season, Cashman went ahead and inked Kevin Youkilis to the tune of one-year, $12 million. While this may not be the "Youk" of the 2008 to 2010 seasons, he seemed to rejuvenate once getting traded out of the toxic Bobby Valentine-run Boston Red Sox regime and should provide a good presence in the batters box and a solid glove. He can also spell first baseman Mark Teixeira from time to time and take full advantage of the Yankees revolving door at DH. In addition to filling the void of Rodriguez, Cashman also locked up two of his front-line starters in the rotation by signing Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda to respective one-year deals, $12 million for Pettitte and $15 million for Kuroda. Combining them with ace CC Sabathia will again give the Yankees the formidable top of the rotation needed to compete in what's becoming an American League full of lineups with tough outs.
The Bad – The writing was on the wall after another difficult postseason that right fielder Nick Swisher would explore other options. However, combined with the departures of outfielders Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez, all of the sudden this is a Yankees bench devoid of the veteran depth they've had the previous two seasons. While the signing of outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year, $13 million deal softens the blow somewhat, outside of left fielder Brett Gardner, center fielder Curtis Granderson, and Suzuki, there are certainly depth concerns. Factoring in that this current starting outfield consists of all left-handed batters, a right-handed bat should be written somewhere on Cashman's wish list. Granted the signing of former Atlanta Brave Matt Diaz could lead to a low-risk, high-reward opportunity, asking him to replace the production of Jones and Ibanez could lead to an overwhelming task. Unfortunately, the free-agent market for outfielders was/is very scarce this offseason after newly-signed Los Angeles Angel Josh Hamilton and current free-agent Michael Bourn. Even more unfortunate, as the aforementioned Marlins concluded their mass overhaul, sources informed FOXSports.com Senior MLB Writer Ken Rosenthal that prized right fielder and masher Giancarlo Stanton is not available for trade,
“Lots of interest in Marlins' Stanton, but sources all but rule out a deal. One source says chances are “as close to zero as they can be.” ”
The Ugly - Having to replace catcher Russell Martin could prove to be the toughest task for the 2013 Yankees. A batting average of .211 might have you questioning this statement, but then factor in 21 home runs (39 total in two seasons in the Bronx) and his highly-regarded prowess handling pitchers and overall defense, his production will be missed. Vying to replace Martin will be his backup from 2012, Chris Stewart, as well as youngster Austin Romine and fan-favorite Francisco Cervelli. It will be tough to find these 21 homers between the one home run Cervelli and Stewart hit combined last season and Romine, who had an oft-injured season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The bridge to closer Mariano Rivera might also weaken with the departure of Rafael Soriano, who stepped in and closed out 42 games successfully following the season-ending injury to Rivera. For as much as David Robertson has blossomed into his set-up/closer of the future role, he worked well with Soriano as they were able to spell one another when one needed a game off or if one was struggling. With Soriano declining a one-year, $13.3 million offer, he remains a free agent and Robertson becomes the go-to-guy in the 8th inning and leaves little room for error.
There's no question the Yankees will still be considered amongst the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series. A team that can hand a line-up card to the umpire with the likes of Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Granderson, and Teixeira penned in will always instill a level of fear into an opposing pitcher. However, this team will have to overcome some tough losses to free agency, life without an injured Rodriguez, and see how Jeter and Rivera respond in returning from significant injuries. With a little over a month to go before camp opens, it will be interesting to watch if Cashman slides under the radar and addresses the potential depth concerns at catcher and in the outfield.
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