The New York Yankees May Not Be a Playoff Team for Much Longer
The American League East has changed drastically over the course of the past three days.
The Toronto Blue Jays are now a legitimate threat to every team in the American League after acquiring Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, among others. On top of the that, the Jays signed outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year contract Friday afternoon.
Even before the Blue Jays' roster overhaul, the AL East was still a very competitive division. The New York Yankees were a perennial playoff team, the Tampa Bay Rays were a team that could always make the postseason, the Baltimore Orioles were on the rise and the Boston Red Sox were a team suffering from a down season.
Prior to last season, the Sox were a force to be reckoned with.
Now that the Jays are contenders, the Orioles are reaching their potential and the Rays have arguably the best pitching in the American League, where does that leave the Yankees?
Well, to be perfectly honest, it may leave them on the outside looking in—if not now, then very soon.
The Yankees were a team constructed to win "now," after they acquired Alex Rodriguez prior to 2004. They were a team looking to acquire the superstar necessary to get them back to the World Series.
His presence wasn't enough by itself. Prior to the 2009 season, Brian Cashman swooned CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett into joining the Yankees.
The result? A World Series championship in 2009.
Since then, though, it has been three straight seasons of disappointment in New York.
The team has failed to reach the World Series since 2009, and has seen early exits from the postseason the past two years by the likes of the Detroit Tigers—a great team in its own right.
The window for the Yankees to get back to the World Series—and even the playoffs, for that matter—is quickly coming to a close.
Rodriguez is a shell of his former self, hitting just 34 home runs the past two seasons combined.
Burnett is no longer even on the team, but the organization is still paying his salary while he pitches for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Teixeira is even on the decline. He's had three straight seasons of a sub-.260 batting average, while also seeing his on-base percentage decline over the past three seasons.
Sabathia will be coming off offseason elbow surgery come spring training, though there are no signs that this will effect him long term. Even still, he's logged six straight seasons of more than 200 innings pitched. It may be a matter of time before that all catches up to him.
Other facets of the Yankees are in question as well.
Derek Jeter proved last season that he is still a very capable major leaguer, but with no heir apparent in place, it'll be interesting to see how the Yankees handle his retirement in a few seasons.
Mariano Rivera is another Yankee legend ready to retire in the near future. This is most likely his last in pinstripes, and the Yankees will have to search far and wide for someone capable of taking over the reigns.
Andy Pettitte remains an uncertainty to return, as does Hiroki Kuroda. After those two (plus Sabathia), the rotation is comprised of the inconsistent Ivan Nova and the equally-as-inconsistent Phil Hughes.
The bullpen may be the Yankees' strong suit right now, but they can change from season to season. Proof of that lies in David Robertson, who fell back down to Earth a bit this season after his stellar campaign in 2011.
The Yankees are financially handicapping themselves by 2014 by saying that they will stay under the $189 million mark, so free spending is no longer the answer.
The Yankees will need to acquire some young talent who can produce. Unfortunately, there really isn't anybody on the team who entices other organizations.
Their top talent in the minors is good, but nowhere near the top teams in the league. With these two facts in mind, it may be awhile before we see the next great generation of Yankees stars.
The team may experience a few seasons of futility while they are transitioning from an aging team to a young team, and we all know that this won't necessarily sit well with Yankees fans.
Every team has to do it at some point, though. It's smart to realize that this will happen and, for the Yankees, it may be happening within the next three or four seasons.
We can only hope that the Yankees won't follow in the footsteps of the abysmal Houston Astros.
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