The Yankees have a long path to go to get to the World Series this coming year, especially given that their team remains at a standstill, unexpected to improve greatly from last year. It is not a positive sign that the Yankees rotation will most likely consist of C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, with a likely spring training knockdown competition between Hector Noesi, A.J. Burnett, Dellin Betances and Phil Hughes for the final two rotation spots.
Both Hughes and Burnett had horrific seasons this past year, while Noesi and Betances were both late season call-ups. Adding to the equation, Ivan Nova might enter a sophomore slump (always a possibility), while Freddy Garcia is unlikely to repeat his astonishing 2011 season.
The Yankees have very little margin for error going into 2012, which can ruin the chances of them not only winning the World Series, but even making the postseason. With the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim now serious contenders, the Rays adding a nice hand to the rotation with Matt Moore and the Red Sox players starting to adjust to their new team, it will be a dogfight to the finish in the American League postseason race this upcoming season. The Yankees will have to play their cards right this year, and not sit back and assume that making the postseason is a given.
If the Yankees want some rings in 2012, here are several “must do” items for the team to succeed in 2012:
First of all, the Yankees must get rid of A.J. Burnett. For the last two years, Burnett had horrific seasons and should not be given another chance, despite his large contract. Without Burnett, the Yankees could consider trying a new arm in the rotation, such as Dellin Betances, who is clearly ready for a major league stint. The Yankees this offseason should trade Burnett to a team desperate for a starting pitcher (which should not be difficult given the shallow pool of available talent) and who are willing to give up a useable prospect, which would provide the Yankees with future depth.
Even though it is unlikely, the right thing to do with Joba Chamberlain is to give him a strong opportunity for a comeback season in 2012. I am not saying he should be in the rotation for the season, but he should definitely be given a strong look. Pitchers often improve after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Chamberlain left the rotation after the 2009 season, with a stint in the bullpen for the last two seasons. Up to the time of his injury, Chamberlain pitched well in the bullpen, mostly as the seventh inning option. The Yankees are considering Hector Noesi and other rookies for the starting rotation in 2012. So why not try Joba? Perhaps he will surprise all of us and fulfill the hype that accompanied him since being drafted in the 1st round by the Yankees in 2006.
Another option (although unlikely) is to place Adam Warren in the rotation. He is 24-years-old, and has a powerful fastball in the mid 90′s. His four-seamer can reach 97 mph and could leave major league batters clueless. He has a world of potential, and is ready for a major league stint sooner rather than later.
The Bronx Bombers roster is certainly not set and Brian Cashman needs to search the trade market before his squad will be able to compete for a World Series title. Other teams are considerably high on Eduardo Nunez and the Yankees would be well advised to find a deal involving Eduardo Nunez, Dellin Betances and one of their surplus catching prospects for Gio Gonzalez or similar available starter, who could help provide the Yankees with a balanced and deep rotation.
The Yankees also must keep Montero in New York. Montero had a great stint at the end of the season, and will hopefully continue to provide an offensive spark for the Yankees throughout the 2012 season. Montero is a great offensive force and would make the dangerous Yankees offense (Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Russell Martin etc.) that much more powerful.
Lastly, the Yankees must monitor Manny Banuelos‘ status. Handled correctly, Banuelos could be this season’s Nova. To get through the regular season and then be a force in the 2012 postseason, the Yankees will need to make changes and several decisions as to their roster. But a successful offseason can minimize the risks and chances for failure in the coming season, by filling critical spots with the right players. The Yankees have many needs in their offseason to-do list in order to repeat their 2009 performance. If the Yankees play their cards right, the path to World Series #28 could be in sight.