SCOTTSDALE, Arizona --- Since the last time the Yankees won the A.L. East (2012), they have posted four seasons in the mid-80s in wins, and have one postseason appearance (losing the 2015 wild-card game to the Astros).
I’ve felt for the last couple of years that the Yankees didn’t have any business anywhere near contention and that Joe Girardi deserved a lot of credit for keeping them there.
I haven’t really changed my mind about this. The Yankees are trying to work younger players into their lineup, and one of them, catcher Gary Sanchez, went crazy hitting home runs last summer (20 in 53 games). That got him to a .657 slugging percentage, which would have led the major leagues if he’d had enough at-bats (he wasn’t close, at 201). This kind of thing doesn’t seem sustainable.
Aaron Judge also came up and made a splash with home runs in his first two games, but after going 7-for-18 to start his big-league career, he hit .121/.213/.227 in 68 at-bats the rest of the way. He’s expected to start in right field, although Clint Frazier, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft (three spots after Kris Bryant), who was acquired from Cleveland in the Andrew Miller deal last year, might also get a shot. (He might have to cut his hair first, though.)
The Yankees seem to want to move on from expensive free agents. Alex Rodriguez is retired (though the Yankees will pay him $21 million this year), as is Mark Teixeira. They shipped about two-thirds of Brian McCann’s contract to the Astros, and the same team signed Carlos Beltran as a free agent.
Offensively, the rest of the team is kind of meh. Starlin Castro is who he is, Didi Gregorius isn’t a star and neither is Chase Headley. As might have been expected, Jacoby Ellsbury is an expensive mediocrity.
Pitching? Well, Masahiro Tanaka finally made 30 starts in a season (31, to be exact) for the first time in three Yankee years, and he was good, but not “ace” good, and he’s being paid to be “ace” good. Michael Pineda was bad last year, CC Sabathia is 36 and his last good year was 2012 and... you get the idea.
Aroldis Chapman cashed in on his Cubs World Series title by signing a five-year deal with the Yankees. It remains to be seen how many save opportunities he’ll actually get. I think this is the year the dynasty finally collapses. The Yankees haven’t had a losing season since 1992, but I think they will in 2017.
Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney, who went to New York in the Chapman deal, both got NRIs to big-league spring camp this year. Both have hit well (small sample size): McKinney, 5-for-8 with two home runs; Torres, 5-for-9 with two doubles. Both of those players are at least a couple of years away from playing in Yankee Stadium.
The Cubs and Yankees last played in 2014, when the New Yorkers took three of four. All-time, the Yankees are 9-4 in interleague play vs. the Cubs. That record is likely to improve in the Cubs’ favor this year.
The Yankees will visit Wrigley Field May 5-6-7.