It was nice while it lasted right? What am I talking about? The ability of the New York Yankees to be competitive with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox in what is known as the AL BEast division. This off-season the Yankees will be saying good-bye to several players that have made them the contenders that they were for the past few seasons. The likes of Javier Vazquez, Lance Berkman, likely Andy Pettite, and one of A.J. Burnett or Kerry Wood will no longer be in Yankees uniform for the 2011 season. These will create major holes on the team and it is quite possible that the shoes of the departed may never be filled. Sorry Yankees fans, the future does not look good.
If you think the Yankees will be active on the free agent market, forget it. Cliff Lee has already expressed a desire to return to the Rangers, Carl Crawford to the Angels is rumored to be all but a done deal, and the Yankees have to worry about signing two living NYC legends in Jeter and Rivera who are likely too old to warrant the contract extensions they will inevitably ink to help the team avoid a PR nightmare. Curtis Granderson (due a big raise) is a candidate to be traded, but who will replace his bat at the top and/or bottom of the lineup? Will the replacement be Derek Jeter? Who is the real Derek Jeter? After his horrible 2010 season, it really is difficult to expect a rebound to his 2009 form. I’m sure the Yankees fans will be hoping and praying though! Regardless of who bats at the top of the order, the Yankees have a vacant DH and two starting pitching positions to fill. Jesus Montero is expected to take over one of the spots. Despite his sub-par 2010 season, I still think he has a bright future. Will he replace what Lance Berkman and the hodgepodge of regulars who manned DH in ‘10 brought to the lineup? I don’t think so. So who takes over the remaining SP spots?
The Yankees infield will have a new, older look to it. Alex Rodriguez will be 35. Derek Jeter will be 37. Mark Teixiera will be 31. Jorje Posada will be 39. Robinson Cano is still in his peak years, but carrying the geriatrics to his left, right, and far right are pretty significant expectations to place on the kid. Since no amount of money will allow the Yankees to relegate these eight-figure contracts to the bench, I think the infield will be a major question for the Yankees moving forward.
Bottom line is that the window for the Yankees to be among the heavyweights in the division and contenders for the World Series is officially closed. It might be a long time before the Yankees even sniff 3rd place again in the AL East with the Blue Jays and Orioles on the rise. I really do feel bad for the passionate die-hard Yankees fans out there. I feel like they have been teased the past few seasons with one measley WS title in 10 years of outspending everyone, and now will have to go back to the losing ways of the Mattingly era. It truly is a sad story. I guess the light at the end of the tunnel is that the Yankees are only locked into Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera’s decline phases for another 7 years and $309 million. After that, they can think about starting to infuse some young talent back into the system.
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