Rebuilding and competing for the AL East title aren’t mutually exclusive propositions as far as Joe Girardi is concerned.
“I think we are a club that is fighting for their division,” the Yankees manager said Wednesday at the Stadium before his alma mater, Northwestern, faced Pittsburgh in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. “There will probably be more competition in spring training than maybe any year I have ever been here, but that’s a good thing. I think competition brings out the best.”
Such optimism should be expected from Girardi, who soon will begin his 10th season as Yankees manager. But after trades last summer that sent Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman packing for prospects – the lefty Chapman has since re-signed with the club – the belief within the industry is the Yankees are more concerned with 2018 and beyond than winning in the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have reloaded with the addition of stud lefty Chris Sale in a trade with the White Sox.
“They have improved their club in adding him,” Girardi said. “He’s an outstanding pitcher. He’s had success in Chicago and tons of success: a Cy Young candidate every year. That’s who this guy is. We have tried to improve our club, and the bottom line in this game is you’ve got to go play on the field.”
Chapman and Matt Holliday were signed earlier this month, giving the Yankees a premier closer and respected righty bat for the middle of the lineup.
“I like what we’ve done,” Girardi said. “Bullpens need to be a strength today to be successful. The teams that have a lot of success have very strong bullpens, and bringing back Aroldis Chapman really adds to that. We saw what he was capable of doing. He fit in here, he liked it here, so I thought that was important.
“Matt Holliday has been a leader and has been a feared hitter in the big leagues for a long time. Obviously, he will be able to DH a lot here, it will be easier on his body, but we think we’re getting a middle-of-the-order hitter, and we’re excited about that.”