Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks his team will be able to compete with the Red Sox for the AL East title this coming season.
"I think we're a team that people might say is in transition because there's a lot of young players being introduced into the lineup," Girardi said Wednesday, according to the Daily News." But these are good players, and these are impactful players, so I think we're a club that is fighting for our division. That's who I think we are."
"Obviously there will probably be more competition in spring training than maybe in any year I've ever been here, but that's a good thing," Girardi continued. "I think competition brings out the best [in people], and I think there's a group of young players that's really close and really push each other and pull for each other, and a lot of them play the same position, but I think it's a great thing, and I expect to fight for the division. Your first goal is to win your division, and that's what we're going to try to do."
The Red Sox, who won the AL East last season and lost to the Indians in the ALDS, traded for White Sox LHP Chris Sale earlier this month. He joins a rotation that includes David Price and 2016 CY Young winner Rick Porcello.
"Obviously they've improved your club in adding him," Girardi said about Sale. "They've improved their club. We've tried to improve our club, and the bottom line in this game is you've got to go play it on the field. On paper it doesn't really mean anything. Injuries happen and change the dynamics of teams. Sometimes guys don't have the years you expect them to have. You gotta go play the games on the field."
The Yankees finished 84-78 last season, missing the playoffs for the third time in the last four years.
Most fans are going to read these quotes and rip Girardi. But what's he supposed to say? Shouldn't he suggest his players will be able to keep up with any team in the league? Don't you want your team's manager to shoot for the division title?
In my view, and seemingly many others, the Yankees will have a tough time maintaining pace with the Red Sox in 2017 assuming Boston's roster stays healthy and plays up to expected performance. However, bear in mind that the Yankees fought back with lesser personnel at their disposal over the second half of last season and still made a run at the division title and wild card spot before fading away in mid-September.
The mantra of the Yankees in 2017 -- if the roster remains as currently constituted -- will revolve around the development of their young players at the big league level as the front office determines the fate of several prospects and whether their impact will come in the organization or as asset.
Personally, I do not suspect the Yankees will be pushovers by any means, and with some luck, they could indeed be competitive enough to fight for a wild card slot. In this instance, I have no problem with Girardi's assertions.