With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Yankees squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the difference?
A visit to the Yankees' Spring Training camp in Tampa, Fla., has always featured an intersection between the past and the present. This year, it may be some of tomorrow's stars generating the most attention.
"It is a team in transition," said Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, one of two remaining players from the franchise's last World Series-winning squad. "Watching a lot of the young kids come up and do what they did [in 2016] was fun, and hopefully they can keep it going and carry us hopefully to the playoffs this year."
Yankees pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 13, with the first workout the next day. The first full-squad workout will be Feb. 19.
Handing the keys over to the next generation has been a tricky proposition for the Yankees, as managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner believes that the New York market demands that they must have a championship-caliber team on the field each year.
While the Yankees have been able to continue a remarkable streak of 24 consecutive winning seasons (1993-2016), finishing with 84 victories last season, the Trade Deadline sell-off in 2016 signaled a change in philosophy for the front office.
With general manager Brian Cashman bluntly stating that the Yankees were not good enough to win a World Series in 2016, management sensed that assets like Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran would represent more value on the open market.
Those moves helped contenders around baseball and accelerated a rebuilding process that reinvigorated the fan base, with Sanchez's late-season home run barrage turning the Yankees into must-see TV on a nightly basis. Sanchez will now try for an encore amid sky-high expectations, this time beginning the season as the starting catcher.
The flame-throwing Chapman is back, having signed a five-year, $86 million deal that represents a record for a relief pitcher, and veteran Matt Holliday should add presence to the heart of the lineup. Still, the Yankees' success figures to ride heavily on young players taking advantage of opportunities.
"We contended all the way to the end last year. That was proof in the pudding," Cashman said. "Listen, if our current roster stays healthy and performs up to their maximum capability or close to their maximum capability, we're without a doubt a Wild Card-contending team, at the very least. We'll see. You've got to play it out."
The spring will feature legitimate battles at first base (Greg Bird and Tyler Austin) and right field (Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks), and more new names could soon be on the way: two open slots in the back of the rotation will create additional competition, and Cashman has said that the front office won't hesitate to promote based upon their needs at the Major League level.
"Our fan base should keep their eyes on a lot of these guys, because some of them will be part of something special in the near future," Cashman said.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.