Odd Man Rush: 2013 Yankees a smart, not evil, empire

When the New York Yankees beat the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday, they did so with a starting lineup that combined to make less than $50 million.

Think about that for a second.

And you can take it even further.

Of that approximate $48.5 million starting nine, second baseman Robinson Cano and outfielder Vernon Wells combined to make $36 million of it.

Another example came in a 7-4 win over the Houston Astros on April 30. That starting lineup was void of Wells' big salary, with Brennan Boesch ($1.5 million) hitting fifth instead.

That starting lineup's 2013 salary? Just over $31 million, nearly half of that belonging to Cano.

Not only are these not your dad's Bronx Bombers, they're not even your older brother's.

The Yankees entered the season without the core of Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira (combined 2013 salary of $80.5 million) due to injury and at the end of the month lost $13 million free agent addition Kevin Youkilis to a strained back. Yet, despite a lineup that regularly features Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix and Travis Hafner, the Yankees enter play on Friday percentage points ahead of the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East.

Think about that for a second.

Now even with all of those injuries, it is not like New York is left with little big-name, high-priced talent.

In addition to Cano, who is carrying the offensive load with team highs of a .311 batting average, nine home runs and 20 RBI, the Yankees have a bona fide ace in CC Sabathia, a solid and re-energized veteran starter in Andy Pettitte and perhaps the best closer ever to play the game in Mariano Rivera.

But it is worth pointing out that all of those names make their money on the mound. This current offense has no business ranking among the AL leaders with 42 homers along with middle-of-the-road numbers in average (.252) and runs scored (139), yet the patch-work roster that manager Joe Girardi is working with is doing just enough to crank out wins.

It doesn't hurt that the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman are getting maximum return on some of their offseason investments.

Wells, given to New York by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on March 26 for a pair of minor leaguers, is hitting .294 in 31 games this season with seven homers and 16 RBI. The 34-year-old hit just .222 over the previous two years with the Angels.

Hafner, limited to just 66 games last season due to back and knee issues, hasn't hit more than 13 homers in any of his previous three seasons and hit just .228 in 2012.

But through 28 games with the Yankees this season, a healthy Hafner has already logged six homers while batting .284.

Overbay is fourth on the club with five homers and 15 RBI.

Think about that for a second.

The next logical question becomes what happens when the "real" Yankees start to come back. Granderson has begun his minor league rehab assignment as he returns from a fractured right forearm, Teixeira could be back from his partially torn tendon sheath by late May or early June and Rodriguez has been cleared for baseball activities following January hip surgery.

Jeter also plans to play this season -- sometime after the All-Star break -- as he mends a fractured left ankle suffered during last year's American League Championship Series.

Do these proven and high-priced talents seamlessly slip into their old roles and the production automatically increases? Or does the current lineup have a chemistry that will suffer?

The Yankees will slowly start to find out as their wounded stars return, but the biggest surprise will be that they will all likely be thrust right into a heated battle for division bragging rights.

Think about that for a second.