The Yankees have the ability — if they can find someone to sign or find a trade partner — to actively address their hole at second base. Same for their uncertainty at third base, their need for additional rotation depth, and their lack of experience in the bullpen. The Yankees have a few months left to do something about those situations, which is the reason we write about them and talk about them all the time.
But these five uncertainties might be more important for 2014 success, and there’s very little the Yankees can do about them.
1. No. 1 starter
The Yankees aren’t going to get anyone to replace CC Sabathia. They’re having a hard enough time upgrading on their No. 4 starter, so upgrading their ace seems next to impossible (unless Masahiro Tanaka proves to be as good as Yu Darvish). Sabathia’s transition into his mid-30s — not to mention his health — is perhaps the Yankees most important pitching development of 2014.
2. First base
Three more years of Mark Teixeira. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if only because the farm system doesn’t have a replacement any higher than Single-A, but the Yankees need Teixeira to be more than a good glove. He might not hit for average any more, but the Yankees can still get offensive production from him if he’s able to work the count and hit 30-plus home runs. Strength in that surgically repaired wrist is a must.
3. Shortstop (or whatever position Derek Jeter is playing)
The Yankees have proactively signed some shortstop depth, but Jeter is still a big part of 2014. It was only two years ago that he led the league in hits. The Jeter we’re used to seeing would be a right-handed table setter who fits nicely with lefties Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. But can he still hit? Can he remotely play shortstop? If he can’t, the problem goes beyond the no-offense approach of his replacement. Figuring out what to do with Jeter could be a total mess.
Repeat after me: Dave Robertson is not Mariano Rivera. And a pitcher doesn’t have to be Mariano Rivera to be a good closer. That said, comparisons to Rivera are inevitable for whoever steps into the ninth inning for the Yankees, and right now Robertson has no serious challenger for that role. His WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio were the best of his career last season. Will that change with a game on the line? I’m not sure there’s a free agent reliever out there who’s a no-doubt upgrade.
5. Third base
Not in the way that we usually talk about — finding a replacement for A-Rod — but in this way: What if Rodriguez is allowed to play? Or what if he gets only a 50-game suspension? Is there a greater wild card, in every way possible, in all of baseball? Rodriguez’s suspension is completely out of the Yankees hands, and if he’s back, the Yankees are either stuck with him or forced to release him and pay the bill.
Associated Press photo