Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and all that jazz to Yankee fans everywhere. It's been an incredibly quiet off season for the 27-Time Champs, as Brian Cashman has been far too busy repelling down buildings than improving a, quite frankly, borderline 90 win team as it stands today.
As much as I'd love to say "this team is great, they won 97 games last year!", I really can't. Yes, last year was a great season considering the circumstances the team was under. Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Ivan Nova all pitched above and beyond anyone thought going into the season. But ultimately, the Yankees fell short of even the ALCS, losing to the Tigers in a heart-breaking 5-game series. While Game 5 was not to hang on the pitching (the Yankees left the bases loaded, what, 15 times that game?), it still doesn't change the fact that the pitching is the Yanks' #1 concern once again.
CC, Nova, and what? A.J. is, well, he's A.J. A bounce back season from him should not be anticipated. Garcia, as great as he was last year, is still 35, and I wouldn't bank on him having another year like 2011. And then you have the 5th spot. Whoever gets it - Phil Hughes or Hector Noesi; well, they don't even have real expectations going into the season. If the Yankees were to make the playoffs again, I don't think even the Mets would be scared to face this staff.
The offense, while still one of the best in baseball, also has some red flags. Alex Rodriguez is probably the biggest concern. Turning 37, A-Rod is no longer an MVP-candidate. No longer in the top 5 players list. He is an aging star who hasn't played in 150 games since 2007. While it seems like he can still hit around .280 and play an above-average third base, he's not a cleanup hitter anymore, and probably won't hit 30 home runs again unless he makes some calls to his cousin Yuri.
Another concern in that offense has to be the captain, Derek Jeter. While having a superb second half of the season, Jeet too is declining and will be 38 next June. As ageless a legend Jeter will go down as, every great player goes through this. This could be Jeter's last year as the starting shortstop, and it's hard to say he'll play so well that the front office decides otherwise next season.
The reason why I don't go out and say "Cash, you need to this....." is because I really don't see him doing anything. They want to stay under the luxury tax, and, despite there being still nice pieces on the market in Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson, if Cash really wanted to do something, he would have done it already.
And the Yankees, as they stand today, are in for a wake-up call next season. We can hope and pray that the Yanks will surprise us again, but I'm an optimistic realist. I can't see the Yanks making the playoffs next season, and if they were to, they'd fall well short of #28, as they did in 2011.