2009 MLB Preview: #1 New York Yankees

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Offseason Movement: To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Bronx Bombers went out and threw gobs of money at top free agents after missing the postseason last year. They signed the biggest bat on the market in 1B Mark Teixeira, then added the two best arms in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The Yanks also added 1B/OF Nick Swisher via a trade with the White Sox, but they might ship him elsewhere since he’s drawing attention from clubs like the Pirates, Nationals and Braves. With Xavier Nady being penciled in at right fielder, Swisher might become expendable.

Top Prospect: Jesus Montero, C/1B
The 19-year old Montero is being groomed as a catcher but could make the move to one of the corner infield spots if he doesn’t clean up his footwork behind the dish. Said to have excellent strength and raw power, Montero could emerge as a future All-Star. He has a great arm and that’s why the Bombers envision him as a future catcher but regardless of his eventual position, Montero will be given the opportunity to play in the big leagues as long as he continues to work on his plate discipline and patience at the plate.

The Big Question: How will A-Rod’s absence affect the offense?
After publicly admitting in late February that he used performance-enhancing drugs as a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003, a report surfaced in early March that Alex Rodriguez would have to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum. A-Rod had the surgery a couple weeks ago and the latest reports state he could return to the lineup before his original target date of May 15. If Rodriguez can return in mid-May at almost full health and bounce back quickly, there’s little doubt that the Yankees’ offense will once again be powerful. But if he struggles, believe it or not the Bombers could have trouble scoring runs as the lineup is set to battle age, inexperience and injury concerns.

Outlook: Boo! Hiss! The Yankees aren’t even close to being the top team in baseball! You’re an idiot! Look, there’s a lot to dislike about this club and it has nothing to do with how much money they spent in the offseason in effort to rebuild their roster. Cody Ransom is one hell of a drop off from Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, while Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui are all battling age, injuries or both. And who’s to say that CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett won’t turn out to be huge free agent busts? But the bottom line is that the additions of Sabathia, Burnett and Mark Teixeira have put the Bombers back in the driver’s seat in a highly competitive AL East. And if A-Rod returns to full strength and finds his stroke in late May or early June, the lineup will once again score plenty of runs. Assuming everyone stays healthy (and that might be assuming too much), the Yankees still have the best collection of talent in the American League from top to bottom. Yes, there are concerns about A-Rod, Posada, Chien-Ming Wang and Hideki Matsui staying healthy. And yes, there are even bigger concerns about Ransom, Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano and Joba Chamberlain stepping up. But given their starting four of Sabathia, Wang, Burnett and Andy Pettitte, there’s no doubt that if things come together for the Yankees and they make the postseason, then they could also wind up playing in October.

Projection: 1st AL East

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