First, the New York Yankees let their All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano walk away to the Seattle Mariners over a disagreement on duration of contract. Then, they let their closer David Robertson sign with the Chicago White Sox on a four-year, $46 million contract. Even worse, they showed absolutely no interest in courting Max Scherzer because he demanded a contract worth about $200 million.
George Steinbrenner must be rolling over in his grave.
These are the YANKEES we’re talking about, the same team that offered Alex Rodriguez, at the time, the biggest contract in sports history. The team that is known league-wide for using its wallet to purchase talent. The team that Forbes ranked as the most valuable sports franchise in North America. For goodness’ sake, their General Manager has the word ‘cash’ in his last name!
Many have maligned the Yankees for being perpetual spenders, for throwing exuberant sums of money at free-agents, for stealing home grown talent from rivals without a care in the world. And why should they? They have the most championships in Major League history and they, until recently, had the highest payroll in the Majors.
This begs the question, why are the Steinbrenners taking a conservative approach this offseason? Sure, they signed Chase Headley to a four-year, $52 million contract to establish him as the everyday third baseman, and they even signed Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million contract to be either the setup man to Dellin Betances or even the closer.
But they had a chance at getting Jon Lester or Max Scherzer! The former is a two-time World Series champion and the latter won the AL Cy Young Award in 2013. They could’ve signed Pablo Sandoval, a three-time World Series champion, to man third base instead of Chase Headley. They could have signed Hanley Ramirez, a career .300 hitter, to be Derek Jeter’s replacement at shortstop.
Instead, Brian Cashman went the rare route of making small moves, trading for talent, revamping the roster with younger prospects. He traded for Didi Gregorius, a good defender with raw offensive abilities, over Ramirez. He chose to re-sign Stephen Drew to a one-year contract to be the Yankees everyday second baseman. He sent David Phelps to the Marlins in exchange for a young power pitcher in Nathan Eovaldi.
Frankly, it’s about time the Yankees went this route.
Over the years, we’ve seen players like C.C. Sabathia, “A-Rod”, and Mark Teixeira all sign contracts for seven years or more, and eventually realize that their production decreased dramatically as the years went on. Sabathia just finished the worst statistical year of his career in 2014 with a 5.28 ERA in only 8 games played. A-Rod hasn’t really played a full season since 2008. Teixeira hasn’t been completely healthy since 2010. In turn, the Yankees have missed the playoffs for two straight years, which hasn’t happened for this franchise since 1992-93.
Even around the league, players like Albert Pujols, who signed a ten-year contract with the Angels, are showing that throwing hundreds of millions of dollars to players is not worth it. Will Robinson Cano hit 25 home runs and drive in 100 runs at the age of 39? Of course not. But will he be paid $24 million and eat up the Mariners payroll? Yes, he will.
We love the prestige that accompanies the Yankees name. Everything is fine and dandy the moment they spend the big bucks to get a marquee free agent. That’s basically what the Yankees did during the last fifteen years.
But the moment the Yankees commit long-term to a player above the age of 30, they’re essentially making their own death bed. The first season of the contract is always exciting, comparable to the honeymoon stage that newlywed couples experience.
But after a few years into the contract, no longer is there a feeling of affection towards one another. After the injuries begin to pile up, and the production decreases to the point that we don’t even remember that he’s on the roster, we think back and wonder what on earth the Yankees were thinking.
So, although it may not seem flashy right now, the Yankees are making smart decision and moving in the right direction. The farm system has looked promising, the age and attrition of the roster has significantly declined, and no longer is the Core Four the foundation of the team. It’s a new day for the New York Yankees, and ironically, not spending a lot money this offseason is a good way to start.