In 2009, the Yankees began a new era at the new Yankee Stadium with a World Series title. Previous to that year, the Yankees signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett all in free agency. It looked like the Yankees were going to win more championships than any other team over the next several years.
The 2010 season looked like the Yankees could have been on their way to another World Series title. By sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row, the Yankees looked like the best team in the postseason.
However, the Texas Rangers had a newsflash for the Yankees saying that they were better after they beat them in the ALCS, 4-2. The Yanks were sent packing looking forward to this season hoping they can make another championship run.
Overall I'd say this offseason wasn't so bad for the Yankees. After missing out on Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, the Yanks still re-signed their captain for four more years, re-signed Mariano for two more years, and signed a great bullpen acquisition in Rafael Soriano for a solid three years. Soriano will likely take over the closer duties after Mariano retires, which I assume will be in two years after his contract expires.
Right now, the Yankees probably have the best bullpen in baseball with a scary 7-8-9 inning punch. This includes Joba Chamberlain, Rafeal Soriano, and of course Mariano Rivera. The Yanks also signed a decent catcher in Russel Martin who will give the team a lot of depth at the catching position.
Are the Yankees the favorites to win the division?
The Yankees still have an explosive offense, but the biggest question is starting pitching.
So far, the projected Opening Day lineup looks like this:
LF: Brett Gardner
SS: Derek Jeter
1B: Mark Teixeira
3B: Alex Rodriguez
2B: Robinson Cano
RF: Nick Swisher
DH: Jorge Posada
CF: Curtis Granderson
C: Russel Martin or Jesus Montero
Like I said, the Yanks definitely still have one of the best starting lineups in the league.
However, the starting rotation is their weakness.
After Andy Pettitte retired this offseason, the fans began to panic. The Yankees did all they could in order to persuade Cliff Lee to join the team, but he chose to go back to Philadelphia. If the Yankees had landed Lee, this team would have been the favorites to win the World Series without a doubt.
After losing out on Lee, the Yankees signed Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and the recently signed Kevin Millwood in order to compete for spots in the rotation. The Yankees have announced that Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia will round out the rotation as the fourth and fifth starters.
Yankee fans saw Nova pitch last year and he didn't do a bad job at all. However, he was a little inconsistent, and his inconsistency worries me a little bit.
I have faith in Freddy Garcia and I think he will do a solid job for the Yankees. If he struggles, Brian Cashman needs to make a deal for a big starting pitcher at this year's trade deadline, otherwise the Yankees have no hope in the playoffs.
What I mean as a "big starter", I'm suggesting guys such as Fransisco Liriano, Fausto Carmona, John Danks, and very unlikely to be traded, but you never know with the right offer, Jered Weaver. The Yankees certainly have the prospects to acquire most of these guys and if the team struggles, I wouldn't be surprised if Brian Cashman pulls the trigger on one of these names.
The biggest competition for the Yankees in the AL East is obviously the Boston Red Sox, who had a huge offseason. This offseason, the Sox signed Carl Crawford and traded for Adrian Gonzalez. Their offense is very much improved, but their starting rotation is also one of the best in the American League.
The Red Sox's rotation consists of Jon Lester, Clay Bucholtz, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Daiske Matzusaka. That rotation is definitely good enough to take the AL East title. Not to mention, they also have a very deep bullpen.
Boston has a very deep lineup just like the Yankees and it will look something like this:
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
2B: Dustin Pedroia
LF: Carl Crawford
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
3B: Kevin Youkilis
DH: David Ortiz
RF: J.D. Drew
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS: Marco Scutaro
Boston doesn't quite have as much power as the Yankees do, but they definitely have guys that can get on base and drive in runs. The base running ability of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury will be big assets to the team also.
Let's not forget about the Tampa Bay Rays. I know they lost guys like Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, and Carlos Pena, but the additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon will provide the team with much needed depth.
Damon also provides veteran leadership and will be a good mentor to young outfielder Desmond Jennings who will most likely be Crawford's replacement in left field.
The AL East will be one of the toughest divisions in baseball this year. The Toronto Blue Jays have improved, the Rays are still a very tough team, and Boston had one of their best offseasons in the last several years. Even the Orioles improved by adding Derek Lee, Vladamir Guerrero, and Mark Reynolds.
It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do at this year's trading deadline depending on how Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia pitch. The offense is still scary, but pitching is their biggest issue.
All of this concludes to one question. Are the Yankees still the team to beat in the AL East?