- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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Spring training begins Tuesday, so our Countdown concludes today. To see all 20 lists that Wallace Matthews, Mark Simon and I have produced to get you ready for the storylines of this spring and beyond, click Countdown to Spring Training. Our final entry ranks the most important Yankees of 2013.
The FIVE MOST IMPORTANT YANKEES OF 2013
New York Yankees
1. ROBINSON CANO: With the Yankees' offense less powerful than in recent years, Cano must have an MVP or close to MVP-type season in his walk year. If you look at the Yankees' lineup, there really are not a lot of arrows pointing up, as in guys who are going to be better than in the past. Maybe Brett Gardner, but who else? That is why Cano must be Cano, maybe even a little better, so he can carry the offense.
2. MARK TEIXEIRA: To put Teixeira above any of the pitchers is something that can be questioned, but he is vital for similar reasons to Cano. The offense will not be as good, so Teixeira can't tail off, even if he admits he is on the downside of his career. Plus, with the left side figuring to be below average defensively, he and Cano need to be on the field so the Yankees have arguably the best defensive right side of the infield in the game.
New York Yankees
3. CC SABATHIA: You could easily make a case he should be No. 1 on the list. But the starting pitching, in theory and without injury, should be pretty good with ol' warhorses Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, behind Sabathia. Phil Hughes maybe isn't the ace some thought he could be, but he is a pretty good No. 4 starter. Ivan Nova and David Phelps give the Yankees the chance to have six legit starters.
But Sabathia will lead them. There is no doubt that without a big year from him, it is hard to see the Yankees winning the division or maybe even making the playoffs. Sabathia turns 33 this year.
4. MARIANO RIVERA: There is no Rafael Soriano backing up the 43-year-old Rivera. The greatest reliever in history is likely playing his final season and, if he is not the same closer as in years past, David Robertson or Joba Chamberlain would have to be the man. Rivera sounds very confident this winter, and, even with the knee injury and his age, who is going to bet against him?
5. DEREK JETER: Jeter was amazing in 2012. His 216 hits were the most in baseball. He had his knack back for coming through in big spots. He was aging well in his 38th year. Now, after his ankle injury, who knows? He doesn't. The Yankees don't. You don't. No one does.
But the Yankees need him. As exciting as Eduardo Nunez is as a player, until he proves otherwise, he will be exposed on defense with too much playing time. So Jeter's offense is needed, and his sure-handedness makes his declining range more livable.
QUESTION: Who do you think is the most significant Yankee?