TAMPA, FL - FEB 19: Aaron Judge (99) and Giancarlo Stanton (27) catch up as they stretch during the New York Yankees spring training workout on February 19, 2018, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Yankees haven’t celebrated an American League East title since 2012. Will they finally reclaim the division in 2019?
Let’s go with… definitely maybe.
Baseball Prospectus released its annual PECOTA(Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) projections on Thursday, and the Yankees are currently favorites to win the AL East with a 95-67 regular season record. Trailing in the division are the defending World Series champion Red Sox (89-73, 2nd place), Rays (86-76, 3rd place), Blue Jays (76-86, 4th place), and Orioles (59-103, 5th place).
PECOTA’s projections also include total runs scored and total runs allowed, and the Yankees are slated to score the most runs in baseball this year (801), while allowing the sixth-fewest (662).
Last season, PECOTA projected a 97-65 first-place finish for the Yankees. The team wound up winning 100 games for the first time since 2009, but their championship hopes were squashed by their arch-rival Red Sox in the best-of-five ALDS. Of course, PECOTA’s numbers aren’t an exact science, as they determined that Boston, who won a franchise-record 108 games in 2018, would finish the year with a 89-73 record.
PECOTA also offers projections for all batters and pitchers on major league rosters. Since there are dozens of free agents still available on the market (i.e. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel), these roster figures will change once players agree to contract terms with teams.
According to Spotrac.com, the Yankees ($124.5 million) are second only to the Washington Nationals ($183.3 million) in terms of money spent on free agents this offseason. Thus far, the Yankees have acquired five free agents, including relief pitchers Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino ($66 million combined), starting pitcher J.A. Happ ($34 million), and infielders DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki ($24.5 million combined).
Overall, the Yankees’ total winter spending comes out to $178 million, which ranks third-highest in baseball.
“I feel like in a lot of ways, we’re a complete team right now,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Tuesday. “You look at the moves we’ve made this winter, it’s hard to deny that we haven’t significantly improved our club… We feel like we have a team capable of hopefully going out and competing for a championship.
“I think our team is pretty much set… Obviously things happen that force Brian [Cashman, general manager] and his staff to pivot on certain things, but I think it’s safe to assume that we’re going to spring training with the team we expect to have… You never say never with anything, but I would also say we’re anticipating we have a great team right now and feel like we have a complete team that is ready to go compete for a championship.”
Of the 10 teams that reached the postseason last October, PECOTA currently expects six of them to return in 2019. Based on records, PECOTA projects that the Astros will obtain the best record in baseball at 98-64, followed by the Indians at 97-65, Yankees at 95-67, and Dodgers at 94-68.
The six remaining playoff teams include the Nationals (89-73), Red Sox (89-73), Mets (88-74), Brewers (88-74), Rays (86-76), and Cardinals (86-76). The Rockies and Phillies are also projected to finish with 86 wins.
Yankees pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, February 13, and the team’s first full-squad workout is scheduled for Tuesday, February 19.