- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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Masahiro Tanaka is the biggest sensation in baseball. CC Sabathia is an ace again. Derek Jeter is vintage Derek Jeter in his farewell season. David Robertson closes with ease. Mark Teixeira's wrist doesn't fall off.
Could this be the Yankees' year?
It sure could, but they are going to have combine all the money they have spent with a commodity that is unavailable to the highest bidder at the winter meetings -- luck. So, yes, the Yankees could have a dream season if all of the above, and more, happens.
If the Yankees are blessed with health then they could end 2014 with a parade. Now, I'm not predicting that, though I do believe they will return to the playoffs as the second wild card in the American League.
When you spend nearly half a billion dollars you should be improved, and the Yankees are. They lost Robinson Cano and still should have a much superior offense to the one that finished 16th in baseball in runs scored last season.
They do have potential issues to overcome.
Age and attrition in their infield could be their biggest obstacle. Teixeira may be the team's most important player because the Yankees don't really have any backup options for him at first. Teixeira must be close to a 30-100 guy to extend the lineup for it truly to be potent.
Jeter and Brian Roberts must have some semblance of health and mobility. While their bats are important, their range -- or lack thereof -- could be the difference between pitchers having a lot of good and bad outings. With Kelly Johnson -- and his 16 career games at third -- the Yankees' infield defense won't be special. Officials would probably be satisfied with adequate.
The infield depth is thinner than Sabathia's new waistline. Brendan Ryan, beginning on the DL, can field, but he can't hit. Besides him, the Yankees don't have much in the means of backups with the versatile Johnson listed all over the depth cart.
Behind the plate, Brian McCann seems like he was made to be a Yankee. He has a swing designed for a right-field porch, handles pitchers well and does his work like a professional. He brings a fire on the field and doesn't seem like the type who will have to put out many of them off of it.
The outfield should be very good. If healthy, the Yankees will have one of the best defenses in the game with two former center fielders flanking Jacoby Ellsbury. Between Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran, the Yankees will have a strong, predictable variable in consistently above-average outfield defense.
Ellsbury can be dynamic as a leadoff man and when you flip the lineup over with Gardner likely in the nine spot, there is a real speed variable for RBI guys like Beltran, Teixeira and McCann.
The pitching could be a strength. Sabathia had good numbers in the spring, even if his velocity is barely touching 90. Hiroki Kuroda is a pro's pro. Ivan Nova could become a top-of-the-rotation starter. Tanaka looks like he can handle New York. Michael Pineda could be the X factor with an All-Star level slider.
The bullpen will be watched closely with Mariano Rivera's retirement. Robertson likely will be fine at the end of games.
The bigger question mark is if there is a reliever or relievers to replace Robertson as the setup man. Shawn Kelley may receive the first crack, while Dellin Betances impressed in the spring and could eventually be the guy. Matt Thornton may be asked to be more than just a situational lefty.
So could this be the Yankees' year? Yeah, it sure could be, but they are going to need a little bit of luck.
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