The Yankees went through a total roster turnover this offseason after scoring just 650 runs, their lowest offense output in 23 years. They were especially bad at catcher, DH, and the outfield. So, they went out and filled those holes with the best free agents available: Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran They’re also getting back Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira after they both missed over 145 games last season. A full season of Alfonso Soriano will also be a big help.
They should be better overall, they’re worse at second and third with Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez gone. Cano’s loss is pretty significant; you can’t be that much better when you lose your best player and one of the top players in the game. A-Rod may be a distraction but he’s much better than anyone else they put at the hot corner last year and whoever they play there this year. But do the Yankees’ big additions outweigh their big losses? Will the offense be overall better?
2013: Chris Stewart- .211/.293/.272/.566, 57 OPS+, 0.2 WAR, 4 HR, 25 RBI
2014: Brian McCann- .259/.338/.449/.787, 24 HR, 76 RBI,
This may be by far the biggest upgrade the Yankees have made. Chris Stewart is simply awful, and having him as the everyday catcher last season was a big reason why they didn’t make the playoffs last season. Brian McCann has been one of the best catchers in the game for the past nine seasons. The move to Yankee Stadium could be a huge boost for the 30 year-old, as he has put up a .196 ISO in his career at Turner Field. Finally healthy after shoulder surgery and other injuries, he should put up big numbers in the Bronx, higher than RotoChamp projects.
2013: Lyle Overbay- .240/.295/.393/.688, 87 OPS+, 0.2 WAR, 14 HR, 59 RBI
2014: Mark Teixeira- .245/.337/.461/.798, 26 HR, 86 RBI
Lyle Overbay performed admirably in place of Mark Teixeira for the first few months of the season before turning into a pumpkin. There’s no telling how Teixeira performs coming off wrist surgery, and his numbers were already declining before that. He’ll still probably be good for over 25 homers and typical Gold Glove defense, but you have to wonder just how effective and durable he will be this year.
2013: Robinson Cano- .314/.383/.516/.899, 145 OPS+, 7.6 WAR, 27 HR, 107 RBI
2014: Brian Roberts- .251/.314/.372/.686, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 4 SB
Aaaaaaaaanddddd here’s the drop-off. Simply, it’s impossible to replace the guy who is best player at his position and one of the best players in the game. The Yankees are in a tough position here. Roberts has played just 192 games since 2010. You can bet he gets hurt in time, so the second baseman for most of the season will likely be Kelly Johnson.
2013: Jayson Nix- .236/.308/.311/.619, 71 OPS+, 0.8 WAR, 3 HR, 24 RBI
2014: Kelly Johnson- .233/.311/.399/.710, 15 HR, 50 RBI, 9 SB
Third base was a revolving door last season, so Yankees had the worst production at the hot corner in baseball last season, and with Alex Rodriguez suspended for the whole season, it will again become a black hole. Johnson has played just 16 games at third in his career. He’ll probably end up becoming the primary 2B with Eduardo Nunez moving over to third once Roberts gets hurt.
2013: Eduardo Nunez- .260/.307/.372/.679, 86 OPS+, -1.5 WAR, 3 HR, 28 RBI
2014: Derek Jeter- .280/.340/.380/.720, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 6 SB
Without the Captain, shortstop was another black hole last season, as the collective efforts of Nunez, Jayson Nix, and others were some of the worst in the game. There’s no telling what Jeter has left, but you can never count him out. Still, at 40 years-old, he’ll need to be given a spell more often. Luckily, Brendan Ryan’s skills as a shortstop offset his total absence of offense.
2013: Brett Gardner- .273/.344/.416/.759, 108 OPS+, 4.2 WAR, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 24 SB
2014: Brett Gardner- .263/.341/.389/.730, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 29 SB
Gardner is the only returning starter for this season, even if he’s moving back to left. He rates out as a much better defensive LF than he does in center. He had a career year power-wise last season as he put up a .143 ISO. Even if he doesn’t hit for as many extra bases, he’ll still be one of the more undervalued players in the game. He just needs to be more aggressive on the base paths, as he attempted just 32 steals last season (he led the league in steals with 49 in 2011).
2013: Vernon Wells- .233/.282/.349/.631, 72 OPS+, -0.2 WAR, 11 HR, 50 RBI,
2014: Jacoby Ellsbury- .285/.340/.434/.774, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 38 SB
It’s more accurate to compare Ellsbury to Wells. Oh boy, what an upgrade. Wells was another zero for the Yankees last year as he was for the Angels; he was one of the worst players in the game. Ellsbury is definitely one of the more talented players in the game, but I still wonder how much his outlier 2011 season pushed his price up. The Yankees need him to not suffer anymore bad luck injuries; if he doesn’t, he should be an awesome player for them for years to come.
2013: Ichiro Suzuki- .262/.297/.342/.639, 75 OPS+, 1.4 WAR, 7 HR, 35 RBI
2014: Carlos Beltran- .274/.338/.468/.806, 21 HR, 76 RBI
Beltran is still a great player, but I was skeptical of giving the 37 year-old three years, as he’ll probably end up becoming a DH soon. The lack of defensive range sucks his value out, but he’s definitely better out there than Ichiro was last season. Beltran should be fine enough batting third, and his left-handed swing will allow him to hit a lot of homers, way more than RotoChamp projects him to hit.
2013: Travis Hafner- .202/.301/.378/.679, 85 OPS+, -0.1 WAR, 12 HR, 37 RBI
2014: Alfonso Soriano- .247/.297/.462/.759, 25 HR, 80 RBI, 10 SB
After a scorching hot first two months, Hafner was a total zero and was hurt as usual last year, as the Yankees were also dead last in this category. Soriano absolutely raked after returning to the Bronx late last season, hitting 17 homers in just 219 at-bats. As streaky as he is, he should be good for another 25+ bombs, and he should beat those projections by a bit.
If you go by WAR, the Yankees are indeed better overall. They’re in fact one of the more improved teams in baseball, if maybe just by default. Losing Cano and A-Rod is certainly a huge loss that really affects the make-up of this team, but the improvements at virtually every other position should outweigh their departure. They may not be as good as they used to be, but they are definitely a heck of a lot better than they were last year.