Yankees Move to Improve Club in 2014

Howard Goldin

Bronx NY---The year 2014 has not yet begun, but the New York Yankees, unlike their crosstown rivals in Queens, have already made important changes in order to improve the team.

In a statement announcing the signing of catcher Brian McCann as the regular catcher for the next five years for a price of $85 million with a one year option,  Hal Steinbrenner said the following, “In Brian McCann,  we have made a significant improvement to a key position, while adding a high character presence to our clubhouse.”

During the 2013 season, Yankees catchers hit eight home runs, the lowest total for this position in the majors. What they have signed is a 29 year-old who is the only catcher in the majors who has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last six years.

The left-handed pull hitter should also find the short right-field fence quite inviting. At Thursday’s press conference, this point was emphasized. Yankee skipper Joe Girardi remarked, “This ballpark is made for his swing.” Yankee President Randy Levine commented in similar words, “His swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium.” General Manager Brian Cashman said, “To have that dominant bat is going to be a big adjustment. He’s made for this ballpark.’’

In addition to his acknowledged outstanding hitting with power, McCann is an experienced backstop in handling a pitching staff.  His catching ERA in 2013 of .298 is the lowest in the majors since Paul LoDuca’s in 2003.

McCann’s signing is only one example of the efforts ownership is intending to make in the off-season. The Yankees Managing Partner Hall Steinbrenner made clear that the supposed cap of $189 million will not stand in the way of improving the team, “We had a disappointing season. If we don’t make the playoffs, it’s unacceptable. Our work this off-season has just begun. The singular and unwavering desire of this organization is construct a team each and every season that is designed to play meaningful baseball deep into October. We have money to spend. We’re not going to do it [adhere to the $189 million supposed limit] at the expense of winning ”

To this end the Yankees have signed former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven year contract for $153 million with a one year option. The 30 year-old speedster, who led the majors in stolen bases last season will add another dimension to the club as the new center fielder. His press conference may be scheduled in several days as he just must pass a physical.

Brendan Ryan, who played 17 games at shortstop in September, was signed to a two-year contract as the backup to Derek Jeter, if his injury doesn’t properly heal or be used at third base, since the arbitrator has not yet made a decision regarding his proposed 211 game suspension by MLB.

Suitable pitchers to replace the retired Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera as well as Phil Hughes, now playing for Kansas City, may be next on the agenda. Hiroki Kuroda is possibly close to signing a one-year contract.

Whether or not second sacker Robinson Cano will return to the Yankees for a seven year contract is not clear. The latest rumor is that the Seattle Mariners are interested in outbidding the Yankees for his services.

Obviously, the changes already made are an indication that the Yankees will not be satisfied until they believe they have a club ready to compete for the World Series championship.