Interestingly, a few days before, I’d been thinking about the narrative of the Yankees heading into 2016, and how so much of it is being driven by their lack of free agent spending this winter. It’s almost historically unprecedented for the Yankees to sit out an entire free agent class, but this winter, the team decided to make their upgrades through the trade market instead, and thus have not signed a single player to a major league contract this off-season. With the Red Sox stocking up for another run, the Blue Jays likely to still be a force, and the Rays and Orioles doing enough to keep themselves around .500, the Yankees are in the unusual position of being something of an afterthought in the AL East.
Thus, we get questions like this one from Christian, asking for some hope that his team might contend in 2016. Well, fear not, Christian; not only do I think there are reasons to think the Yankees are legitimate contenders, I think they might actually be the most underrated team in baseball heading into the season.
Let’s start with the obvious; the Yankees were contenders last year, so it’s not like they’re trying to bridge some kind of big gap that the 2015 team couldn’t overcome. The Bronx Bombers won 87 games a year ago, and it wasn’t a sequencing-aided fluke; they were an 87 win team by BaseRuns as well. That they made the Wild Card game wasn’t some kind of happy accident.
Now, you don’t want to just take last year’s results, add in the performances of the new guys, and call that a 2016 projection; that isn’t how life works. The team addedAroldis Chapman, for instance, but their overall bullpen performance probably won’t be substantially better, since the guys who are coming back should be expected to perform a bit worse, and Chapman’s essentially replacingJustin Wilson, who was tremendous in 2015. Likewise, Starlin Castro should be an upgrade over what the team got from their second baseman a year ago, but they also have to account for the fact that they probably won’t get the same level of production from first base or designated hitter again.