Despite welcoming back Alex Rodriguez to fill an extreme void at third base and receiving a representative start from CC Sabathia on Wednesday night, the fringe postseason contenders lost a heart-breaking game in extra innings.
Considering the litany of injuries and setbacks suffered by the 40-man roster this season, a 57-56 record through 113 games isn't poor, but it is hardly good enough for a franchise that earmarks October as merely a stepping stone to bigger things on a yearly basis.
With a minus-20 run differential, sudden concerns about pitching depth and an offensively bad lineup, the 2013 Yankees woke up today double-digit games back in the AL East and seven full games out of a wild card spot.
Furthermore, with three teams (Boston, Tampa Bay, Baltimore) ahead in the AL East race and six teams ahead in the wild card chase (Tampa, Oakland, Texas, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City), the Yankees simply aren't talented or lucky enough to expect to make a true charge for a postseason berth.
As the franchise slowly puts dreams of the 2013 postseason away for the summer, the future becomes both interesting and puzzling in New York.
Simply put: The Yankees might not be much better in 2014 than 2013.
While the organization, led by the proactive Brian Cashman, will certainly look to improve from a down year, it's hard to pinpoint exactly how the team will rebound and compete atop the AL East as soon as next summer.
Before dissecting the myriad of roster issues moving forward in New York, consider this: The entire AL East, including Toronto, should be formidable again in 2014.
Boston may lose Jacoby Ellsbury, but the cost-certainty that comes with Dustin Pedroia's new contract extension will allow the organization to be aggressive in the open market. Plus, one of baseball's best prospects, Xander Bogaerts, is likely to make a big impact next year.
Baltimore may just be scratching the surface of their potential. It's possible they enter 2014, off back-to-back 90-plus win seasons, with the best 25-man roster under Buck Showalter's watch. If Kevin Gausman can become a rotation mainstay and Manny Machado's natural power develops, well, watch out.
Toronto could have the makings of a great offense with a healthy Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and the underrated pair of Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus. If R.A. Dickey bounces back, healthy versions of Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek could change the entire outlook in Canada.
Tampa will benefit from a full year of Wil Myers, the brilliance of Joe Maddon and the closest thing to a system of pitching since the 90s Braves.
Even if the Yankees receive bounce-back years from veterans such as CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, their luxury tax mandate and impending free agents make it difficult to project a top-flight roster moving forward.
Robinson Cano's contract negotiation will change the state of the franchise, but don't discount the possibly departures of Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson.
The possibility of an extra $25 million (Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary that can be recouped if he's suspended for the entire year) looms large, but still doesn't provide the team with ample money to re-sign their players and add outside help.
Using only the players currently under guaranteed contract (and without the cloud of suspension) for 2014, the starting lineup for the opening day Yankees next April could look something like this:
C: Francisco Cervelli
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Jayson Nix
3B: David Adams
SS: Eduardo Nunez
RF: Ichiro Suzuki
CF: Brett Gardner
LF: Alfonso Soriano
DH: Vernon Wells
Not exactly Murderers' Row 2.0, is it?
On the pitching front, Sabathia could lose three of his veteran counterparts, leaving the impending 33-year-old lefty alone atop the rotation and forced to carry the weight of expectations and huge innings once more.
If Hiroki Kuroda leaves for retirement or Japan; Pettitte goes into retirement; and Hughes leaves for the greener pastures, literally, of free agency, the Yankees could be forced into slotting David Phelps (currently injured), Michael Pineda (currently experiencing a setback from a 2012 injury) behind the newly refocused Ivan Nova.
It's not rotation that lacks for talent, but certainly one that brings questions marks to the table.
The impending retirement of Mariano Rivera will hurt, but if there's one thing the Yankees do well in their player development system, it's churn out relief pitchers. If David Robertson can handle the closing role, Shawn Kelley has shown enough potential to become an eighth inning man.
For years, baseball fans have been waiting for the dominant Yankees to enter a period of mediocrity or losing. Unless major changes are made or the farm system produces impact players at a fast rate, the 2014 team could heed those requests. Of course, in 2015, with their luxury tax bracket reset, the franchise could restore order quickly.
Brian Cashman is smart and crafty enough to improve the roster this winter, but it's going to take more than a few tweaks, not to mention some luck, to restore the 2014 Yankees to contention in the deep AL East.
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