The Yankees were arguably the best team in baseball this year. The future, however, does not look promising. If you sense a measure of glee in my writing, it’s only because you’re very intuitive and/or you read this sentence.
The problem, besides the Yankees being inherently evil, is that it’s filled with old players who are well past their prime. Worse, they’re stuck with many of these guys because of bloated contracts that make them impossible to trade for anything resembling equal value. Some examples:
Alex Rodriguez (37 years old) – signed through 2017 at a cost of $114 million WITHOUT INCLUDING BONUSES.
Derek Jeter (39 years old) – signed through 2013 for $17 million.
Mark Texiera (32 years old) – signed through 2016 at $22.5 million per year.
CC Sabathia (32 years old) – signed through 2017 at a cost of $119 million.
These four players alone will cost $91 million dollars in 2013 or, to put it another way, more than the 2012 opening day payroll for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Cincinatti Reds, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners. So four guys, all of whom are past their prime and getting worse with every passing season, will cost more than half the teams in Major League Baseball. That is not a recipe for success.
Consider the other key players, who are free agents or not signed to long-term deals.
Curtis Granderson (31 years old) – Hit 43 home runs, but had a below average OBP and struck out 195 times.
Russell Martin (29 years old) – career high 21 home runs, but below average OBP and a .211 batting average.
Brett Gardner – (29 years old) – career OPS of .723.
Nick Swisher (31) – free agent. Excellent year with 24 home runs, a 3.5 WAR and a .837 OPS. Love this guy.
Hiroki Kuroda (37 years old) – Fantastic year, with a 1.16 WHIP, 5.2 WAR and a 3.32 ERA.
Phil Hughes – (26 years old) – gave up 35 home runs, posted a career-best 2.5 WAR in 2009 when he started only 7 games.
Raul Ibanez – (40 years old) – free agent who managed a .761 OPS but a below average OBP.
Andruw Jones – (35 years old) – free agent who hit .197.
Robinson Cano – (29 years old) – free agent in 2014. Best second baseman in baseball and in his prime. Would have been MVP if not for Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.
Ivan Nova – (25 years old) – left off ALCS roster, 1.47 WHIP and 5.02 ERA during regular season.
Ichiro Suzuki – (38 years old) – free agent who had a below average OBP, has lost two steps defensively, and who had a much better year than 2011, which tells you everything about one of my favorite players.
This is an old team on the decline. Think about it this way – every player but Cano is either past his prime or isn’t very good.
Let’s go back to the bloated contracts of their star players. Texiera’s OPS has declined every year since 2007. Rodriguez’s OPS has gone down every year since 2007, which was the last year he played more than 138 games in a season. Derek Jeter is probably the worst defensive shortstop outside of Hanley Ramirez and his 2.1 WAR (2.0 average for a starter) in 2012 was his best in three years. Sabathia was very good in 2012, but he pitched the fewest innings since 2006, it was his highest ERA since 2007, and his lowest WAR since 2005.
It’s not that they’re bad, exactly, it’s that they’re almost to a man getting progressively worse.
In game 3 of the ALCS, the Yankees benched a player who will make 28 million in 2013 and their best player will command the largest free agent contract in baseball one year from now, which the Yankees will undoubtedly pay because they haven’t learned any lessons from giving idiotic long-term contracts to players in their 30’s. This is also why the Dodgers will be lousy in the near future, but that’s a rant for another time.
Anyway, 88 wins is probably optimistic for the Yankees in 2013, and a losing season is a real possibility for the first time since 1992.