The Yankees are hoping Robinson Cano will have his greatest season yet in the Bronx.
It's one thing for your club's power hitters to go down to injury in spring training. It's quite another for your shortstop and captain to find out recently that he will not be starting the season with the team (per Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com). In fact, he may never be the same player ever again.
It's been one calamitous development after another this off season for the New York Yankees, with unbelievable negativity and doom surrounding the start of the season, now just one week away. A lot of the usual Yankee-hater suspects in the media (like Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports) are panning the Yankees' moves and writing early obituaries for 2013.
There's absolutely no doubt that this year, more than any other in a long time, is being viewed as the season where the mighty run of the Yankees, over the last 19 seasons, will finally come to an ugly end. Many believe this team will not only miss the playoffs—they'll start a precipitous decline from the top of the American League.
Few people are questioning whether the Yankees will have a solid pitching rotation in 2013. That's not to suggest they'll be elite, but there's every reason to believe that a Bombers' pitching staff, which finished fifth in the AL in ERA last season, will be primed for another very successful season.
Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, David Phelps, Ivan Nova and now hopefully a full season's worth of Andy Pettitte return in an attempt to keep the opposition to a nice low number on the scoreboard. And of course, the great Mariano Rivera is back closing games for the Yankees.
The matter is the lineup. How do the Yankees make up all the home runs? How can they possibly win with a bunch of ragtag replacement parts comprising roughly one-third of their batting order?
Very legitimate questions, and ones we'll soon know the answers to in what should become a season of immense interest for both Yankees fans and the haters who have long awaited their demise.
The picture for the Yankees lineup has become a bit clearer, as Monday the Bombers are closing in on a deal with former All-Star Vernon Wells (per Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com). Wells has faded far from the star he once was in Toronto, but the reality is, he may be better than some of the other options the Yankees were considering in the outfield.
Here's a closer look into the best options for the Yankees at each position as we're almost ready to start the real big league games.
The Yankees are expecting a lot from Brett Gardner in 2013.
Brett Gardner hopes to play the full 2013 season in the Yankees outfield, and the Bombers are hoping the speedy South Carolina native can revitalize the lineup with a high on-base percentage and speed on the basepaths.
Gardner was a highly valuable player for the Yankees in 2010 and 2011 when he played nearly a full season's worth of games. He's flat-out one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, and he led the AL in steals in 2011.
Curtis Granderson will likely rejoin the Yankees in May and will return to center field when healthy. Until then, the Yankees can only hope that Gardner stays healthy and produces a spectacular season this year in his place.
Gardner is due to move over to left field upon Granderson's return, which will likely mean a bench or platoon role for the soon-to-be-acquired Vernon Wells. That is of course if there are no injuries in between, and as we know, injuries seem to be a fact of life for the Yankees these days.
Ichiro is hoping to pick up where he left off in 2012.
Ichiro Suzuki will be counted on for big things this year, and the Yankees are hoping their 39-year-old right fielder will be up to the task. The veteran from Japan gave New York quite a jolt when he was acquired from Seattle before the trade deadline in July.
It will be interesting to see how he produces with a full season of at-bats in the Bronx. Expect Ichiro or Gardner to shift to the bottom of the batting order against left-handed pitching and potentially even against right-handed pitching due to manager Joe Girardi's penchant for breaking up righties and lefties.
Girardi has also always loved having a speedy baserunner at the bottom of the order. Due to all the injuries, however, he may need to keep both bats near the top of the order for now.
The skipper will presumably ride the hot bat at various points of the season. For now, we'll slide Ichiro into the second spot in the order as a table-setter for the Yankees' middle-order bats. It's very much expected that Ichiro will be the everyday outfielder in either left or right field, regardless.
Cano is one of the best players in the game.
Simply put, Robinson Cano is one of the best hitters and overall players in all of baseball. He will command a ludicrous amount of money following the 2013 season, and the Yankees will likely be willing to pay him very handsomely for many more years to come.
Even though contracts like Alex Rodriguez's and Mark Teixeira's have become albatrosses, it will be extraordinarily difficult to watch one of the best players in the game and a star who could someday end up in Cooperstown leave for greener pastures.
For now, they just want Cano to produce another 30-plus homer season and continue playing exceptional defense at second base. That shouldn't be too much to ask from a superstar in the prime of his career.
Cano will be the Bombers' third hitter in the lineup come rain, sleet or snow, as long as he's healthy.
Kevin Youkilis will very likely hit cleanup for the Bombers in 2013.
Doesn't the Yankees' signing of Kevin Youkilis seem like a pretty good move right about now? Sure, it does. Because who else on this team should be batting fourth in the order when Joe Girardi fills out his batting order one week from Monday?
Francisco Cervelli? Surely, I jest!
It's now believed that the former Red Sox slugger will be hitting cleanup for the Yankees in 2013. Honestly, I don't see it as a bad move. This is a hitter who likely has at least one more good season left in him and has proven over the years a knack for getting timely hits.
While it would be foolish to expect a season with greater than a .850 OPS, it's logical to think Youkilis can rebound from a disappointing 2012, which was likely more of an aberration for a player who has enjoyed a very, very good major league career.
Think more like a .820 OPS as a nice goal.
The man Yankees fans used to love to hate may end up being one of their top run producers in 2013. Baseball sure is a funny game.
Travis Hafner comes to the Bronx for the 2013 season as the DH against RHP.
These days we have all kinds of advanced metrics, projections and statistical software to help us analyze trends and forecast future results. But can anyone with any degree of certainty really guess what Travis Hafner will produce for the Yankees in 2013?
Hafner has to stay healthy, just like any player has to stay healthy. It's just that Hafner has a much tougher time than most players staying healthy. He notched 462 plate appearances in 2010, but that's the only season he's played more than 94 games since 2007.
Hafner's 35 years old, and any hope of him hitting like the awesome slugger he was in the middle part of last decade is delusional. But if he is somehow fit to play in most games this season against right-handed pitching, he should be a slightly better than average hitter at the plate.
Juan Rivera looks like he'll start the season in New York.
At this juncture, it's hard to imagine Juan Rivera not starting the season at first base for the New York Yankees. Yikes. Alas, reality has set in, and barring another last minute acquisition, the Yankees simply do not have many other options from which to choose.
As reported by Chad Jennings of The Journal News, "the Yankees have until [Tuesday] to either release him or give him a $100,000 retention bonus." The story goes on to note that the Yankees don't need to guarantee him a roster spot, but it would make lots of financial sense to release him if he won't be with the big league club this year.
Sure, the Yankees could move Youkilis to first base and have Ronnier Mustelier or a last-minute acquisition at the hot corner, but at this point, that seems less likely to happen. Count on Rivera hitting near the bottom of the Yankees order next Monday at the stadium and manning the bag at first.
Hopefully, Mark Teixeira will return sometime in late May or early June to help the Bombers. But, Yankees fans should be prepared that he may not return at all.
Suddenly, Vernon Wells is your left fielder, Yankees fans.
Just like that, the Yankees are ready to welcome Vernon Wells back to the AL East (per Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com). Say what you want about this deal, as many in the media have already, calling this a desperate move by the Yankees. But if you're general manager Brian Cashman—would you rather have Melky Mesa in left field right now?
It's a very difficult spot for the Yankees. They risk bringing in a player who will cost them in the neighborhood of $12 million for the next two years and who may be totally washed up. They could have gone the cheap route and tried Mesa or even Ronnier Mustelier.
But the Yankees simply don't make moves like that and, despite all the criticism they seem to catch, for very good reason. Mesa and players like Thomas Neal have given few reasons to believe they'll be productive at the plate.
Productivity in the lineup is precisely what the Yankees need right now.
Enter Wells. The Yankees are hoping for the possibility of a comeback season for Wells who has enjoyed a very good spring in the desert so far for the Angels. Spring training numbers may not mean much, but the Yankees should not be excoriated for taking a chance. He's better than what they had.
You won't be hearing Bob Sheppard's famous voice introduce the Yankees shortstop for at least the first week or more of the 2013 season.
The Yankees are forced to roll the dice with the very talented yet error-prone Eduardo Nunez at shortstop to start the season, now that Derek Jeter will not be ready to play between second and third on April 1.
Nunez has the kind of talent that allows him to homer off Justin Verlander in a playoff game. He also shows the poise of a little leaguer at times in the field, making errant throws somewhere in the, well, very large vicinity of first base.
The worst part is that Mark Teixeira will not be at first base for the first several weeks of the season. He was there to scoop up some of Nunez's throws last season. It will surely be an adventure, but the Yankees are hoping Nunez has improved enough defensively to justify putting his bat in the lineup.
Nunez could provide a spark for the Yankees as a guy who steals bases and racks up base hits, or he could very much be a replacement-level player who adds no value. Doesn't seem like there's much middle ground.
Chris Stewart will be the catcher for defensive purposes mostly, along with Francisco Cervelli.
Everything that has been reported from spring training details how well Francisco Cervelli has played behind the plate for the Yankees. He's thrown out several baserunners, and that's what the Yankees have made it clear they're looking for this season.
But keep in mind that Cervelli had precisely one at-bat last season at the major league level. Chris Stewart had 141. Over the last two seasons at the major league level, Stewart has quite a bit more experience than Cervelli.
That's the kind of thing the Yankees go for, and in this case, it's hard to blame them. The statistics suggest that the defensive value should be negligible, even with the news that Cervelli's defense has looked outstanding in spring training.
Some are predicting Cervelli will win the starting job, but that shouldn't matter much. Both Stewart and Cervelli will likely split the catching duties, and as is the case often with Girardi, he will presumably ride the hot catcher on a weekly basis.
Don't be shocked if the Bombers make a deal for a catcher in the early days of summer if they're playing well and not getting much value from their catchers.