The New York Yankees once again bring the highest payroll in baseball to the table. The Yankees remain one of the older teams in baseball. There are still questions surrounding the starting rotation. Many scouts still perceive the minor league system as weak and lacking top notch prospects. The ultimate goal, as always, is the World Series Championship and anything less is unacceptable. So what is different about this team?
Regular Season Record: 97-65
1st place AL East — 10 games ahead of Toronto. Lost the LDS in 4 games to Detroit.
Home Park: Yankee Stadium
SP - Kei Igawa, signed as a free agent from the Japanese League
SP - Andy Pettitte, signed as a free agent from the Houston Astros
RP - Chris Britton, acquired via trade with Baltimore Orioles
SP - Humberto Sanchez, acquired via trade with Detroit Tigers
RP - Luis Vizcaino, acquired via trade with Arizona Diamondbacks
P - Jeff Kennard
P - Chase Wright
P - Colter Bean
SS - Alberto Gonzalez, acquired via trade with Arizona Diamondbacks
1B - Juan Miranda, signed as a free agent from Cuba
1B - Doug Mientkiewicz, signed as a free agent from the Kansas City Royals
1B - Josh Phelps, Rule 5 draft pick from the Baltimore Orioles
OF - Bronson Sardinha
Looking for Greener Pastures Elsewhere
RF - Gary Sheffield, traded to Detroit Tigers
OF - Bernie Williams, Free agent
1B - Craig Wilson, Free agent
SP - Randy Johnson, traded to Arizona Diamondbacks
SP - Jaret Wright, traded to Baltimore Orioles
RP - Tanyon Sturtze, signed with Atlanta Braves as a free agent
RP - Octavio Dotel, signed with Kansas City Royals as a free agent
RP - Ron Villone, Free agent
OF - Bubba Crosby, signed with Cincinnati Reds as a free agent
OF - Aaron Guiel
INF - Nick Green, Free Agent
C - Sal Fasano, Free Agent
The Skinny: A much different off season than in recent years has Yankees fans and management alike once again geared up for success. The payroll remains astronomically high at $199 million. The signing of Andy Pettitte and Doug Mientkiewicz along with the option picked up on Mussina's contract have offset payroll losses. Payroll, however, never has been and probably never will be a concern of the New York Yankees.
The average age of the New York Yankees is 29.3, one of the oldest teams in baseball. There are still injury risks to be considered. However, the roster is deep and built with enough talent that any injury can be overcome.
The club traded away an aging Randy Johnson. His overall numbers have declined in each of his two seasons in New York while he often complained of back pain. The team signed former Yankees favorite Andy Pettitte to replace Johnson. With the signing of Pettitte, the possibility of Roger Clemens also returning to the ball club just became that much stronger. That is, if he decides to pitch again.
Strengths: The offense is as strong as ever. Jeter and Cano finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in the AL batting race last year. Jason Giambi who led the team with 37 HR's can now focus on DH'ing full time. Alex Rodriguez is expected to bounce back from an "off" year in which he lead the team with 121 RBI's with 35 HR's and 113 runs scored. Hideki Matsui is healthy and Melky Cabrera will only continue to get better. Great numbers are expected out of the left handed hitter Bobby Abreu.
Weaknesses: The fortitude of the revamped starting rotation and the middle relief group in the bullpen will be called upon early and often in 2007. Club management is hopeful that Carl Pavano will finally pitch to his potential. Kei Igawa is making the transition from the Japanese leagues to the major leagues. The team will likely carry 13 pitchers at the start of the season. Newcomers Chris Britton and Luis Vizcaino will likely complete the pitching corps. Can they handle the pressure of pitching in New York?
With 13 pitchers on board, the bench will be limited. Melky Cabrera will most likely be the first one off the bench as the 4th outfielder. Miguel Cairo was re-signed to give the infielders some rest here and there. Jorge Posada's backup is relatively inexperienced having only appeared in 37 games in his career.
Projected Lineup: The lineup is pretty much set, provided there are no injuries. The only real question is who will be the right handed option to platoon with newly acquired Mienkiewicz.
CF - Johnny Damon (L)
SS - Derek Jeter (R)
RF - Bobby Abreu (L)
DH - Jason Giambi (L)
3B - Alex Rodriguez (R)
LF - Hideki Matsui (L)
C - Jorge Posada (S)
2B - Robinson Cano (L)
1B - Andy Phillips (R) or Josh Phelps (R) / Doug Meinkiewicz (L)
Keys to Success: Offense has carried the Yankees into the post season the last few years. Great pitching is what they need to get through the playoffs. The team can no longer rely on individual talents and statistics. Team cohesion is a must. An injury free season would go a long way to keeping the Yankees streak of division titles intact.
Prediction: The Yankees under manager Joe Torre have reached the playoffs every year since 1995, having won the AL East division 9 straight years. That streak is should continue this year, although the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays continue to nip at their heels.