The New York Yankees were not the team most of us thought they would be in 2015. Most of us pegged them as a team who would end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Some would argue that losing in the wild-card game is exactly that -- the outside of the playoffs looking in -- but that is a semantics game. The Yankees were one of 10 teams playing after the regular season ended, however you define it.
However, the Yankees finished the season 30-34 in their last 64 games. While a team like the Boston Red Sox ran out of season, the Yankees seemed lucky to have the finish line arrive when it did.
So the first question the Yankees must answer about themselves, before they try to implement their offseason plan in preparation for 2016: Are they good enough?
Is this Yankees team more the club that had a commanding lead in late July? Or is it the team that crawled at the end?
To me, the Yankees need to improve this offseason to be even a wild card next year, because it is hard to believe that the some of the questions that were answered in the positive in 2015 will be repeated again in 2016.
Can the Yankees really expect for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez hit in 2016 like the way they did in 2015? Even if healthy, there figures to be some reduction in production for the two middle-of-the-lineup hitters.
Will the outfield be more productive? Jacoby Ellsbury, two seasons into a seven-year, $153 million contract, looks lost. Brett Gardner continues to fade in the second half. Carlos Beltran, the team's best hitter by the end of the year, doesn't exactly look like the Gold Glover he once was in right.
Brian McCann, who played great in the first half, faded down the stretch and now is in the middle of his five-year, $85 million contract. He is a weapon behind the plate, but the idea of one day moving him to first seems distant now. First off, there is Greg Bird. Second, McCann is not a good enough hitter for that.
Chase Headley's first full season at third did not go well with his below-average defense and his very pedestrian offense. The Yankees do not have a clear second baseman, though Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela have some potential. Didi Gregorius, at short, appears to be a bright spot who is trending up.
So to summarize, nearly every position, save for shortstop, comes with a question mark. If the Yankees stand pat, maybe they would get some positive answers, but those things tend to even out.
That brings us to the pitching. The bullpen looks pretty good with Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Justin Wilson at the end of the games. They do need to deepen their bullpen, but that is more a minor issue.
As for starters, it is in the eye of the beholder. Masahiro Tanaka, who still has that little tear in his elbow, might be more of a solid No. 2 than a No. 1. Michael Pineda did not grow enough in 2015. Luis Severino looks as if he is on the way up. Nathan Eovaldi ended the season with a strained forearm. CC Sabathia is a question mark because of his subpar season and his alcohol issue. Adam Warren is a good swing starter and maybe could be more.
That group looks like it could be good, but is it great?
So this is what GM Brian Cashman has to decide for 2016 without a lot of movable parts and with a feeling the Yankees still aren't prepared yet to go shopping in top-shelf markets.
Does Cashman trade somebody like Gardner to open up his chess board? Does he go after a player in his prime, such as Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick or Daniel Murphy, or continue with the youth of someone like Refsnyder at second? Does he talk Hal Steinbrenner into opening up the wallet, a year before Teixeira's $23 million comes off the books, for a difference-maker like David Price?
Before Cashman can answer any of the questions, he must ask: Are the Yankees good enough?