The winter offseason is just about over. We're about to get back to baseball.
For those who haven't had much to watch since the Super Bowl, and aren't into college or pro basketball, you are about to get your baseball season going again.
We've seen some changes to the roster this past winter. There will be some new faces and even some old faces coming back to the team for the 2010 campaign.
Let's take a look at the team that will wear pinstripes and defend the 2009 World Series title starting in April.
Jorge Posada is still the starting catcher for the Yankees and is signed on until next year.
Many feel like this may be Posada's last season at catcher, since he will be 39 in August, and could be transitioned over to full-time designated hitter. But for right now, Posada will be behind the plate for the Yankees as the starter. Francisco Cervelli will take Jose Molina's place as the main backup to Posada and will probably catch every fifth day to give Posada's knees and body a rest.
Mark Teixeira quickly made people forget Jason Giambi's existence in the Bronx by winning a Gold Glove and finishing second in the American League MVP voting behind Joe Mauer.
Teixeira finished tied for first in the A.L. with 39 home runs and was first in RBI with 122, so he was a positive force in his first year in the Yankees lineup. Teixeira also added his own October magic with a walk-off home run in Game Two of the ALDS against the Twins.
If anyone was in need of a rebound year in 2009, it was Robinson Cano, who shot his average up 50 points to .320 and hit 25 home runs. To go along with a great offensive year was another solid defensive one, as Cano made some great plays in the field for the Yankees.
Cano played in 161 games for the Yankees in 2009 and as long as he stays healthy, will continue to be a mainstay in the Yankee lineup.
Last season was a memorable one for the Yankees captain, as Derek Jeter not only won his fifth World Series title, but became the all-time hits leader for the Yankees, surpassing Lou Gehrig and now standing at 2,747 hits.
Jeter also finished third in the A.L. MVP race behind Mauer and Teixeira, and won his fourth Gold Glove and fourth Silver Slugger Awards. Jeter also hit .347 in the 2009 postseason, which included hitting .407 in the World Series.
Going on age 36 this season, Jeter is not showing any signs of slowing down offensively or defensively and will likely receive a nice, new contract when the 2010 season is over.
For the first time ever, Alex Rodriguez will enter a season pressure-free.
He virtually told all of his critics to go shove it with his memorable postseason run this past October, with six home runs and 18 RBI and a .365 average. A-Rod also missed the first month of the season recovering from hip surgery, yet still hit over 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the 12th straight time in his career and finished 10th in the A.L. MVP voting.
A-Rod will be 34 this season, but with the pressure off and the loser label gone forever from his name, he can focus on being a baseball player and continuing to contribute in the third year of his 10-year mega contract.
The Yankees outfield will have a new look in 2010.
Melky Cabrera was traded to the Braves and Johnny Damon has yet to sign with a team thanks to the idiotic antics of his agent, Scott Boras. Otherwise, Damon still might be a Yankee for two more seasons.
The Yankees made a three-team trade to bring in Curtis Granderson from the Tigers and traded away prospect Austin Jackson, so the Yankees will either have Granderson in center field or left field. Granderson hit 30 home runs last year with Detroit and could have a very good season hitting in the new Yankee Stadium.
At the end of January, the Yankees signed Randy Winn for one season, who could possibly be the starting left fielder if the Yankees use Granderson as the everyday center fielder. Winn is a decent bat and has a very good glove in the outfield. He's on the decline of his career, but Winn is no slouch of a player and will play very hard for teams. Damon will be missed, but not for his defense, as Winn should be a fine addition.
Brett Gardner has another chance to be the Yankees starting center fielder after he lost the job in 2009 to Cabrera. Gardner was a useful fourth outfielder, coming in late to games to steal bases and play defense in the last couple innings.
It remains to be seen if Gardner can continue to learn how to be a good hitter, which will determine if he will start again or be coming off the bench. If Gardner starts, Granderson goes to left. If he doesn't, Winn will be the left fielder and Granderson will be the center fielder.
One of the biggest additions to the lineup in 2009 was the trade for Nick Swisher.
Swisher's free spirit and positive attitude was a huge uplift to the Yankees locker room and he was an instant fan favorite in the Bronx. While A-Rod was out and Teixeira was struggling in April, Swisher literally carried the offensive load for the Yankees. Swisher ended up hitting 29 home runs in a season where he wasn't expected to start, and now will be the Yankees right fielder for a while.
Hideki Matsui departed to the Angels, but the Yankees brought back an old face to be the everyday DH in Nick Johnson.
Johnson was traded before the 2004 season to the Expos, stayed with the (now) Nationals until he was traded to the Marlins in 2009, and will now return to the team he cut his teeth with in the minor leagues.
One of the biggest concerns for Johnson is staying healthy, as he has missed a ton of games in previous years, but if he only DH's many expect him to stay on the field more. Johnson's good average, ability to walk, and his high on-base percentage is what made him an attractive free-agent to bring back to the Yankees.
Another old face was brought back to the Yankees in Marcus Thames, who has spent the last few years in Detroit.
Many remember Thames hitting his first career home run in the old Yankee Stadium off Randy Johnson in 2002, but was traded very quickly to the Rangers and then the Tigers. Thames can play DH, first base, and the outfield, and if he makes the team, which most feel like he will, will likely be another good bat off the bench for the Yankees. Thames has the power to hit 20-25 home runs in a season, but that was when he was starting for the Tigers. Even so, his power off the bench will be much needed.
The starting rotation that went 8-2 in the postseason en route to the World Series is still in tact, and added another strong arm to make them even stronger.
CC Sabathia will look to have another strong year after winning 19 games and the ALCS MVP Award in his first year in pinstripes. Sabathia was a bulldog on the mound for the Yankees and finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young voting, logging 230 innings, 197 strikeouts, and a 3.37 ERA.
A.J. Burnett was able to stay healthy all season for the Yankees and was a very good No. 2 starter for them, going 13-9 and striking out 195 guys in 33 starts.
At times, Burnett could either have stuff to one-hit teams, or walk seven guys and give up seven runs in two innings. Either way, Burnett took the ball every five days and never complained. Oh, and he also started a new tradition of the victory pie to the face after a walk-off win for the team, something that has become very popular with the fans.
Nobody was more valuable in the playoffs than Andy Pettitte, who went 4-0 in the playoffs and 2-0 in the World Series, including winning every clinching game for the Yankees against the Twins, Angels, and Phillies.
Pettitte also went 14-8 in the regular season in 194 innings and was healthy all year long for the team. Pettitte's reward was a one-year, $11.75 million dollar deal in the winter and the Yankees will look for Pettitte to bring his 2009 success into 2010.
The Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez, who makes the Yankees rotation stronger, especially with him as their fourth starter. The last time Vazquez was a Yankee was in 2004 and he left under bad circumstances, pitching in Game Seven of the ALCS against Boston. But Vazquez has a chance to redeem himself and make a better impression the second time around, especially now that he's not being asked to be the ace.
In 2009 with Atlanta, he went 15-10, logged 219 innings, and struck out 238 batters with a 2.87 ERA. If Vazquez can repeat similar numbers for the Yankees, he will make the Yankee rotation even stronger.
The fifth spot is open right now. Chien-Ming Wang signed with the Nationals and the job will be determined in Spring Training between Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.
Chamberlain started out in the rotation in 2009, going 9-6, but because of erratic pitching and high walk totals, ended up becoming a reliever in the playoffs. Some wonder if that is where Joba really belongs to begin with. Hughes also started out in the rotation, but was dominant as the setup man in 2009. However, he will again compete for a rotation spot.
Whoever doesn't make the rotation between Chamberlain and Hughes will probably end up back here, which isn't a punishment, since both have shown that they are strong relievers when given the opportunity.
Chamberlain could be the front runner to be the one who ends up being the setup man, a role that he was very good in during the end of the 2007 and part of the 2008 season. When Hughes struggled in the playoffs, Chamberlain became the setup man again. It could become his permanent spot.
At the end of the 2009 season, the Yankees traded for Chad Gaudin, who was used as a spot started and could end up being the Yankees long reliever. Gaudin struggled with his command before coming to the Yankees, but he lowered his ERA and never lost a game in pinstripes, which could land him a job in 2010.
Another possibility for the long relief role is the right-handed arm of Alfredo Aceves. Aceves finished 2009 with a 10-1 record and a 3.54 ERA with 84 innings of work. Aceves did make one spot start for the Yankees, but was a force in the bullpen during the year, eating up innings when needed. Aceves continues to get better with experience and should be expected to eat more innings for the Yankees in 2010.
One of the biggest surprises of the 2009 playoffs was Damaso Marte, who spent most of the season on the disabled list. Yet, Marte came back for the postseason and buzz-sawed through left-handed bats. His impact was felt in the World Series when he struck out guys like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. With Phil Coke now in Detroit, Marte will resume his role again as the Yankees left-handed specialist.
David Robertson also emerged as another strong arm to come out of the Yankees bullpen and seemed like he really learned how to develop his pitches. His fastball had some good movement to it and his curveball was a knee-buckler, so Robertson will be expected back in the Yankees 'pen in 2010. Robertson struck out 63 batters in just 43.2 innings with a 3.30 ERA.
All of these guys lead up to the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera.
Rivera enters the final year of his contract and as long as he stays healthy, will probably dominate the league again. His 1.76 ERA was fantastic, not to mention his 44 saves out of 46 chances. Rivera might be turning 40 this year, but his cutter sure doesn't look like it has aged. His cutter is still smashing through bats and making batters scratch their heads.
From top to bottom, the Yankees lineup and roster will be another good one in 2010 and should be strong enough to compete again to defend their title.
Many have projected the Yankees to repeat as the A.L. East Champions again, maybe even be good enough to repeat as the A.L. Champions and World Series Champions.
No matter what the predictions are, Yankees games will still be fun and enjoyable to watch in 2010.
Let the countdown to Opening Day begin.