After losing more than half their starting lineup to injury during the 2013 season and two legends to retirement at the end of the year, the New York Yankees needed to address almost every area of the team heading into the 2014 season.
As of now, the starting rotation only consists of three pitchers: C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova – an ace looking to have a bounce-back season, a veteran who flamed out towards the end of 2013 and a young righty trying to make the jump from good to great. The Yankees have long coveted the recently-posted Masahiro Tanaka to address problems in the rotation, but there’s no guarantee the Japanese ace will come to New York with the new posting system.
The Alex Rodriguez saga has been a media goldmine, a fiasco complete with a PED scandal, attempted buying of evidence and potential season-long suspension. It has yet to be determined who will be the Yankees’ third baseman in 2014. There’s also been a ton of attention devoted to Derek Jeter, criticizing his defense and questioning whether or not he can stay healthy and contribute offensively.
Yet, in the midst of all of this, there hasn’t been much attention paid to Mark Teixeira. It’s strange because, with a history of injuries, declining production and a huge contract, he’s one of the biggest question marks on the team heading into next season.
True, Jeter only played in 17 games last year. However, Teixeira played in 15 and was limited to 123 games in 2012. He just doesn’t get as much attention because he’s not Jeter and stayed down when he went down. News came early that he was done for the season, and Yankees fans came to terms with it. Jeter, on the other hand, repeatedly attempted to come back and repeatedly re-injured himself. Really, it just meant he tried to return too soon, but it made him seem more fragile.
In case Jeter has another injury-shortened season, the Yankees have added infield depth with Brendan Ryan, Kelly Johnson and Dean Anna in addition to Eduardo Nunez. As of now, the Yankees only have one first baseman: Teixeira. Unless they re-sign Mark Reynolds, a Teixeira injury next season could mean Vernon Wells at first base.
Everyone also loves to speculate about Jeter’s declining abilities. Sabermetricians maintain that he’s one of the most overrated shortstops ever to play the game defensively. Teixeira’s defense is still top-notch, but the same cannot be said for his offense.
Teixeira came to the Yankees in 2009 and had a monster year capped off with a World Series title – and his numbers have plummeted since. Thanks to Yankees Stadium’s short porch in right field, he’s maintained his power numbers with three straight years of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs from 2009 to 2011.
However, his batting average dropped from .292 in 2009 to .256 in 2010 to .248 in 2011. He managed to raise the mark to .251 in 2012, but batted a pathetic .151 in the 15 games he played in 2013.
Money is also a huge controversy Teixeira has avoided. Jeter just got a one-year contract worth $12 million, which many believe was too much money. Furthermore, pundits have gone bonkers talking about what Brian Cashman could do with the $25 million Rodriguez is due to make this year and the $61 million owed to him from 2015 through 2017. Teixeira is owed $22.5 a year through 2016 but despite injuries and declining production, few talk about how bad his contract is.
There are loads of questions about Sabathia and Jeter having bounce-back seasons after a massively disappointing 2013, but one of the team’s biggest question marks, Teixeira, has been overlooked. I’m not trying to bash Teixeira. If he can return to his 2009 form, he’ll give the Yankees a bona fide no. 3 hitter and Gold Glove-caliber defender. If not, however, he could potentially handcuff the organization like Rodriguez has.