The Yankees lost to the Tigers in Game 4 of the ALCS on Thursday, meaning they've been swept out of the playoffs. And it was a pretty terrible series for the Bronx Bombers, aside from the ninth inning in Game 1. Let us dive in and remember the campaign that was.
What went right
The Yankees had the best record in the American League at 95-67, so a lot went right in the regular season. Robinson Cano had an MVP-caliber season (he just happened to have it in the same year Miguel Cabrera made history and Mike Trout announced his presence with authority). Derek Jeter bounced back and looked young again, just as Ichiro Suzuki did once he was acquired. Hiroki Kuroda was a brilliant find for the starting rotation and Rafael Soriano and David Robertson formed a potent back-end of the bullpen after Mariano Rivera went down. Then the Yankees won a thrilling five-game ALDS against the Orioles to advance to the ALCS.
What went wrong
Rivera's injury. CC Sabathia had a few injuries and battled inconsistency down the stretch before returning to form late. The rotation behind Sabathia and Kuroda was pretty bad, aside from when Andy Pettitte was healthy -- but that was only for 12 starts. Most of all, though, the Yankees didn't win the World Series. For many organizations making the playoffs means a successful season, but the Yankees have been there 17 of the last 18 seasons. Not getting a ring means a failed season, so the Yankees failed in 2012. The ugliness of the ALCS -- with the Jeter injury, lack of offense and Alex Rodriguez nonsense -- is mere piling on.
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MVP: Cano in regular season.
LVP: Cano in the postseason. The lineup was collectively awful, but Cano's 0-for-29 stretch is inexcusable for an elite-level player. And do not say A-Rod. He barely even played.
Free agents to be: OF Ichiro Suzuki, RP Derek Lowe, RP Mariano Rivera, 2B Robinson Cano ($15 million club option), OF Curtis Granderson ($15 million club option), OF Nick Swisher, SP Hiroki Kuroda, C Russell Martin, SP Freddy Garcia, RP Pedro Feliciano ($4.5 million club option), SP Andy Pettitte, DH Andruw Jone, DH Raul Ibanez, 3B Eric Chavez
Gameplan heading into the offseason
Wow, that's a huge chunk of the active roster heading to free agency. The easiest ones there are Rivera, Pettitte and Cano. Cano's option will obviously be picked up and Rivera and Pettitte will be back if they choose. I also think they'll re-up with Martin. Granderson is a tricky one. He's hit more than 40 homers in each of the past two years, but his strikeouts are rising, his average and on-base percentage are lowering, his lefty splits are back to being a huge problem and his defensive range is diminishing. Paying him $15 million may be a bit steep. Then again, it's the Yankees.
As far as left field, keep in mind Brett Gardner will be back at full health. So if the Yankees pick up Granderson's option and retain Swisher -- which will be costly -- they'll be set out there. If they let Granderson and/or Swisher walk, Josh Hamilton would make a ton of sense, being a left-handed hitter in that ballpark. Or what about a cheap gamble on Melky Cabrera?
Then, of course, there's the whole A-Rod mess. It needs to be fixed. Whether they trade him -- which would require eating a significant portion of the nine figures left on his contract, which runs through 2017 -- or have some sort of "we make up" discussion between A-Rod, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman, something has to be done.
Finally, the starting rotation must be dealt with. If Pettitte retires (again) and Kuroda walks, the Yankees are left with Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. Michael Pineda is returning from a serious arm injury, too. I'd expect the Yankees to trade for help (Matt Garza, maybe?) or hit the free-agency market if both Kuroda and Pettitte are gone. If they're looking to spend big, they could try to knock Zack Greinke over. Also, Jake Peavy, Dan Haren and James Shields have club options that may not be picked up. Other names that are possible: Kyle Lohse, Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson and Francisco Liriano. Of all the names listed, I'm expecting one to be in the Yankees rotation next season, unless both Pettitte and Kuroda come back. I do not expect them to be content with Nova and Pineda both in the rotation and no backup options.
Ridiculously premature prediction for 2013
Playoffs again, for the 18th time in 19 years. No ring, though. Big George would not have put up with this. Will his sons?