The New York Yankees missed the playoffs last year for just the second time in the last 18 seasons. To remedy the situation the Yankees have done what the Yankees are prone to do; they've thrown big gobs of money at their problems.
But while some of their moves look good on paper, will they pan out on the field? And is there any value to some of the MLB futures odds being offered on New York?
2013 Quick Review
The injury bug took a big bite out of the Yankees last year; at times they were playing without half their starting lineup. They still managed to win 85 games, playing in the toughest division in baseball, although that was their lowest win total since 1995.
New York actually hung tough for a good part of last season season, but in going .500 over the last six weeks they couldn't catch Boston in the AL East race, and came up six wins short of qualifying for a wild-card berth.
When it was all said and done last year the Yanks had played exactly to their preseason wins OVER/UNDER of 85.
Over the off-season New York made a lot of news. A-Rod got suspended for the entire 2014 season, although that didn't seem to break many hearts. The Yankees also parted ways with, among others, 2B Robinson Cano, OF Curtis Granderson, SP Andy Pettitte and closer Mariano Rivera.
But they made splashes by luring OF Jacoby Ellsbury away from rival Boston, and adding Carlos Beltran and C Brian McCann.
And late this winter New York won the auction for the services of the latest hot item out of Japan, SP Masahiro Tanaka.
So the Yankees enter 2014 as essentially what they've been for the last few seasons; one of the oldest teams in the league, one with great potential, but at risk for injury and decreased production.
At the Bat
Fielding what was basically a make-shift lineup most of last season New York ranked 23rd in the Majors with a very un-Yankee-like .307 team OBP, 16th in scoring at 4.0 runs per game, 22nd in homers with 144 but seventh in stolen bases with 115.
If healthy, a lineup consisting of Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira and McCann could be nasty. Then again, based on some of their histories, half those guys could be out of the lineup on any given night.
On the Mound
The rotation begins with the lefty-righty combo of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, and that's a pretty good start. CC posted the worst ERA of his career last year, 4.78, but he's probably better than that.
Kuroda, meanwhile, with 19 quality starts, served as the glue that held the staff together.
After that things get a little more uncertain for this Yankees staff.
Tanaka just went 24-0 – yeah, 24 and O – with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last year. But he's still an unknown quantity. Scouting reports indicate he's not as good as Yu Darvish, and likely a two man at best. We're just never quite sure how these Japanese imports are going to turn out.
Ivan Nova put up a 3.10 ERA last year, but missed two months with injuries. David Phelps posted a 4.98 ERA last year. And Michael Pineda is coming off shoulder surgery.
Last year the Yankees ranked 18th in the Majors with a 3.94 team ERA, 17th in quality starts with 84. Meanwhile the bullpen ranked 20th with a 3.66 ERA while going 49-for-62 on save opportunities.
But that pen has a huge hole to fill with the retirement of ol' No. 42.
Yankees 2014 Futures Odds
As of about two weeks before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to Steinbrenner Field the Yanks were among the upper tier on both American League pennant and World Series futures boards. The best price we could find on New York on an AL board was the +625 offered at 5Dimes, while the best line on a World Series board was the +1400 listed at TopBet.
We give the Yanks a good chance to return to the playoffs this season, but we're leery. Teixeira is still experiencing stiffness with his wrist, Jeter (after missing almost all of last season) will be 40 years old in June, Beltran has a history of getting nicked up, Sabathia wasn't his usual self last year and Rivera is gone.
The Yanks have committed more than $400 million toward Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann and Tanaka. But does that mean we're comfortable committing some of our own hard-earned cash on a futures bet on this outfit? Our take is there are just too many question marks – age, health, the back of the rotation, the bullpen - for the prices being offered.
New York opens this season with a three-game series at Houston April 1-3.