The last time the New York Yankees came to Comerica Park in early April, things did not go well. It snowed, David Price got frostbite (probably), and the Yankees won three of four. While that skid didn't necessarily doom the 2015 Detroit Tigers -- they won their next two series, both against divisional opponents -- it certainly wasn't fun.
The Tigers will look to reverse that trend in 2016 as they kick off their home schedule on Friday against New York. Jordan Zimmermann gets the honor of starting the home opener, facing Yankees phenom Luis Severino. Veterans Mike Pelfrey and CC Sabathia will square off on Saturday afternoon, while Justin Verlander and Masahiro Tanaka are slated for a Sunday night showdown on ESPN.
In order to help us get re-acquainted with the Bronx Bombers, we asked Tanya Bondurant, managing editor of Pinstripe Alley, SB Nation's excellent Yankees community, a few questions about the upcoming season.
1. I’ll admit, I was shocked to find that, at one point deep into the offseason, the Yankees had not signed a single free agent. While that may no longer be true in the literal sense, the Yankees skipped out on many of the premier free agents on this year’s market, instead looking to fill their needs via trade. How do you grade the Yankees’ front office on their offseason, and is this team in a position to build on last year’s Wild Card appearance?
I’d give the Yankees a solid B+ on their offseason. Bringing in Starlin Castro for nothing has already been a great upgrade over Stephen Drew, and Aroldis Chapman should help further solidify the bullpen when he returns. Yeah, I’d have liked a Greinke or Price, but I think they did pretty well without hurting themselves in the future.
2. Among the many trades completed this offseason, the Yankees bolstered their bullpen by acquiring Reds uber-closer Aroldis Chapman. However, they also dealt solid arms like Adam Warren and Justin Wilson (thanks, by the way). All told, is the Yankees bullpen still as strong as it was last year? Better? Worse?
I think the bullpen is definitely better than it was last year. Having Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman as the backend of the bullpen is stronger than what they rolled with last year. I don’t think anyone will really be lamenting the loss of Warren or Wilson this season, thankfully.
3. The Yankees featured the second-best offense in the American League last season (in terms of runs scored), but a lot of that production came via aging players like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran. Can the Yankees repeat those numbers in 2016?
Maybe? I guess the goal would be to get more even production up and down the lineup. A few players should hopefully be better than they were in 2015, which could offset less production from Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Beltran. Those three guys are still totally capable of producing, though.
4. The Tigers will get their first look at Dominican phenom Luis Severino on Friday. Severino burst onto the scene with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts last season, but posted a 4.37 FIP. What are Yankees fans expecting from their youngest starter in 2016?
Severino is great, and I think fans are expecting a lot out of him. He’s really the first pitching prospect the team has had pay off in a while. That kind of dominance that he showed coming up through the system is super promising. Everyone is aware that he is really young and might run into a few bumps along the way, but he should be a solid member of the rotation.
5. Tucked away behind the crop of expensive veterans on the Yankees’ roster is a farm system that has steadily improved over the past few years. Poor Greg Bird is out for the season with a clipped wing (shoulder surgery), but there are several other young players who could have an impact this season. Which prospect will help carry the Yankees into the postseason this year?
If a prospect helps carry the Yankees to the postseason this year, it’ll probably be an outfielder like Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, or Slade Heathcott. The outfield starters are definitely the most injury prone group of Yankees, and the outfield is where the team has the most depth. We’ve all been really excited about Judge for a few years now, and we all assume that the right field job will be his after 2016, but it would be great if he came up and made an impact even sooner.
6. How many games will the Yankees win in 2016? Where will they finish in the AL East?
Oh geeze, either extreme is possible. It’s April and there’s no need to be pessimistic right now, so I’ll say they will win 89 games and finish first in the AL East. What’s the point if you can’t bet on your team, right?
Once again, a big thank you to Tanya and the rest of the Pinstripe Alley staff for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure to check out Pinstripe Alley for their excellent Yankees news coverage and analysis all season long!