Though some players like Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond and Pedro Alvarez have yet to sign and could conceivably make an impressionable improvement on a team, there’s enough of a painted picture to start figuring out where the New York Yankees fit into contention this season.
In 2015, New York won 87 games, a three win improvement from the previous season and good for the fourth best record in the American League. On a positive note, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira far exceeded expectations most of the year. On a negative note, once they stopped the offense went completely dormant after a mostly elite season and the starting pitching was never among the best. The bullpen was generally productive, with good contributions from Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve in addition to elite years from Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
From a health standpoint, there were expected injuries to Teixeira, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka, but they exceeded expectations in that department while unexpected injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Nathan Eovaldi hurt the Yankees’ performances down the stretch.
These sorts of things happen every year and can only be accounted for with educated guesses before the season begins. Here are the teams decidedly better than the Yankees, who, without question, are going to finish with better records barring catastrophic injuries.
The Better Teams:
Texas Rangers: A full year of Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, two front-of-the-rotation arms possibly better than anything in the Yankees’ rotation being added to a team who won an extra game and the first round of the playoffs? The Rangers, on paper, are better than the Yankees this season and finished last season extremely strong as well. They have some young players who can take the next step and a very good offense to go with a pretty nice rotation. The Yankees win in the bullpen but it’s not enough.
Kansas City Royals: Two time defending AL champions and they resigned their biggest target, Alex Gordon. The Royals are the only team in the AL who can claim near equality to the Yankees’ bullpen, but they have a younger offense and a better defense, as well as a more durable rotation.
Houston Astros: I’m comfortable adding the Astros to this list, guaranteeing I don’t believe the Yankees will finish with a top three record in the AL regardless of health. The Astros finished a game worse than New York and both teams struggled down the stretch but Houston did win a one game playoff to finish the Yankees’ season. Not that that was a big deal, but the Astros are in a better position going into 2016 due to its age. Houston’s middle of the order will likely consist of: Carlos Correa (for a full year) and Carlos Gomez and Evan Gattis. Correa can run into a sophomore slump, Gattis will likely start the season late with an injury and Gomez isn’t particularly young, but they’re a better bet than Teixeira, Beltran and Rodriguez, who are all in the twilights of their careers. A younger, deeper rotation and legitimate back of the bullpen makes up for the Yankees’ advantage in said bullpen.