Cockcroft: New York Yankees preview

Updated: February 15, 2007, 2:42 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com
Apparently, money can't buy you everything. The Yankees seem to be learning that, ever so slowly, after absorbing the title of "this decade's Atlanta Braves," a label once applied to the 14-time National League East champions for their ability to reach the postseason but inability to bring home a championship. Since the Yankees' 2000 World Series win against their cross-town rival New York Mets, the Yankees have lost twice in the World Series (2001 and 2003), once in the American League Championship Series (2004) and three times in the Division Series (2002 and 2005-06).

Much of the reason for the Yankees' recent failings in October can be blamed on a lack of chemistry or their stockpile of aging, often overpriced, veterans. But as we head into 2007, the Yankees seem committed to gradually reducing the age of their major-league roster, and strengthening the farm system. During the winter, they traded two of their three oldest players , left-handed starter Randy Johnson (43) and outfielder Gary Sheffield (38), and there's a good chance their second-oldest, Bernie Williams (38), won't be back with the team. In their places, the Yankees uncharacteristically didn't throw loads of money at All-Star replacements. Instead, they opted to add talented pitching prospects like Ross Ohlendorf and Humberto Sanchez.

But are the Yankees really in the midst of rebuilding? Don't count on it. There's every bit as big a chance the team was loading up on prospects to have more trade chips at midseason, when the Yankees should have a better sense of their needs. This team's not much less talented than the 2006 model, as the lineup runs nine deep, with July's acquisition, Bobby Abreu, sliding right in at the No. 3 hole and in right field, Sheffield's old spot. On the mound, Andy Pettitte takes over for Johnson, and Japanese import Kei Igawa assumes the spot of Jaret Wright, who was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.

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