As we all collectively awake from our holiday-induced food stupors (or our Airings of Grievances or Feats of Strength), the baseball world marches (painfully) slowly towards Opening Day. And as baseball marches, so do the Yankees and their sometimes confusing construction of the 2013 roster. While the Yankees brought back Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, they also let Nick Swisher and Russell Martin go and appear willing to do the same with Rafael Soriano (though I don’t really have a problem with this). The team also brought in Kevin Youkilis in light of Alex Rodriguez‘s hip injury and upcoming surgery. While the four they brought back are unmistakably important, we could argue that because of the alternatives–or the distinct lack thereof–bringing back the likes of Swisher and Martin was just as important.
Right now, some combination of Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and Austin Romine will be the catcher(s) for the Yankees this year. Russell Martin may not have been Yogi Berra or Jorge Posada with the bat, he could still take a walk and hit for power. He also played solid defense behind the plate. Color me unimpressed by Chris Stewart’s defense and Austin Romine is unproven, though people do seem to rate his defense positively. Signing Martin would have definitely been better. Ichiro Suzuki was also retained and he’ll keep playing right field. Brett Gardner is returning from injury and if he plays left field, the Yankees are looking at a light hitting corner-outfield. Nick Swisher’s contract with the Indians certainly isn’t small, but it’s most definitely reasonable, but the Yankees made no attempt to keep him. As it stands, the Yankees are likely to get little offense out of their corner outfield spots and will probably get zero offense out of catcher. Considering their apparent lack of interest in Martin and Swisher–as well as Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez (though those aren’t so bad)–it’s possible to wonder if the Yankees are punting the 2013 season.
Part of that thought seems at least semi-reasonable. The Yankees don’t appear to be doing, as they used to, literally everything they could to improve the team. In fact, we could argue that they haven’t improved the team at all. That doesn’t mean, however, that they got worse.
Practically, the Yankees are still a good team. Their rotation, though not terribly deep, is still good. CC Sabathia is, well CC Sabathia, and Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are reliable pitchers who are also highly talented. Phil Hughes is fine as a number four starter. The fifth spot is a little dicey, but you could do a lot worse there than David Phelps or Ivan Nova (who likely isn’t as awful as he was last year). The bullpen, even sans-Soriano, is great. Mariano Rivera is, ya know, God and David Robertson, David Aardsma, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan are all solid fill-ins behind him. And the lineup, while a bit flawed, is still good. Derek Jeter is still a solid hitter for his position and Robinson Cano is Robinson Cano. Flawed though they may be, Brett Gardner and Ichiro bring legit skills to the plate:on-base ability and speed for Gardner and contact skills and speed for Ichiro. Mark Teixeira is still powerful. Kevin Youkilis is probably due for a bounce-back.
It’s true that there haven’t been many drastic improvements to the team. But there also haven’t been any subtractions that are completely and totally damning. This may not be the Yankee approach we’re used to, but it’s one that should yield a good team.