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Don't Count Out the Yankees in 2016

The New York Yankees are one of the most historic – and most hated – franchises in Major League Baseball, and they’ve won two World Series titles in the last 15 years. Most teams would be fine with that, but considering their dominance in the late 1990’s, that seems like a low number. So, what can we expect from the 2016 edition of the Yankees? You might as well flip a coin, because it’s anyone’s guess.

The Yanks were a major surprise last season in what was projected to be a severe down year. The Bronx Bombers finished second in the American League East at 87-75, but went out with a whimper in the AL Wild Card to the Houston Astros. Just making the playoffs was progress, however.

Sportsbooks are having a hard time reading this team, too. In World Series futures markets, the Yanks have a +2500 shot to go all the way. When it comes to the AL pennant they’re +1200, and they rank behind the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox to win the AL East at +350.

While other teams like the Red Sox made some huge free agent signings, general manager Brian Cashman instead opted to make a few key trades. The biggest addition to the lineup is ex-Chicago Cubs second baseman Starlin Castro. Castro, 25, gives the Yankees a solid, young middle infield with the pairing of Didi Gregorious that should grow together nicely.

The bullpen has been the major strength of this squad for years, and Cashman made it even more dangerous by acquiring flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds this winter.

Chapman will serve a 30-game suspension to start the season as the result of a violation of the MLB’s domestic violence policy, but when he returns, this pen is going to be downright scary considering Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are already there. The trio had thee of the top four strikeout rates among relievers last year.

Oddsmakers have pegged the Yankees with a season win total of 85.5. Do they have a good shot of going over that? Of course, however multiple pieces will have to fall into place.

First of all, New York is going to need much better performances from catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, who fell off a cliff in the second half of the season. The Yankees lived up to the Bronx Bombers moniker and then some last year thanks to the resurgence of aging sluggers Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, but if they start to show their age this year (or run into injury issues), it’s going to be tough to put runs on the board with relative ease again.

The starting rotation was a major surprise in 2015 and figures to be a big determinant of this year’s success. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino headline a group that many pundits believe overachieved, and it’s going to be interesting to see if they can pick up where they left off or come back down to earth.

The Yankees’ success will largely rely on the progressions of divisional foes Toronto and Boston. Riding the heels of a fantastic offense, the Blue Jays proved they are a legitimate World Series contender last season, while the Red Sox reloaded and appear set to make another run for the division title. Regardless of who wins, this race is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

New York’s decision to improve the bullpen puzzled many considering it was already a major strength, but the fact is, opposing teams will have to do their damage before the relievers come in. As long as the starters can perform adequately and the offense is there, they’ll have a massive advantage in that department.

As much as they would like to deny it, the Yankees are team in transition that’s still searching for its identity. While we may not know exactly who they are yet, if you think the Yankees can surprise again, there’s plenty of money to be made by investing in them before Sportsbook Day.

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2016 New York Yankees Futures Odds
Market Odds
World Series +2500
American League Pennant +1200
American League East +350
Win Totals 85.5

Odds as of April 1 at Sportsbook