October 7, 2011
New York Yankees
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines an overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski, and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview.
Signs of hope: Curtis Granderson hit a career-high 41 home runs and emerged as an MVP candidate thanks in large part to a retooled swing that shored up his problems against lefties. Robinson Cano had a season that generated MVP discussion, hitting 28 homers to go with a .302/.349/.533. Those two helped the lineup make up for a bit of flagging production from the older players, as the offense scored 5.35 runs per game, second in the AL. Meanwhile, the team was surprisingly effective at run prevention (4.06 runs per game, third in the league) thanks to another strong year from CC Sabathia (3.00 ERA ) and the emergence of Ivan Nova (3.70 ERA).
Signs of disaster: Alex Rodriguez was limited to 99 games and 16 homers due to thumb and knee injuries, the latter of which required in-season surgery; by the time the playoffs began, he was a shadow of himself, and while he's expected to heal fully, the fact remains that the team still owes him $143 million over the next six years. Derek Jeter had a woeful first half as he reached the 3,000 hit plateau, and even with a strong second half, he is clearly a liability against righties (.277/.329/.338) better suited for the bottom third of the lineup; the Yankees still owe him a minimum of $36 million over the next two seasons. A.J. Burnett posted an ERA above 5.00 for the second season in a row, and while he found a moment of redemption in the postseason, he's owed $33 million for the next two seasons.
Signs you can ignore: Despite what was arguably Sabathia's best regular season showing with the Yankees,he Sabathia laid an egg in the postseason, posting a 6.23 ERA in three appearances. The schedule is partially to blame for that; a rain suspension limited him to two innings in Game 1of the ALDS, and his other two outings, including the first relief appearance of his career in Game 5, both came in the uncharted territory of two days' rest. The big man can opt out of his seven-year, $161 million deal this winter, and while the Yankees have a fair bit of young pitching talent on the way, they have no true ace without him and will almost certainly re-sign him if he opts out. —Jay Jaffe, Baseball Prospectus
Bowden's Bold Move
The Yankees haven't made a real splash in free agency since signing Mark Teixeira and Sabathia before the 2009 season, but they should go hard after Wilson, who might be the best pitcher on the market (assuming Sabathia doesn't opt out). Also, Prince Fielder's left-handed power makes him the perfect fit for Yankee Stadium. The Yankees should make a strong play for him, especially given Rodriguez' decline and Teixiera's inability to produce in the post-season. I know they might need Rodriguez to DH in a couple of years, but Fielder is too good to pass up. When you're the Yankees, that's the kind of move you make. —Jim Bowden
Hopes and Fears
Worst-case scenario: 85-77
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus.