When baseball season comes around, there are two things that force Boston Red Sox fans to take notice. The current state of their own roster, and what the arch-rival New York Yankees have done during the offseason. Since the winter of 2001, the Red Sox and the Yankees have been in an ongoing arms race with one another to compete for the American League East crown. Usually, the Yankees win these “battles” with mega-signings and so forth, but it doesn’t always translate into on-field success. Even when Theo Epstein spends, it isn’t guaranteed to work out. We all know there is much more to creating a successful baseball team than just doling out the biggest checks to players who normally can’t live up to the hype their signing bonus creates.
That being said, this past offseason was one of the busiest in New York Yankee history. The team spent roughly half a billion dollars on the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, and Masahiro Tanaka. Keep in mind their acquisition of Alfonso Soriano paid off last season, and should pay big dividends this year. So not only did they add a number of above-average MLB players, but they also took away the Red Sox biggest threat on the base paths in over two decades.
With those acquisitions, the Yankees lineup looks pretty dangerous. The middle of the group actually has some pop, unlike last season, and with McCann alongside Derek Jeter, there is more leadership on a team that was uninterested for much of the season. It also doesn’t hurt to have Alex Rodriguez, the biggest clubhouse cancer since Charlie Villanueva, sitting on the sidelines suspended.
The starting pitching has been raved about by analysts since the start of spring training. I, however, am not threatened by their pitching staff. CC Sabathia has a lot to prove this season, mainly that his career isn’t on the downturn. Masahiro Tanaka is the highest-paid number three starter not named Barry Zito, and Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda are OK options at the back of the rotation. Huroki Kuroda is too old to put together a full season of sub-three ERA baseball, and the bullpen is missing the best closer in the history of the game. David Robertson should suffice as a closer, but the bridge too him is very questionable. Hopefully the Yankees give Matt Thornton a chance in the eighth inning, that way they can watch any leads vanish before getting to Roberston.
So the question still remains, are the Yankees a threat to overtake the Sox this season? Though the top competition in the division remains Joe Maddon and his Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees have to be taken very seriously this season. Their age and durability are their largest questions, along with their infield defense. Their pitchers aren’t primarily ground ball guys, so the infield issues may be overrated. All the Yankees have to do is stay in the race until the trade deadline, and with the pressure on them to win in Jeter’s last season, they are going to spare no expense in upgrading where they’ll inevitably need to come July. I think the Yankees finish in third this season, in what will be one of the tightest AL East races of the past decade. No, it won’t be anything like the debacle of Bobby Valentine, but the difference between the division winner and third place could only be a handful of games.