After going over the why Yankee fans should be optimistic heading into the 2016 earlier today, we'll now take a look at reasons to be pessimistic about the 2016 Yankees.
1) The rotation
For several reasons, the Yankees rotation is the biggest unknown on the entire team. Despite having six starters heading into camp, all of them have major question marks. What value, if any, will the arms of CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova contribute after back-to-back subpar/injury-riddled seasons? Will this be the year Masahiro Tanaka's elbow gives out? Can Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda avoid the disabled list and give the team near, or around, 200 much-needed innings apiece? As exciting as he looks, will Luis Severino be able to handle the big leagues for a full year?
Yes, every team has to worry about starting pitching and whether it will hold up over the course of a season. The 2016 rotation for the Yankees, however, seems more fragile than most. There is plenty of upside, but it seems more likely than not that injuries (because we all know it's inevitable) and ineffectiveness of the rotation will likely be the major roadblocks to contention for the 2016 Yankees.
2) The loss of Greg Bird
The impact of Greg Bird's season-ending shoulder injury is two-fold. First, Bird loses a full year of development. He likely would not have began the year with the Yankees, but he most certainly would have contributed at some point during the season.
Even if he spent the vast majority of the season playing for Triple-A Scranton, another year of seasoning in the minors could have only helped. Keep in mind, at just 22, he was nearly five years younger than the average age in the International League last season. Despite his success, he was not a finished product, and another healthy minor league season would have allowed him to make progress with his fielding and strikeout numbers. Instead, that progress gets pushed back another year as he tries to recover from a serious injury.
Secondly, without a true replacement for Teixeira in the event of long-term injury, the Yankees' offense will be in trouble. Even though Bird hit very well in place of Teixeira after the veteran first baseman's leg injury, the offense still missed Tex's switch-hitting power bat in the lineup. With no Bird to swoop in and take Teixeira's spot this year, a long period of time without Teixeira could cripple the Yankees.
The only other options ("options" is a term used very loosely in this case) in the event of a long-term stint on the disabled list for Teixeira would be a combination of Dustin Ackley, Brian McCann, and, in a real emergency, Alex Rodriguez. Between the three of them, they have played a whopping 50 career games at first base combined, with McCann leading the way with 26. Not exactly a confidence booster.
3) The non-Big-Three portion of the bullpen
For as good as the combination of Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller will likely be in 2016, the rest of the bullpen currently is a hodgepodge of rookies and whoever doesn't begin the year in the starting rotation.
Assuming Bryan Mitchell or Ivan Nova make the team as the sixth starter/long reliever, the rest of the bullpen will likely consist of some combination of Chasen Shreve (74 career games), Branden Pinder (25 games), Nick Rumbelow (17 games), James Pazos (11 games), Jacob Lindgren (seven games), Nick Goody (seven games), and Johnny Barbato (no ML appearances).
Shreve has the most big league experience of the group, but his horrid final month of the season (ten games, 16 hits, nine earned runs, and a 13.50 ERA in just six innings) in which he appeared to wear down after a mostly successful rookie season is cause for some concern. Also, while the likes of Pinder, Rumbelow, and Pazos pitched well in their short big league stints, heading into the season with unproven middle relievers and expecting them to translate that success into a full season is asking quite a lot.
While the addition of Chapman allows the Yankees to bring Betances and Miller into games earlier, doing so too often may compromise effectiveness. This is especially true in Betances' case as he has thrown the most innings of any reliever in baseball since 2014 (the next closest to Betances' 174 innings during that span is the 155.1 innings thrown by Jeurys Familia of the New York Mets). Having an potentially unreliable middle relief corps (plus having a starting rotation that may not pitch deep into games) may force Joe Girardi to wear his Big Three down, which would negate any advantage the Yankees have with them.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Let us know how you're feeling about the 2016 Yankees as we prepare for spring training.