Last season could be considered a return to normalcy for the Yankee franchise. After two years of playoff-less mediocrity, they were legitimate AL contenders all season thanks to a powerful lineup that wore out opposing pitchers. However, despite their best efforts to inject some youth into a roster that desperately needed it, age and injury caused them to falter down the stretch. Thanks to a September slump, they finished with a solid, if unspectacular, 87 wins and an early playoff exit after the AL Wild Card game. That was enough for most Yankee fans to consider 2015 a success, but a repeat performance would likely leave those same fans begging for more.
In order to avoid such a repeat, the Yankees have gone right back to the strategy of acquiring young players either in or entering their prime rather than spending big on free agents. Rather than relying on the unlikely resurgence of players nearing their expiration date, they're placing their bets on those that can pay dividends for 2016 and well beyond. Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Didi Gregorius proved last year that this strategy may be a sound one. However, will the addition of Aroldis Chapman and Starlin Castro be enough to take them to the next level?
According to the oddsmakers in Vegas, apparently not. For every promising player the Yankees have acquired over the past two years, there's a bloated contract there to serve as a sobering reminder that there's a ton of dead weight on the roster. Sure Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran all played at a level that exceeded most expectations in 2015, but to assume the same for 2016 would be unwise. Based on projections, the Yankees will be lucky to make the playoffs, let alone contend for a World Series title. Therefore, where should the bar for success actually lie for the Yankees this year?
With the playoff system including more teams and shorter series the past few years, it's getting harder for teams that dominated the regular season to assert themselves in October. That should work in the Yankees' favor, at least in the short term. Should they make the playoffs, it will likely be via a Wild Card berth. That means they may be able to ride a hot streak against superior teams all the way to the World Series.
From a different perspective, playoff success might not matter so much. Establishing themselves as a team capable of winning 90 or more regular season games may be all that matters. Given the young core that's here to stay for the next 4-5 years, that could set a tone that resonates for a more sustained run in the years to come. What will it take for you to consider the Yankees' 2016 campaign a success? Let us know in the poll below.