The news for the Yankees this offseason has been generally negative. Missing out on Cliff Lee, the Derek Jeter contract debacle and Andy Pettitte retiring. Add a peppering of has-been players, and the Yankee Universe isn't looking as rock-solid as it has in the past.
There are a few questions, both big and small, for the Yankees heading into spring training.
For the leadoff spot, it comes down to Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner.
Jeter had a down year, let's take a look to see how his numbers compare to Gardner's.
.270, 67 RBIs, .340 OBP, 18 stolen bases and 111 runs scored.
.277, 47 RBIs, .383 OBP, 47 SB, 97 runs scored.
Like I said, Jeter had a bad year, I would count on him having at least a better average and OBP this season. He's working hard in spring training already, and he has something to prove. A similar scenario was in play prior to 2009, and Jeter had a great year.
With that being said, Gardner is improving in virtually all aspects each year. He has only been in the majors since 2008 (playing only 42 games). In 2009, he played in 108 games and in 2010, 150.
Because of this, his numbers have been improving, but at the same time his batting average and OBP have been getting better.
He played in 42 more games in 2010 than in 2009, but he scored 49 more runs, 65 more hits, 14 more doubles, 24 more RBIs, 53 more walks and 21 more stolen bases.
If this doesn't make Gardner's case for the lead-off spot, I don't know what will. Jeter will only drop to second in the order, so I think he will be okay with that.
The Yankees insist he is a bullpen pitcher. He says he wants to be in the bullpen. However, the past few years, he always said he wants to be a starter. Most likely, Joba is just trying not to rock the boat anymore.
The Yankees' bullpen is stacked. Going in reverse order from closer to early-relief, the Yankees have Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Pedro Feliciano, then an array of pitchers including Joba, David Robertson, Boone Logan (the rare lefty alongside Pedro). Then there's whoever doesn't make the rotation, but makes the roster out of Freddy Garcia, Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon. Also, there's a few unknown prospects, most likely Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman or Hector Noesi.
To make a long story short (if it isn't too late) the bullpen is fine. The rotation is the unsure part. I'd still like to see Joba get another shot, definitely before I see Colon, Prior or Garcia taking the mound every fifth day.
In my opinion, the Yankees are just trying to keep things quiet, but I'm expecting Joba will get a shot at the fifth starter spot alongside Colon, Prior, Garcia, Nova and the prospects.
The Yankees have designated Russell Martin as the starting catcher and Jorge Posada is now the DH. Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero and Austine Romine will be competing for the backup spots apparently, with a slight chance one of them actually snags the starting spot.
Out of the group, each and every player wants to be the starter. The recent news has Montero saying he wants to be behind the plate and help the team.
This is more of a question, and not a problem at all. Almost every team, with maybe the exception of the Braves, Giants and Twins, would like to find themselves in the situation of a surplus of catchers.
Two of the players competing have been in the majors for a few years now (Martin and Cervelli), and the other two (Montero and Romine) are amongst the best prospects in all of baseball.
It's a win-win situation here, as long as Montero doesn't get traded.
2010 was a year to forget for A.J. Burnett. He posted an ERA of 5.26 and went 10-15.
Although A.J. is consistently inconsistent, this was surely an off-year for him. His career ERA is 3.99, and in the two years prior, he won 18 and 13 games, respectfully.
Rumors buzzed around about what caused this: back problems, a feud with pitching coach Dave Eiland and spousal abuse (reported by Colin Cowherd, which other sources said was a complete lie).
A.J. has been known to be a little loco, so I'd pin his struggles on his personal life (not saying it was spousal abuse, but many have said there is some issue). Whatever the issue was, I'm sure it has been addressed by now. If it was the abuse, Colin Cowherd let the cat out of the bag and the appropriate people know about it well enough to fix it. Even if it is another area in his personal life (which is more likely) that has now been revealed, maybe not to the press and fans, but to the people who actually matter. Those who can help Burnett.
Ironing out these issues will allow him to concentrate on improving, add Larry Rothschild, the new pitching coach and A.J.'s talent and determination, and he should be able to get back to his norm. He'll be a solid second or third starter, wherever the Yankees decide he is best suited.
1. CC Sabathia
2. A.J. Burnett
3. Phil Hughes
4. Ivan Nova
Assuming the above are the first four starters, who will fill out the fifth and final spot?
The Yankees got a few former stars in Mark Prior, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. These three will duke it out with Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances for the fifth spot.
This is easily the biggest issue for the Yankees going into spring training. Maybe the Yankees have something up their sleeve or in their heads that we don't know about, but it seems like each of the aforementioned pitchers will have an opportunity to earn the fifth spot.
Sure, this isn't as optimal as Andy Pettitte coming back, signing Cliff Lee or even trading for Zach Greinke, but it could be worse.
Each of the older pitchers the Yankees acquired were good pitchers are one point, and none of the players cost much to take a chance on.
Also, the Yankees have some great prospects to pick from. Banuelos was a top-50 prospect according to MLB.com, Betances was just outside the top 50 at 53, and Noesi and Brackman are no slouches either, both can apparently be studs in the major leagues.
Similar to the catching situation, there are only a handful of teams who are totally happy with their fifth starter, and even fewer teams who have such promising prospects competing for it.
This shouldn't be something Yankee fans are worried about, but instead, we should be excited.
Like I said, this shouldn't be a season Yankee fans are dreading, instead, it should be something we are excited about. The loaded Yankee farm system will finally get to showcase itself this spring, and maybe even this season. Some of the top prospects in baseball may find their way to Yankee Stadium, making a real impact.
The last time there was a battle for a rotation spot, Phil Hughes became a starter. The Yankees aren't scrambling mid-season to fill out a rotation. Instead they have all of spring training to figure it out. After all, isn't that what spring training is for? Work out the kinks for the veterans, let the young guys get a taste of professional baseball.
With pitchers and catchers only days away, and something like 50 more days until opening day, if your blood isn't turning pinstripe blue, you may want to check your pulse.
Here's to a great season.