The Yankees spent a lot of money this off season. In large part, the Yankees made some fine additions. However, the Yankees, to date, have done what many thought would be unthinkable, spend a boat load of money, but yet allow their infield to be potentially even worse than last year.
Granted the off season is not over yet. Nonetheless, the free agent infield options of any real value are gone. Barring a solid trade, which I am still crossing my fingers for, this infield looks terrible. Specifically, currently, the Yankees infield looks something like this: Mark Teixeira at 1st, Dean Anna or Brian Roberts at 2nd, Kelly Johnson or some non-roster guy at 3rd, and Derek Jeter at shortstop. This does not excite anyone.
Teixeira has seemingly been out of his prime since his first season with the Yankees. His average has hovered around or below .250 while his ops has dropped annually. He has now been injured for two consecutive years, missing the vast majority of last season with a wrist issue that he is now saying he expects to linger throughout this season. Wonderful!
Brian Roberts has not been healthy for years, failing to play in even 100 games in a season since....crickets. So now we have a 1b and 2b, both past their primes and neither of whom we have any reason to expect to be healthy. But have no fear, Dean Anna is waiting in the wings at 2b. Who? If you look at his 2013 stats in the minors, this guy looks like a stud in the making. However, at 27 years old, one would expect that if he were a real prospect/had real potential, he would have made the majors already and that he should dominate guys who are still developing. My hope, just like many, is that, he is a bit of a slow developer like Brett Gardner was. Yet, so far, we are still starting with two question marks at two positions.
Moving over to third base. Right now, the choices for 3rd base are either Kelly Johnson or some non roster guys with some interesting names. Kelly Johnson has 20 home run ability and not much else. His last three seasons have produced batting averages of .222, 225 and .235 respectively. Plus he strikes out a lot. So basically, we have a poor man's Mark Reynolds. Marinade over that for a moment? A POOR MAN'S MARK REYNOLDS.
Then we move over to shortstop where we have Derek Jeter. It is hard to gauge what to expect from Jeter. On the one hand, everyone has been saying he is done for years only for him to prove naysayers wrong to a degree. I say to a degree because his defense is no longer of any real value except that he does not make the crazy errant throws that Eduardo Nunez has a penchant for. (I am not going to mention Nunez again because he is a non-option...I pray.) Offensively, his ability to drive the ball has diminished. However, he might be able to produce a solid average. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, should Jeter prove less than up to the task, his replacement is Brendan Ryan, a superior fielder to Jeter, but a non-bat.
That is four positions and four question marks. Last year, at least through it all, the Yankees had Robinson Cano anchoring second base. While the vast majority of us are unhappy that he is gone, the more important fact is that the Yankees have allowed their infield to get worse. Even fully healthy, Teixeira cannot, at this point in his career, replicate or even approach the total offense produced by Cano. While we can argue as to which replacement players are worse, this year's or last year's, the fact is, the Yankees went from having one top performer last year with the rest question marks, to all question marks, and a much more limited upside overall than last year.
While the outfield is undoubtedly better than last year, the Yankees had so many issues last year in every aspect that said improvement is insufficient for confidence. Accordingly, even with the outfield improved, there is a lot to be concerned about. Plus, the pitching staff is cause for concern as well. As of now, the rotations looks something like this: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and either Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam warren or Vidal Nuno. Sabathia is coming off a terrible season. The hope is that he can adjust and return to some level of dominance. (On a side note, I hope him losing weight is good for his pitching, not bad for it. The guy looked, dare I say it, svelte, in the most recent photos I saw of him.) Kuroda was solid for about 2/3 of the season only to seemingly tire out after that. Tanaka is getting paid like an ace yet no one believes he is the next Darvish. The hope is that he is a better version of Kuroda, which would be fine. Nova's performances have vacillated over the course of his career. He has yet to put together a complete season worthy of trust. The 5th spot is a question mark. Meanwhile, a number of teams have more proven starting pitching.
For all of these reasons, the Yankees should not have been or should not remain complacent about their infield. The Yankees made a big statement, which is really a reiteration of what we all have always known, the Yankees aim to win every year. Great, but spending all the money, and yet starting the season with such a questionable infield hurts the probability of that happening.
I know I have said this before, but why are not the Yankees trying to address this by dealing with the Mariners. The Mariners have graduated a number of their prospects and now their system, while good, is not what it was. The have guys like Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley, Stefen Romero, all of whom have no place to play on the team. Meanwhile, the Mariners have no outfield prospects of value and a poor outfield despite the money they spent. They also need help on the back end of the rotation and bullpen, and depth for the same. Because the Yankees prospects have under performed, a one for one deal is unlikely. But then again, the guys on the Mariners being sought have also yet to establish themselves, which makes their value not as high as it could be either. A package by the Yankees should be able to make something happen to benefit both teams and improve the Yankees biggest current issue. Alternatively, there are some prospects on other teams who are not considered top prospects but still represent an upgrade over the Yankees MLB ready options. How about Wilmer Flores of the Mets or Christian Villanueva or Mike Olt from the Cubs. All are guys with flaws but at least with potential upside. Plus, in approximately less than month, Aledmys Diaz will be available. He seems like a must add for the Yankees as he could be an answer at ss, 2b or 3b and is supposed to be a solid, if not spectacular option.
For all the money spent, the Yankees have yet to make any move that shows any modicum of creative intelligence. The Yankees cannot just make Steinbrenner type moves; they also need to make Gene Michael type moves. The off season is still not over. I am hoping they still do something that shows they know how to spot and acquire MLB ready talent. (Please no Stephen Drew. His offense is not expected to be worth the money.)