So far the Yankees off-season is defined by restraint, as they opted not to overpay for Rich Hill and took a one-year flyer on Matt Holliday rather than commit long-term to Edwin Encarnacion. Which means they’re smartly sticking to their rebuild rather than succumbing to any temptation to sell tickets.
It really shouldn’t be a surprise, based on what they’ve done the last couple of winters, avoiding the free-agent market at virtually every turn.
But with the Yankees, you never know when business gets in the way of the best baseball decisions.
As it is, they’re still paying for their spontaneous and irrational decision to commit $458 million to four free agents three winters ago as something of an overreaction to missing the playoffs and letting Robinson Cano walk out the door.
Then, as now, Hal Steinbrenner wanted to get the payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, while making some moves to revitalize the farm system.
Except he panicked, and with team president Randy Levine telling him Yankee fans needed a reason to keep buying tickets, OK’d Brian Cashman’s huge spending spree for Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
Thus far, Yankees GM Brian Cashman isn’t over-spending this offseason.
This time there will be no panic, at least from all indications. Even though the Yankees missed the playoffs for the third time in four years, Steinbrenner isn’t budging.
And he’s not some half-interested onlooker here, according to Yankee sources. One person says the owner has been on the phone with GM Brian Cashman “several times a day” throughout this off-season, taking an active role in what the ballclub will and will not do in acquiring players.
“He cares a lot more than the way it is portrayed in the media,” the person said of Steinbrenner. “He’s not his father, and the fans and media hold that against him, but I’m telling you, he wants to win but he also wants to do the right way.
“That means putting the franchise in a position to win for a long time without running into the this dead end of having a lot of old players with huge salaries.”
With that in mind, the Yankees will endure at least one more season when they won’t be good enough to even think about winning a championship, but will try to contend as much for the sake of appearance as anything.
And that’s fine as long as they do it in the context of their long-term plan to build around the depth of young talent they are developing in Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino, as well as the boatload of prospects Cashman acquired in the great Yankee sell-off during the summer.
So far that seems to be the case.
If they have to overpay for Aroldis Chapman as their one big splash of this off-season, that makes sense. He’s young enough to be at the top of his game for at least a few more years, which means he’ll be doing the close when the Yankees are ready to win again, likely beginning in 2018.
Maybe they have to go to five years and $90 million to get it done, which sounds rather obscene for a reliever who will pitch 70 innings a year. But more than ever you need bullpen dominance to win championships, as we see nearly every post-season now, especially this most recent one.
So why not spend on the best guy out there, put him behind Dellin Betances once again and lock up the late innings?
(Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
For 2017 a deep bullpen will be vital to just to be competitive, as ordinary as the starting rotation is looking. Beyond next season Betances and Chapman could be a key to winning it all.
We’ll see if the Yankees outbid the Dodgers and perhaps the Nationals for Chapman.
In the meantime, it was equally important to avoid a four or five-year mega-deal with Encarnacion entering his age-34 season. He’s a big-time slugger, yes, but he’s basically a DH and the Yankees just went through this type of thing, living with the inevitable age-related injuries with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
For one year and $13 million, Holliday figures to give them at least somewhat similar production out of the DH spot, but if it doesn’t work, due to injuries or whatever, they can move on without him. No harm, no foul, and a year from now the Yankees will have a much better idea about how their young talent is progressing.
Same goes for Hill. To get a 36-year-old, injury-prone starter, it would have cost the Yankees more than the three years and $48 million for which he re-signed on Monday with the Dodgers, and that just wouldn’t have made sense.
They need starting pitching, no doubt about that, but again, a year from now they’ll have a better idea about Severino, as well as Justus Sheffield and James Kaprielian, and even some of their more unheralded young starters.
They’ll also be practically assured of getting under the luxury tax threshold, which will free them up to spend big again. As long as they stick to the plan.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News