In about 70 days, the Yankees will open the new baseball season in Fenway Park.
This fan, whose opinions are no better and probably worse than other Yankee fan's, has given some thought to what we can expect of the new version of our favorite team.
I have to start by saying that I have been vastly disappointed in the Yankees moves this offseason. I would give Brian Cashman a D if we were passing out report cards.
Cashman let key components of the World Champions leave. Some of this was necessary. But some consequences will be harmful.
Designated Hitter Hideki Matsui signed with the Angels. Apparently, Cashman had no serious discussions about keeping this hitter, who was very productive in 2009.
Johnny Damon also produced in 2009, although his production was down a little from past seasons.
At this point, Damon has signed with no one, and it is unlikely he will return to the Bronx if Cashman sticks to his promise to spend no more than $2 million for another outfielder.
Melky Cabrera was traded to Atlanta for Javier Vazquez. It seemed that Yankee brass had lost all confidence in Melky.
But bringing back Vazquez leaves some doubt. He has never been as good in the AL as he has been in the NL. And pitching in the AL East has to be tougher for this strikeout ace.
The Yanks also let Brian Bruney go to the Nationals and got back a Rule V draft player out of the Dodger organization. Jamie Hoffman is the fourth outfielder right now and has to stay on the team for the entire season or the Dodgers get him back for a cab fare of $25,000.
The Yanks also send Phil Coke, Ian Kennedy, and minor league stud prospect Austin Jackson in the three-way deal that brought Curtis Granderson to the Bronx.
And the Yankees signed Nick Johnson as the new DH. Johnson will apparently not only replace Matsui but also Damon, as Johnson will almost certainly hit in the two hole behind Jeter.
Of course, Johnson cannot possibly replace all the offense of Matsui and Damon. He is a good contact hitter, but the Yankees lose production with Johnson whether you compare him to Matsui or Damon.
So what will the Yankees look like in 2010?
To begin with, they look to be quite a bit weaker on offense.
Matsui, Damon, and Cabrera will be replaced (sort of) by Johnson, Granderson, and Brett Gardner.
And two key players in the Yankee offense will be older.
Derek Jeter had one of his best years ever in 2009 when he turned 35. The key for Jete was that he was injury free in 2009. If he can avoid injuries this year, he will be his typically consistent self, and the fact that he will turn 36 in June should really mean nothing.
The same cannot be said of catcher Jorge Posada, who will be 39 in August. Posada suffers every game that he catches, and age means a great deal more to a catcher. And Posada has had both arm and leg injuries in the past two years.
The Yankees' web site on Friday quoted Posada as saying that he would catch at least 120 games this year. If he can, that would be great. Reality is that he will possibly catch between 100-110 if he is healthy.
If Posada is injured again, all bets are off. But even catching 120 games means backup Francisco Cervelli will catch 42 games.
The key here is that Cervelli cannot possibly match Posada offensively. His presence in the lineup, even if Posada DHs in half the games he doesn't catch, reduces Yankee production.
Some will argue that Jose Molina provided almost no offense in the 2009 championship season. But Molina was not starting every third game and Cervelli may have to.
The pitching theoretically got a little better. While no one should expect Vazquez to match his 15 wins from last year, he should be a solid starter, which the Yankees missed after Chien Ming Wang went down last year.
Andy Pettitte returns for at least one more year. And he was as gutty as they come in 2009, a key down the stretch and essential in the playoffs.
But Pettitte is also a year older and has had some arm problems in recent years. If he stays healthy, you can count on 12-14 wins from the lefty.
But the fifth starter position will be up for grabs between Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. If the Yankees really turn Chamberlain loose this year, look for him to be a very good starter worth 15 wins.
Hughes, in the meantime, proved how valuable and reliable he could be out of the pen last year. So look for him to be Mariano Rivera's set up man again this year and provide solid work out of the pen.
CC Sabathia will be his solid self and should be good for 18-22 wins.
AJ Burnett may have his own boutique catcher in Cervelli this year. Burnett did not jive with Posada last year. Burnett is erratic in any case, and with Jorge he is oil and water.
If Burnett can work with Cervelli, Burnett may be good for 18 wins this year.
The Yankees have the best infield in all of baseball, both offensively and defensively. Mark Teixeira is just consistently great, and there is no reason to believe he will not be even better in 2010.
Robinson Cano came into his own last season after proving he could dedicate himself to working hard in the offseason. If he has done the same this offseason, there is no reason to believe Cano cannot hit .320 again and provide the best defense in the league at second base.
Jeter was hurt by criticism of his defense and took great pains to improve, which he did, winning another Gold Glove. His offense was incredible. He will have another great season if he is not hurt.
Alex Rodriguez began the season on the DL following arthroscopic hip surgery. It was uncertain what he would be after missing the first six weeks of the season. But A-Rod came back to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100.
A-Rod has been declared fit and does not need another hip surgery. So he should be good to go from the beginning. Hitting for a full season in the new Yankee Stadium should see A-Rod return to 40 home runs and 120 RBI.
The outfield has gotten a little better on defense. Gardner may play left field and will be an upgrade over Damon there. But what you get on defense, you will certainly give up on offense.
Brett Gardner will never be Johnny Damon on offense. The only real comparison that can be made here is that they both swing lefty.
Damon could be counted on to hit .285 and hit 20 home runs, drive in 80, and score 90. Gardner will never hit home runs, will never be an RBI guy, and will have to improve his ability to get on base.
If the Yankees had any other options, Gardner would not be starting. He had the center field job coming out of spring training last year but lost it to Melky when he could not hit.
But right now the Yanks have no other option for left field and Gardner will hit in the nine spot.
Curtis Granderson comes to New York with much ballyhoo. But it is difficult to understand how he is worth this much hype.
It has been speculated that Granderson will increase his home run production to 40 hitting in the launching pad on River Avenue.
But analysts also point out that as his home run production has gone up, his average and on base percentage have plummeted, especially against left-handed pitching.
Perhaps Kevin Long can convince Granderson to try not to jerk everything and get him back to better production. But his OPS+ in 2009 was 100, which means he was exactly average.
Hard to understand all the excitement about a hitter that was statistically average and struck out 141 times. He will probably hit seventh in the lineup except when Johnson sits so Posada can DH.
In those games, Granderson may be slotted in the two hole behind Jeter, but probably not against left-handed pitchers.
And there are some analysts who think Granderson is really not a center fielder. Former coach, Andy Van Slyke, who loves Granderson's game, by the way, has said he is really a corner fielder.
Nick Swisher returns to right field. Swisher added a lot to the chemistry of the team in 2009, but his on-field contributions were mixed.
Swisher is a study in contrast at the plate. He works counts and walks a great deal. But he also can be counted on to strike out far too much, 140 times last year.
Swisher will hit 25 home runs. But he got very few in Yankee Stadium, which is hard to explain when right center field gave the appearance of a Little League park last year.
And there are times when Swisher just seems to forget he is on a ball field. His lack of concentration from time to time, and his occasional lunacy in the outfield make baseball purists want to poison his sunflower seeds.
The Yankees did not improve in the offseason. They got a little weaker.
And they have problems because the Boston Red Sox got a lot better all the way around.
Boston added John Lackey to an already dominant pitching staff.
And they added Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro to greatly improve their offense.
Mike Cameron will give them a little upgrade with outfield defense. But they are considerably weaker hitting with the loss of Jason Bay.
The presence of Victor Martinez for the entire year will make up some for the loss of Bay's offense.
Baltimore has also gotten a little better. The Birds will probably still finish last in the AL East. But they will not be the pushovers of the past.
Toronto lost Doc Halladay and that has to hurt. But they weren't very good even with him.
So the AL East has gotten stronger overall while the Yankees are a little weaker.
This fan predicts that the Yankees do not match their 103 wins of 2009. Boston (man, I hate to say this) will win the AL East.
The Yankees will struggle to win the wild card and may fail to make the playoffs.
Cashman went through the offseason claiming budget constraints. But the richest team in baseball passed on Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, and let some key players leave.
They also apparently made no move for Doc Halladay or John Lackey and took Vazquez over better pitching prospects.
If Brett Gardner proves again he is not a starter, Yankee fans will not be happy with Cashman's moves.
If Granderson proves over-hyped and hits .249 again and strikes out 140 times with Jeter and Tex and A-Rod on base, Yankee fans will turn on him.
If Jorge Posada does what most 38 year old catchers do, he will have some nagging pains and will not catch more than 100 games.
If Francisco Cervelli is playing one third of all games and is hitting .230, Yankee fans will hope Jesus Montero is the real deal and can hit big league curve balls, because that kid is going to be rushed to the Bronx.
If David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves do not produce in the bullpen, Yankee fans will be looking for Brian Bruney and Phil Coke in the box scores. And if those Yankee rejects are good this year, fans will wonder what Cashman was thinking.
Overall, 2010 will be a disappointment and Yankee fans will be wondering about all the moves Cashman did not make.
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