Let's Go Tribe's American League Preview: New York Yankees

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Let's Go Tribe's look at the Indians' competition around the AL begins with the Yankees, who spent more than some nations' GDP this offseason in an attempt to get back to the playoffs.

Between now and Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at each of the other American League teams, to see what they've done during the offseason, and what their outlook is for 2014.

New York Yankees

2013 Record: 85-77 (3rd in A.L. East), 6-1 vs. Cleveland

650 runs scored (10th of 15 in AL), 671 runs allowed (8th of 15 in AL)

The Yankees woke up in 1st place on Memorial Day last year, but by the end of June they'd dropped to 6.5 games back, and they never got back into the mix for the AL East crown. They stuck around the Wild Card race until pretty late in the season, but Yankee Death Day arrived on September 25th (and there was great rejoicing), and they finished with their lowest winning percentage since 1992.

Injuries were part of the problem for the offense, as only Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Brett Gardner missed fewer than 20 games, but even when on the field most of the lineup just didn't do that well. Cano turned in another great season, but he and Gardner were the only Yankees with an OPS better than .688 in 250+ plate appearances. he 650 runs they scored were their lowest total since 1990. These were not your father's Yankees (or your granddad's, or your great-granddad's).

In addition to all that, the Alex Rodriguez saga got uglier and uglier, as shortly after he returned from an injury, his connections to the Biogenesis scandal landed him a 200-game+ suspension intended to keep him off the field for the rest of 2013 and all of 2014. He appealed, which allowed him to play out the remainder of August and September, and he put up decent numbers, but turned the locker room into an even larger circus than the Bronx is used to.

The pitching was a bit better for New York, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova both turned in solid seasons and Andy Pettitte came out of retirement to post solid numbers. CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career though.

The franchise's worst season in more than two decades meant massive changes over the offseason were likely. Ownership had said for two years that the team would get below $189 million in payroll for 2014, in order to reset their luxury tax bills, but many doubted they'd stick to their guns, coming off such a disappointing season. Sure enough, when the time came, the Yankees did what they do best, and spent a fortune to bring in a number of new players.

Key offseason additions:

Masahiro Tanaka (SP), Jacoby Ellsbury (OF), Carlos Beltran (OF), Brian McCann (C), Kelly Johnson (3B), Brian Roberts (2B), Matt Thornton (RP)

Key offseason departures:

Robinson Cano (2B), Mariano Rivera (RP), Curtis Granderson (OF), Andy Pettitte (SP), Phil Hughes (SP), Lyle Overbay (1B), Boone Logan (RP)

2014 Payroll: ~$200 million

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Brian McCann

4

1B

Mark Teixeira

2

2B

Brian Roberts

0

3B

Kelly Johnson

2

SS

Derek Jeter

0

LF

Brett Gardner

2

CF

Jacoby Ellsbury

4

RF

Carlos Beltran

2

DH

Alfonso Soriano

2

TOTAL

18

Indian who has killed the Yankees:

No one has an OPS of .800+ against New York

Yankee who has killed the Indians:

Mark Teixeira - .315/.417/.550, .967 OPS, 14 HR

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

CC Sabathia

3

2

Hiroki Kuroda

3

3

Masahiro Tanaka

5

4

Ivan Nova

3

5

David Phelps

1

RP

Bullpen

2

TOTAL

17

2014 Outlook:

How can a team with a $200-million payroll have that infield? All nine of their projected starters in the lineup are already 30 or older, and four of them are at least 36. New additions Ellsbury, McCann, and Beltran will make more than $53 million in 2014, but they don't do much more than replace the production lost when Cano and Granderson departed. I expect them to score a few more runs than they did last year, but I also think they'll still be below average in that department.

Tanaka gives the rotation a much-needed boost, and I expect Sabathia's production to rebound (he's lost a ton of weight this offseason), but the retirement of Mariano Rivera will hurt the bullpen. It looks like a pretty good pitching staff to me, but not good enough to carry a mediocre offense very far.

There's certainly enough talent on the roster for them to contend, but they don't look more than a few games better than they were last year, and while they won 85 games, they had the run differential of a 79-win team, which means even being a few games better than last year in terms of individual performance may only get them back to 85 wins again. I'm not optimistic enough to count the Yankees out, but for the first time in 20 years, I'm not expecting the Yankees to make the playoffs.

PECOTA Projection: 82-80 (3rd in East), 715 runs scored, 703 runs allowed

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