Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have their hands full with an aging team
The New York Yankees have had a great run of 17 consecutive seasons with a winning record, but without some changes in the near future that streak may soon come to an end.
Already this season, in spite of leading the AL East division for a majority of the year, the club has begun showing some "cracks" in its armor.
This article will examine some of the problems the Yankees have that will carry over into 2013.
Jeter and Rodriguez are two examples of Yankees stars in the twilight of their careers
The New York Yankees are the oldest team in the major leagues with an average age of 31.5 years. While that can be looked at as being "well seasoned" or "experienced", in reality it means that players will rarely make it through a full season without rest or injury.
The Yankees have seen stars Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira and Mariano Rivera all miss significant time—in Rivera's case, nearly all of the season—with injury. Even beloved shortstop and captain Derek Jeter is attempting to play through a bone bruise in his ankle during the stretch run.
The average age of the players mentioned above: 36.
Those aren't the only players on the roster who are past their "peak" years. Among the elder Yankees who have managed to avoid trips to the disabled list are Hiroki Kuroda (37), Eric Chavez (34), Andruw Jones (35), Raul Ibanez (40), Curtis Granderson (31), Rafael Soriano (33) and Ichiro Suzuki (39).
How long each of those players will continue to productively contribute to the team remains to be seen, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed before the club experiences a dramatic drop-off in success.
Age isn't a problem that will fix itself. The Yankees need to infuse young talent now so they can maintain their winning tradition.
Curtis Granderson is one of many Yankees whose status for next year remains uncertain
A number of New York Yankees will go into 2013 with uncertainty as to their status with the club. Two key pieces to the offense are under team options going into next year. They are Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano.
With Cano the answer seems to be a no-brainer. The Yankees must keep the All-Star second baseman as he has become both an offensive and defensive mainstay for the team.
The situation is murkier for Curtis Granderson. He is an excellent defensive center fielder and a long-ball threat every time he comes to the plate, but in 2012 he has taken a step back offensively. In 2011 he hit .262 with 41 HR and 119 RBI, and he is on pace with HR and RBI this season, but his average has plummeted to .233 making him an all-or-nothing type of hitter in 2012.
The size of Granderson's current contract (5 years at $6.5 million per year) could mean that the Yankees look for other less-expensive options in center field for 2013.
Free agents next season are many. They include Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Ichiro Suzuki, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Russell Martin.
For Ibanez and Jones, this could be their last year putting on the pinstripes. Age and decline in productivity is working against them.
Pettitte and Rivera both control their own destiny with the club. If they choose to come back, they will be welcomed with open arms.
Swisher, Chavez, Martin and Suzuki will all be tough calls whether or not the team decides to pursue them. Swisher has endeared himself to Yankee fans with his love of the game and occasional streaks where he is the most productive player in the batting order.
Suzuki has recently shown just how valuable he can be. He remains an outstanding outfielder and a more than capable hitter. However, his asking price may be more than the Yankees are willing to pay.
Martin is a gritty player who lays it all on the line every game. This season his batting average has dropped dramatically (.205) and with Austin Romine waiting in the wings, it remains to be seen if he will be brought back.
Chavez is a solid third base option for the Yankees—especially if Alex Rodriguez continues to have health issues—and as long as the price is right, there is no reason that the team should not bring him back.
One can see that the "Bombers" could be in for a huge turnover in talent for 2013, and that means the team will have to re-establish an identity next year.
The Yankees dependency on the home run makes them one dimensional
The Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said the team is not one to play "small ball". Clearly this club has been built with power in mind. The roster has 10 players with 10 or more HR, and includes two with at least 30 HR (Granderson and Cano). As long as the team hits home runs, the team wins.
Therein lies the problem.
Even though the Yankees are the oldest club in MLB, they are prone to streaks more characteristic of a young team. During 2012, nine times New York has had losing streaks of three or more games, and 12 times the team has won three or more games in a row. The entire season has been a series of peeks and valleys.
This is mainly because it depends on the home run. It is more than just coincidence that in their best month (June where they went 20 - 7) the Yankees hit the most home runs (46), and in their worst month (to date it is September with 11 wins) the team had their lowest home run total (20).
With the addition of Suzuki, and players capable of advancing runners from station to station (Jeter, Nunez etc), the team could minimize its "dry spells" if it chose to.
Until Girardi is willing to work his way through the times the Yankees aren't hitting the long ball by utilizing a station to station strategy, the team will continue to experience the type of "streaky" season like this one.