The Yankees’ latest dynasty is over.
After a long, anticlimactic offseason the Yankees will open the regular season Monday against the Red Sox, without the customary “murderer’s row” lineup that opposing pitchers have dreaded for years.
The team will also begin anew without the same win-it-all expectations that have defined the club ever since their latest reign began, which included five World Series titles, following the strike of ’94. These are the same expectations that have been met season after season, thanks to an aggressive front office/owner combination that made sure it happened—at any cost.
But despite the obvious need for several roster upgrades these past few months, whether due to temporary injury or not, there were no new shiny offseason free agent purchases (especially the nine-digit kind) to behold. Past acquisitions like Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Chuck Knoblach, David Cone, Hideki Irabu, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and Hideki Matsui now seem like a thing of the past. A very successful past at that.
With Mark Teixeira now out indefinitely (and possibly the entire season) New York has brought in a combination of relative unknowns in Juan Rivera and Lyle Overbay to compete for time. To fill in for three-time MVP Alex Rodriguez, the team signed the respectable but aging Kevin Youkilis. And with Curtis Granderson down the Yankees scrambled to acquire the once-dangerous Vernon Wells.
My, how times have changed. Could it get worse?
A look at their upcoming payroll reveals more potential problems.
For one thing their best player, Robinson Cano, who is owed $15 million this year, is set to become a free agent in the offseason. Should the suddenly fiscally-responsible Yankees value his continuing services the bidding will begin in the $25 million per year range for at least six seasons, maybe seven.
And while Rivera, Pettite, Youkilis, and Kuroda, are all in the final year of their contracts, which will clear roughly $49 million off the books, the Yankees’ farm system is not in good enough shape to immediately replace all of them with the same quality of player. Which means they’ll have to go back to the free agency bin, the same one that was largely ignored this past offseason, to find suitable replacements.While A-Rod, and his franchise-crippling contract (which runs for another five years and $114 million) could be back later this season, his once-great production is probably lost for good.
What does this all add up to? Best case scenario has A-Rod, Jeter, and Teixeira all returning later this season to full strength and the Yankees compete for, but fall short of the wild card. Worst case scenario has the Bombers laboring near the bottom of the division for the duration of the season, netting them a high draft pick and the rebuilding starts in the June 2014 draft—just the way it started some 20 years ago. Welcome to the new era.
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