Yankees ready to roll out revamped roster at camp
Club hoping for deep postseason run after more than half-billion-dollar makeover
NEW YORK -- The Yankees spent more than a half-billion dollars to reshape their roster this winter, and team officials will be very curious to see the finished product come to life.
As the Yankees prepare to report to Spring Training in Tampa, Fla., Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran are among the stars who will be trying on pinstripes for the first time, kicking off a new chapter for the franchise.
Saying that their heavy lifting is finally complete following New York's third-place finish in 2013, general manager Brian Cashman believes that the new additions will be able to keep Yankee Stadium's lights burning deep into the postseason.
"It's a 25-man roster, and there's a lot of areas that needed improvement," Cashman said. "I know that ownership has stepped up to allow us to secure a lot of players that should make our fans excited that 2014 is going to be rather different than 2013."
Ravaged by injuries to key performers, the Yanks are coming off an 85-win season in which they missed the playoffs for the second time in 18 years. They head back into the fight reinforced and counting on bounce-back seasons from veterans like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia.
How drastic has the makeover been? The Yankees' projected Opening Day lineup contains just one holdover from the batting order that manager Joe Girardi sent out on April 1, 2013: Brett Gardner, who figures to be bounced from center field to left field now that Ellsbury is in the picture.
"Someone asked me the question, 'Have you ever managed a Yankee team that's had so much change?'" Girardi said. "I said, 'Yeah, last year during the season.' But it is different. There's a lot of new faces. We'll have to bring them together as a team, but I don't think that will take long."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Florida State Seminoles, Feb. 25, 1:05 p.m. ET
Away at Astros, April 1, 7:10 p.m.
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Are the Yankees better than last year?
This needs to be an all-encompassing item, because it's impossible to whittle the 2014 Yanks down to just three question marks: half a billion dollars later, there are still so many unsettled issues. They should have improved offensively, as the additions of McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran can patch over the loss of Robinson Cano to the Mariners. That's good, because this is a club that might need to outslug its opponents. Landing their top pitching target in Tanaka improves the rotation behind Sabathia, and bringing back Hiroki Kuroda was an underrated move. David Robertson is a worthy successor to Mariano Rivera in the closer's role, but the bullpen leading to the ninth inning is suspect. If healthy, they should be better than 85 wins -- but how much better?
2. How much of a concern is the infield?
Girardi is looking at four spots and no sure things. Going around the horn, Teixeira is coming off right wrist surgery at first base; he believes that he can still be a 30-homer, 100-RBI Gold Glover, but even Teixeira won't be sure until he begins playing games. Brian Roberts has missed 445 games over the last four seasons due to injuries, and was limited to 265 at-bats in 2013 with Baltimore. There have been shortstops in the modern era to hold down shortstop at age 40 or later, but Jeter is entering a small club previously populated by Ozzie Smith, Barry Larkin and Omar Vizquel, doing so while coming off a devastating ankle injury. Backup Brendan Ryan provides excellent defense but little pop at the plate. Third base is a toss-up in the wake of Alex Rodriguez's 162-game suspension, currently envisioned as some mix of Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, Dean Anna and others.
3. Is there a trade in the works? Should there be?
The Yankees are open for business if something makes sense, though people close to the club have been saying that the Tanaka signing emptied their free-agent budget. They still have chips to dangle, with Gardner being their most appealing. Yanks people have said that they wouldn't consider trading Gardner unless it was for a top-flight starting pitcher, and they turned down a swap for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips in December. They like the idea of having Gardner and Ellsbury in the same lineup, but it's still something they could revisit. They'd prefer to move Ichiro Suzuki, who has one year remaining at $6.5 million and is relegated to a bench role. They probably would do so for a solid bullpen arm.
85-77, tied for third in the American League East.
Projected batting order
1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury:
.298 BA, .355 OBP, .426 SLG, 9 HR, 53 RBI in 2013
2. SS Derek Jeter:
.190 BA, .288 OBP, .254 SLG, 1 HR, 7 RBI in 2013
3. RF Carlos Beltran:
.296 BA, .339 OBP, .491 SLG, 24 HR, 84 RBI in 2013
4. 1B Mark Teixeira:
.151 BA, .270 OBP, .340 SLG, 3 HR, 12 RBI in 2013
5. C Brian McCann:
.256 BA, .336 OBP, .461 SLG, 20 HR, 57 RBI in 2013
6. DH Alfonso Soriano:
.255 BA, .302 OBP, .489 SLG, 34 HR, 101 RBI in 2013
7. 3B Kelly Johnson:
.235 BA, .305 OBP, .410 SLG, 16 HR, 52 RBI in 2013
8. 2B Brian Roberts:
.249 BA, .312 OBP, .392 SLG, 8 HR, 39 RBI in 2013
9. LF Brett Gardner:
.273 BA, .344 OBP, .416 SLG, 8 HR, 52 RBI in 2013
1. CC Sabathia, 14-13, 4.78 ERA in 2013
2. Hiroki Kuroda, 11-13, 3.31 ERA in 2013
3. Masahiro Tanaka, 24-0, 1.27 ERA in 2013 (Japan)
4. Ivan Nova, 9-6, 3.10 ERA in 2013
5. Michael Pineda, no MLB appearances in 2013
Closer: David Robertson, 3/5 saves, 2.04 ERA in 2013
RH setup man: Shawn Kelley, 4.39 ERA in 2013
LH setup man: Matt Thornton, 3.74 ERA in 2013
The new guys
OF Beltran: Fulfilling a longtime wish to play for the Yankees, Beltran signed a three-year, $45 million deal in December. The 36-year-old is expected to play right field and will have some DH time mixed in to protect his surgically repaired knees. An eight-time All-Star, Beltran boasts a solid postseason pedigree and played in his first World Series last year with the Cardinals.
OF Ellsbury: Trading his Red Sox for pinstripes, Ellsbury ensured he'll no longer be a popular figure on Yawkey Way by inking a seven-year, $153 million deal in December. Ellsbury promises to be a dynamic offensive performer with plus speed, but there's risk involved: he has missed 264 games over the last four years, mostly as a result of two major injuries. He hit a career-high 32 homers in 2011, but just 13 over the last two years. Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch should help.
IF/OF Johnson: Johnson signed a one-year, $3 million deal and is currently the Yanks' leading candidate to serve as the Opening Day third baseman, likely in a platoon role. He also boasts the capability of playing second base, first base and left field. Johnson has a bit of power and won't clog up the basepaths.
C McCann: The first big-ticket player that the Yankees secured this winter, McCann signed a five-year, $85 million deal in November. It was a price the Yanks were willing to pay after their catchers produced a lackluster .213/.289/.298 showing last season. Well-liked by his teammates and an intense competitor, McCann hit at least 20 homers in each of the last six seasons for the Braves.
2B Roberts: Shifting allegiances in the AL East after 13 seasons with the Orioles, Roberts signed an incentive-laden $2 million deal with the Yankees. A two-time All-Star before injuries took their toll, Roberts is being looked at as the Yanks' starting second baseman.
RHP Tanaka: The Yankees landed their top pitching target of the winter in January, when Tanaka selected their seven-year, $155 million contract offer. Tanaka won't go 24-0 in the Majors, as he did last year in Japan, but his splitter has been rated as world-class and should keep big league hitters off balance. He's a workhorse who can ramp his fastball into the mid-90s with excellent control. Just 25, Tanaka is ready for a bigger challenge, and he'll certainly find a higher level of competition in the AL East.
LHP Thornton: Thornton signed a two-year, $7 million deal to replace Boone Logan, who found a three-year commitment with the Rockies. The 37-year-old Thornton remains effective against left-handed batters, holding them to a .235 (19-for-81) average and a .638 OPS last year with the White Sox and Red Sox. He is the only Major Leaguer to make at least 55 appearances in each of the last nine seasons.
Prospects to watch
C Gary Sanchez: With above-average raw power and developing skills behind the plate, Sanchez is expected to begin the year at Double-A Trenton. His path to the Bronx may have been impacted by the McCann signing, but Sanchez is just 21 and has time on his side.
yankees top prospects
OF Mason Williams: Williams spent most of last season at Class A Advanced Tampa and is expected to begin 2014 at Double-A Trenton. He boasts above-average defensive skills and will be looking to improve his offensive performance after posting a combined split line of .245/.304/.337 in the Minors last year.
OF Tyler Austin: A wrist injury slowed Austin last season and knocked him out of the Arizona Fall League, but the Yankees are looking for a bounce-back campaign from the 22-year-old. Austin has a good approach at the plate and a quick swing, attributes he'll show off at Trenton.
IF Anna: The Yankees will give a close look this spring to Anna, who was acquired from the Padres during the offseason. The 27-year-old is coming off his best pro season after winning the Pacific Coast League batting title (.331) with Triple-A Tucson, and could help the Yanks at second or third base.
On the rebound
SS Jeter: The captain has been working out at the team's complex in Tampa for weeks. Unfortunately for him, batting practice and ground balls pretty much occupied his entire summer last year. He'll turn 40 in June, but Jeter refuses to believe that he can't return to be a full-time shortstop. The Yankees have their fingers crossed.
LHP Sabathia: After losing a career-worst 13 games with a career-high 4.78 ERA, Sabathia wants to be a force at the top of the rotation this year. He looks slimmer, the result of weight-training and adding muscle mass, and it's possible that his velocity could bump up a few ticks as a result.
1B Teixeira: Seven months removed from surgery, Teixeira has been hitting off a tee and will ramp up to Major League velocity this month. He expects to be slightly behind the rest of the position players but should be playing in Grapefruit League games by the first week of March. Teixeira's wrist injury is a concern, but David Ortiz and Jose Bautista had similar situations and returned to be productive.
2B Cano: After nine seasons in the Bronx, Cano was wooed to the Pacific Northwest by the Mariners, who offered up a 10-year, $240 million deal that the Yankees refused to match. The Yanks' best offer to Cano was seven years and $175 million, money they later invested into Beltran and Tanaka.
RHP Joba Chamberlain: A change of scenery could be the best thing for Chamberlain, who was a lights-out phenom for Joe Torre in 2007 and bounced between the bullpen and rotation before being stalled by injuries. He signed a $2.5 million contract with the Tigers.
OF Curtis Granderson: His final season in pinstripes was interrupted by two freak hit-by-pitch injuries, limiting Granderson to just 61 games. That didn't scare off the Mets, who brought Granderson across town with a four-year, $60 million contract. He wasted no time tweaking his old club, saying that he's heard "true New Yorkers are Mets fans."
DH Travis Hafner: The gamble of signing "Pronk" didn't work out in the Yankees' favor, as he slugged 12 homers with a .202 batting average and spent much of the year on the disabled list. Hafner isn't officially retired, but he's dabbling with college coaching until a team comes calling.
RHP Phil Hughes: Ready for a fresh start after going 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA last season, Hughes landed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Twins. Target Field's more forgiving dimensions should help him keep the ball in the yard.
LHP Logan: The Yanks had interest in retaining Logan but weren't willing to go to three years for the reliable southpaw. The Rockies signed Logan for three years at $16.5 million in December.
IF Jayson Nix: The versatile utilityman, a favorite of Girardi's, was non-tendered by the Yankees in December. He signed a Minor League deal with the Rays.
1B Lyle Overbay: Plucked off the scrap heap at the end of the spring, Overbay helped patch the hole at first base after Teixeira's injury. He signed a Minor League deal with the Brewers.
LHP Andy Pettitte: Pettitte spent 15 of his 18 big league seasons in pinstripes, going 11-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 2013. Pettitte compiled a lifetime record of 256-153, winning 219 of those games with the Yanks, and departed as the all-time postseason wins leader with 19.
1B/3B Mark Reynolds: After playing in 36 games for New York at the tail end of the season, Reynolds turned down a Minor League contract offer from the Yankees. He instead signed one with the Brewers.
RHP Rivera: The all-time saves leader had his uniform No. 42 retired in Monument Park even before his final game, a lasting tribute to Rivera in a season that was filled by them. Rivera posted a 2.11 ERA in his last season and retired with a Major League-record 42 postseason saves.
3B Rodriguez: A-Rod's saga dominated the headlines for much of the second half, spilling into the winter. Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz ruled in January that Rodriguez would sit out the entire 2014 season, as well as any potential postseason games, for multiple violations of the Joint Drug Agreement.
C Chris Stewart: The veteran backstop was traded to the Pirates in December, when McCann's deal became official. Stewart batted .211 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 109 games last season.
1B/3B Kevin Youkilis: The Yanks only got 118 plate appearances from Youkilis, who was unable to play after June 13 due to a back injury. After earning $12 million last year, Youkilis will play for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan -- Tanaka's former team -- in 2014.
OF Vernon Wells: With a glut of outfielders on the big league roster, Wells was unconditionally released by the Yankees in January. The Yanks owe him $2.4 million for this year, money which doesn't count against the luxury tax. Wells is making $18.6 million from the Angels.