CHICAGO, September 26, 2013 — Last year the Yankees went 95-67 while winning the AL East. This year though the time has come, for just the second time since 1995 before the playoffs, to say better luck next year to the New York Yankees.
What Went Right: Last year was the best year of Robinson Cano’s career, and this year he has been almost as good. Cano has posted a .315/.384/.519 line with an OPS+ of 146 which are astonishing for a second baseman. Cano has produced 8.2 WAR according to baseball-reference and will enter the free agent market this offseason and is by far the best player. For the Yankees to have any chance next year they will need to back up the Brink’s truck. There is no one really out there on the market to replace him, but working in their favor his agent, Jay-Z, does wear a Yankees hat.
The Yankees reacquired Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs and even got the Cubs to pay $16.2 million of the $18 million owed to him this year and $13 million of the $18 million owed to him next year. Soriano came to the Yankees and provided the right handed power they had been missing all year posting a .256/.319/.531 line after being acquired with an OPS+ of 129 and hitting 17 homeruns. For the season, with his 34 homeruns, Soriano is now fifth in MLB.
Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees best starter this year and it has not been particularly close. In 201.1 innings pitched, Kuroda has provided 4.0 WAR with a 122 ERA+. How the Yankees handle Kuroda this offseason will be interesting as he is 38 years old and a free agent, but also has been one of the Yankees top starters the last couple years.
Finally, the back of the Yankees bullpen has been nothing short of phenomenal. David Robertson has handled the eighth inning the last few years and was up to his usual lofty standards this year with a 193 ERA+ while striking out 29.7% of the batters he faced and walking just 7.0%. Robertson will be a prime candidate to inherit the ninth inning role for the Yankees, but he is under team control for only next year so seeing how the Yankees handle the situation will be interesting.
Speaking of Rivera, he is retiring after posting amazing numbers for anyone, much less a 43 year old, with an ERA+ of 188, while striking out 21.4% of the batters faced and walking a miniscule 3.6%.
What Went Wrong: The injuries that struck the Yankees were crippling. The Yankees lost Alex Rodriguez for 112 games, Curtis Granderson for 99 games, Derek Jeter for 137 games and Mark Teixeira for 139 games. While it is far from the best way of quantifying it, those injuries constitute a combined 37 All Star games. Put in better terms, that is a combined 287.5 career WAR among those four players.
Despite the Yankees’ effort prior to the season, they were unable to complete an extension for Cano. It looks as though the Dodgers, who appeared to be their main competitor, will be out of the running with the likely signing of Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero. However, teams like the Tigers, White Sox or Cubs could all use all use a second baseman and have plenty of money.
CC Sabathia suffered through the worst year of his career posting an 85 ERA+, this is the first year in his career below 100. Sabathia seemed to allow harder hit balls as he saw a career high 9.1% of hits allowed go for extra bases, which is likely related to a dip in velocity. Sabathia is under contract for at least three more years so the Yankees need to hope that some of that velocity returns or Sabathia learns to pitch with his diminished velocity.
Finally, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain likely finished up their Yankee careers never living up to the hype. Hughes has logged 145.2 innings but had an ERA+ of just 78 and a change of scenery is likely best for both parties at this point. Joba Chamberlain was never able to recapture the promise he showed in 2007. This season, he posted an ERA+ of 82 and walked 12.9% of the batters he faced this year. The Yankees will likely part with Chamberlain as well.
What to Look for in 2014: The Yankees are the prohibitive favorites to resign Robinson Cano, but will also need to resign or replace Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson while finding replacements for the retiring Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. The Yankees certainly have the money to sign new players, but with more teams locking up young players there are fewer options in free agency. Expect the Yankees to be aggressive while trying to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
Free Agents/Options: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Youkilis, Phil Hughes, Travis Hafner, Joba Chamberlain, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, Brendan Ryan.
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