With the Yankees presumably done making major additions for next season–they're almost certainly out on James Shields, the last remaining big free agent–it's time to think about how this team shapes up against the rest of the AL East. Alright, maybe it's a little early, but still, it's the offseason. Let's be positive.
Here's why we should all be optimistic about the Yankees chances next season:
1) There's no clear favorite in the AL East
While the Blue Jays and Red Sox made several moves in the offseason, each team in the division still has a lot of question marks. Can Boston overcome the loss of their ace? Will Toronto's pitching improve after a lackluster 2014? Will Baltimore's young pitching staff come back down to Earth after overachieving last season? Can the Rays continue to surprise and be competitive, even without Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman? While the Yankees have plenty of questions of their own–potential injuries to pitchers come to mind (furiously knocking on wood)–each of these five teams has some major flaws on paper, meaning the division is wide open.
2) The rotation has a chance to be really, really good
Speaking of the rotation, while there are injury concerns, there is also a lot of potential for it to be one of the best staffs in recent memory. Masahiro Tanaka was lights out last season before his injury, and in his 76 innings, Michael Pineda posted a 1.89 ERA. Nathan Eovaldi had a solid 3.37 FIP in 2014 along with 3.0 fWAR. If CC Sabathia can make some improvements over his last year, and Chris Capuano can hold down the fort until Ivan Nova gets back, this could end up being the one dominant rotation of the division.
3) The defense will be so much better
Last season, the Yankees infield included Yangervis Solarte, Derek Jeter, and Brian Roberts. This season, they'll start Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, and Stephen Drew. Headley and Gregorius offer a major upgrade, and while Drew might not offer much overall, he's better than the corpse of Roberts. Putting this group in front of an outfield patrolled by Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury will give the Yankees a squad that's much better with the glove than the 2014 edition.
4) This bullpen is still one of the best in the game
Dellin Betances was second among Yankee pitchers in fWAR last season–he also struck out nearly everyone in sight, posting a 13.50 K/9. Andrew Miller (he of the 2.02 ERA and 1.51 FIP) should mitigate the loss of David Robertson. With plenty of live, young arms in the minors, the Yankees bullpen should once again be one of the best in the AL East. If the offense can produce, the Yankees will have the arms to hold a lead.
While offense will be an issue for the Yankees this season, we can even be optimistic about Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira bouncing back with the bat. I mean, they can't be worse (that's not a challenge, gentlemen, so please don't take it as one). Even with a lot of question marks, this Yankees team has a lot of talent. With a wide open AL East, if a few things break right, New York will definitely be in the hunt come September.
Hey, it's the offseason–let's be positive!
Do you think the Yankees have a good chance in 2015? Who are the biggest threats in the division? Sound off in the comments below!