The 2009 World Series Champions didn't exactly rest on their laurels this off-season.Â Instead they went out and traded for Javier Vazquez, one of the most effective pitchers that the National League had to offer last year.Â Then they picked up Curtis Granderson one of the league's premier centerfielders as well as bringing back Nick Johnson, a man with a career .402 OBP to come serve as the team's DH.Â What that means is that once again the Yankees will be the most feared team in all of baseball.
2009 Regular Season Record: 103-59
Rank: First AL East, Won World Series 4-2 against Phillies
Home Park: Yankees Stadium
In a New York State of Mind:
C - Mike Rivera* (Free Agent from Brewers)
The Yankees decided not to bring back Johnny Damon and instead traded for Curtis Granderson.
DH - Nick Johnson (Free Agent from Marlins)
OF- Curtis Granderson (Trade with Tigers)
OF - Randy Winn (Free Agent from Giants)
OF - Marcus Thames* (Free Agent from Tigers)
RHP - Chan Ho Park (Free Agent from Phillies)
RHP - Dustin Mosley* (Waiver claim from Angels)
RHP - Javier Vazquez (Trade with Braves)
Feeling Little Town Blues:
C - Jose Molina (Free Agent signed with Blue Jays)
3B/OF - Eric Hinske (Free Agent signed with Braves)
UTIL - Jerry Hairston (Free Agent signed with Padres)
OF - Freddy Guzman* (Released, signed with Phillies)
OF - Xavier Nady (Free Agent signed with Cubs)
OF - Johnny Damon (Free Agent signed with Tigers)
DH - Hideki Matsui (Free Agent signed with Angels)
LHP - Phil Coke (Traded to Tigers)
RHP - Chien-Ming Wang (Free Agent signed with Nationals)
RHP - Josh Towers* (Free Agent signed with Dodgers)
RHP - Brian Bruney (Trade to Nationals)
RHP - Melky Carbera (Traded to Braves)
RHP - Ian Kennedy (Traded to Diamondbacks)
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths:Â Offense, Pitching, Defense.
Yeah, this team is that good.Â Luckily for the rest of baseball they aren't invincible. There are cracks in the Yankees armor, but their strengths are what come glaring out at you.Â The addition of Granderson will help improve the Yankees defense, the offense while likely to take a small step backwards (due to age, and the loss of Damon at the top of the lineup) still one of the best in baseball and the pitching is better than that of probably at least 90% of the teams in either league.
Weaknesses: Age of key players, questions about Vazquez handling the pressure of NY after bombing his last time here.
While the Yankees look tough on paper, the fact is that many of the stars of this team notably A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Nick Johnson and Mariano Rivera are all on the wrong side of 30 and all of them with the exception of A-Rod (34) and Johnson are on the wrong side of 35.Â Those are ages where injuries become more common and skill level tends to decline, and the Yankees don't possess backups of this level of skill at any of those key positions.
That could prove to be the team's Achilles heel, especially if things pile up one atop the other.Â However there is a lot more uncertainty than that within the Yankees lineup.
It's been shown time and time again that some players just don't handle New York well and can't pitch well here.Â The last time Vazquez pitched in New York that was certainly true for him then, but only time will tell if the new more mature Vazquez (33) will handle New York better the second time around.Â After what was the best year of his career, betting on a regression, not to mention a statistical bump because he's switching to a more offensively driven league, would be wise.Â Mix that with trouble pitching in New York and it is possible Vazquez could have a hard time living up to expectations.
Regressions could come in other places too.Â Granderson, another player who had a career year in 2009, tends to strikeout a lot, and won't be batting early enough in the order to make the most of his speed.Â A step back is definitely possible, as are slowdowns in production for any of the older Yankees.
SS - Derek Jeter
DH - Nick Johnson
1B - Mark Teixeira
3B - Alex Rodriguez
CF - Curtis Granderson
C - Jorge Posada
2B - Robinson Cano
RF - Nick Swisher
LF - Brett Gardner
Phil Hughes/Joba Chamberlain
One question that need answering:
Can the Yankees stave off age and injury for another season?Â There is a certain brittleness to this team that could lead to a sudden and spectacular collapse, but this team still has so much talent that betting against them is always a hard thing to do.
While the Yankees are a formidable team expecting them to score fewer runs and win fewer games is realistic as the team's stars gradually decline even if their pitchers compensate a bit.Â The Yanks will not repeat as 100 game winners may be hard pressed to reach 95 in what will be a much tougher division then they faced last year.Â They won't win it, but will battle hard for a Wild Card spot.