Yesterday, over at LoHud, Chad Jennings took a look at 2013, month by month. To kick off the new year, I’d like to follow his article with my own evaluation.
Get to 95 wins
Most teams that look to compete target a 95 win minimum projection for their team. As they stand, ZiPs has the Yankees at 87 wins, and I think that’s a fair appraisal. The team still has a few needs, a designated hitter and an everyday catcher, so it’s easy to see how adding a few players will get them to that 95 win projection. The hard part is actually finding the players, and Cashman has his work cut out over this month.
The Yankees have worked the free agent scrapheap beautifully over the last few years, and I don’t doubt that they plan to continue the trend in 2013. Signings like the Matt Diaz contract are more likely to happen in February, when players start to beg for Spring Training invitations. By the end of the month, we’ll have a good indication of the type of shape they’re in and what they’re competition will be. As minor as it is, depth can be the difference between lasting into October or collapsing in September.
There will be quite a few players coming back from injuries, and we’ll finally get to see how they react to everyday play. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and CC Sabathia are all recovering from surgery, and there’s always a risk that something is re-aggravated. Not only are these three players important to the team’s success, but they’re leaders in the clubhouse, and pulling them away from the team so early in the season could be disastrous.
Avoid slow starts
This one is aimed at Mark Teixeira and Phil Hughes. The first baseman always looks a big sluggish in April, and over his career, he has a 101 wRC+ in the first month of the regular season. The Yankees have obviously survived it in the past, but instead of fighting his way back to a respectable slash line, it would be nice for Teixeira to start things off strong for once. As for Hughes, he’s had two awful April’s in a row now. In 2011, Hughes suffered shoulder inflammation, likely from his increased innings. In 2013, he may again face side effects of increasing his innings from 88.2, in 2011, to 191.1, in 2012.
Make adjustment adjustments
Every year, one of the hitters or pitchers decides to take their mechanics and modify them in Spring Training. Teixeira, last season, tried to go the other way with pitches, and had an 84 wRC+ in April. Teixeira went back to his old ways in May and had a 141 wRC+ on the month. Hughes also made adjustments by losing his cutter. Inevitably, a few players will need to make adjustments in 2013, and they’ll know by May what works and what doesn’t.
Send in the reinforcements
Hopefully, we’ll finally get to see Michael Pineda make his major league debut in pinstripes. His surgery last May was supposed to have a 12 month recovery timetable, and that puts him in line to be healthy by early May. Since then, the Yankees have indicated that they’d be willing to option him down, likely to push him out of Super-Two status and give him more recovery time. He’s supposed to be back in June, and though I’m not counting on big things just yet, he can be a boost to the rotation. Alex Rodriguez should also be returning from his hip surgery, and his bat will be a nice piece to add before the All Star break.
July is all about reevaluating your projections. If you’re not going to make 95 wins, you can sell, if you might make it, you can buy, and if you’re right on target, you’ll probably wait out the trade deadline. With the age of the Yankees and their recent history in the injury department, there’s a chance the team will need to take a look at the trade market for backups. With their budget plans for 2014, they may also be more inclined to make a bigger trade for the future, as they won’t be as likely to fix issues on the free agent market over the next year.
For an older team like the Yankees, August may be the hardest month to survive. Last year, the team went through the month with a number of injuries, Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Sabathia being the biggest names. They won 14 games and lost 13 that month, barely breaking a .500 record, and lowering their lead over the AL East from 6.5 to 2.0 games.
Fortunately, rosters expand in September, and the organization will have a number of options to relieve players. If we haven’t seen them already, David Adams, Corban Joseph, Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte, Dellin Betances, Mark Montgomery, and Brett Marshall are likely names to see. There’s also a long shot chance that we see one of Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, or Ramon Flores, as well as Branden Pinder or Jose Pirela. Who knows? Maybe even Manny Banuelos makes a miraculous recovery and sees some bullpen action.
It’s playoff time, maybe. If the Yankees make the playoffs, that’s great, but beyond setting rosters and lineups, there’s not much you can do at this point. The playoffs are always a crapshoot, but beyond hoping for timely hitting and pitching, the organization will assess where they are and what to do with the club. Who will receive qualifying offers? Are they willing to let Robinson Cano or Phil Hughes walk?
The budget decision
If the team makes the playoffs in 2013, then they need to start looking at trade options and cheap players that’ll potentially hit free agency. Then they need to figure out if Andy Pettitte or Mariano Rivera are retiring, and if not, what they can offer them. It’ll mostly be a month of planning, hopefully while celebrating their 28th World Championship. If 2013 becomes a horrible disaster, the budget plan may be over.
The Hot Stove
And we’re back to where we started. It’s time to start talking to free agents and general managers to build a team with a 95 win projection for 2014. If they haven’t done so already, and assuming the budget remains, I expect some very big moves, likely in trades. This could be a very different club at the end of 2013, and December could be the most exciting Hot Stove season for Yankee fans since 2008.