The Future of the New York Yankees: Old and Expensive
At the start of the 2011 season, the biggest question surrounding the New York Yankees was their starting pitching. How ironic that the reason the team lost the American League Division Series to Detroit was because of their lack of hitting. The Yanks did not get any production out of their 3,4,5 hitters (Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher combined to hit .164) against the Tigers in the ALDS. Twice last night, New York had loaded the bases against Detroit, but they only produced one run (a walk by Teixeira) in both situations.
Two-fifths of the Yankees rotation featured aging veterans either out of baseball and attempting comebacks (Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia) to ressurect their careers. Add in a rookie pitcher (Ivan Nova) filling in for an injured starter (Phil Hughes) and the Yankees were supposed to be lucky to return to the playoffs. Instead, they won 96 games, the most of any team in the American League. Colon, Garcia, and Nova all pitched extremely well and the Yankees were seen as the favorites heading into the playoffs. Like the regular season, the pitching did not disappoint against the Tigers, but the team's hitting failed to produce in clutch situations. The biggest question for Yankees fans is whether their management will be able to make any big changes this offseason.
The problem is, New York's payroll is filled with aging stars on the downside of their careers locked into bad long-term contracts. At the top of the list is 36-year old Alex Rodriguez, who is signed for 6 more years at a total of $143 million. Right behind him is 37-year old shortstop Derek Jeter at $33 million over the next two seasons. Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett will be 35 next season and is also making $33 million over the next two seasons. Teixeira, 31, is signed for the next five years at $115 million. The team's ace starting pitcher, 31-year old CC Sabathia has $97 million left on his contract which runs through the 2015 season. However, Sabathia is expected to exercise his "opt-out" clause and become a free agent.
Despite all of their bad contracts, the future still looks bright for the Yankees. The team's best young hitter, Jesus Montero, played well after a late season call-up. He is expected to take over the catching/designated hitter duties from free agent-to-be Jorge Posada next season. Nova has cemented himself into the Yankees pitching rotation in 2012. Plus, the team has two other top young Minor Prospects in Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos who might make the club and help their pitching staff next season.
Even with some young talent heading to the Bronx, the Yankees have some tough decisions to make. When Sabathia opts out of his contract, do the Yankees try and resign him at a higher guaranteed salary? Do they use their club option and bring back Swisher for $9 million? Does Russell Martin return as the team's starting catcher? Do they try and package some of their top Minor League prospects for an elite starting pitcher. Regardless of what moves the Yankees make this offseason, the 2011 season will not be remembered for the team's 97 wins. Yankees President Randy Levine summed it up when he told ESPN New York "When you don't win the World Series, it is a bitter disappointment and not a successful year."