It’s amazing how in the game of baseball these days, unless a team makes a big move during free agency, they are regarded as having a “disappointing” offseason. The Yankees have been no stranger to this stigma ever since they decided not to blow their money on asinine contracts. Despite popular belief, the Yankees have actually had a successful offseason this past year.
When free agency began, the Yankees lost three important pieces to their team: Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, and Mariano Rivera. Re-signing them was obviously a very high priority for the Yankees. As I stated in my offseason ranking article, both Kuroda and Pettitte were a big part of the Yankees rotation during the 2012 season. Especially Kuroda who – after once Pettitte and CC Sabathia went down due to injury – became the ace of the pitching staff and carried the team. It goes without saying that losing both starting pitchers to free agency would have been a huge blow to the Yankees chances of playing competitive baseball.
The Yankees were able to re-sign Kuroda and Pettitte.
In the case of Rivera, the Yankees needed to desperately bring him back for two reasons. The first reason was that the greatest closer of all time can’t “ride into the sunset” after suffering an injury, and the second reason was that the team did not know if they were going to get Rafael Soriano back. The Yankees re-signed Rivera, and Soriano bolted for the Washington Nationals.
Martin spent the majority of the 2012 season with a batting average below the Mendoza-Line. He was essentially an automatic out every time he came to the plate. However by the end of the season, he was able to raise his batting average to .211 and hit a couple of “clutch” home runs. Home runs aside, Martin was really not somebody that the Yankees could count on at the plate.
Defensively is where the Yankees take a hit. In two seasons with the Bombers, Martin had fielding percentages of .990 and .994, respectively. Despite that, there is no reason to count out Austin Romine, Chris Stewart, or Fransisco Cervelli.
Another key player that the Yankees re-signed was Ichiro Suzuki. When Ichiro came over to the Yanks in a trade, he was a rejuvenated player, and quickly became one of the best hitters on the team. He was also one of the few players that the Yankees were able to count on offensively during the playoffs. Even though they had to sign him to a two-year deal in order to avoid losing him to the Philadelphia Phillies or San Fransisco Giants, Ichiro has the drive and desire to be the best player that he can be while playing with the Yankees.
The Yankees were also able to sign former foe Kevin Youkilis. Especially with all the current Alex Rodriguez drama going on, this is proving to be a pretty smart move on the Yankees’ part. Youkilis is expected to have a bounce-back season, and the fact that he will be playing in a new surrounding will most certainly help him. Youk has worked with hitting coach Kevin Long during this offseason to change his stance. Youkilis now uses a shorter leg-kick when batting, which will allow him to get around to the ball quicker. This signing could prove to be a very important one for the Yankees.
Finally, the Yankees have also added a nice amount of depth and backup options to their team. Players such as Matt Diaz, Travis Hafner, Juan Rivera, Thomas Neal, and others will give the Yankees options in case a player goes down with injury. Lest we also forget that the Yankees have many minor-league players ready to make the jump to “The Show” at any time.
As a Yankees fan, there is a lot to get excited about for 2013. The Yankees will have to bring their A-Game if they want to compete with the new-look AL East, and there is no reason to think they wont.
With two days until pitchers and catchers report, the smell of baseball is finally back in the air.