Back during your father’s days, nothing would stop the Yankees from improving their teams during the offseason. But this is not your father’s Yankees, heck, this is not even your older brother’s Yankees. These Yankees always have their eyes on the ledger and are looking to cut payroll as much as they are looking to retool for next season second.
Last season we saw them sit on the sidelines as big names like Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, and Jose Reyes were signed by teams that 10 years ago couldn’t compete with them for free agents. Instead, they went after bargain deals like Raul Ibanez, Freddy Garcia, and even Hiroki Kuroda to an extent. Some worked and others didn’t, but it’s a strategy that the Yankees seem destined to continue as they try to cut payroll to $189 million by 2014.
According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the Yankees are not expected to be serious bidders for top free agents like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke and the one person they might sign to a big deal, Robinson Cano, is even unlikely to happen.
It’s very possible that the player who could get the biggest contract from the Yankees this offseason is Russell Martin. But despite that, this is not a terrible thing. Having financial flexibility is good especially when it comes to teams with big payrolls as they are always capable of huge trades.
The big name players in consideration this offseason also come with some serious question marks.
Hamilton has had problems with both drugs and alcohol in the past. I don’t buy into the idea that New York is a serious concern compared to other cities (are you telling me he can’t get crack in Baltimore?), if anything it might have more things to keep somebody away distracted from bad habits if anything, but there is always a chance for relapse anywhere. He’s looking for a large contract and large contracts might not be wise with people with substance abuse problems.
Then there is Greinke. No substance problems there, but he has had reported issues with anxiety disorder. I’m not qualified to speak to that, but the Yankees have met with him in the past and came away dissatisfied that he would fit in New York. For the record, he has come out and said that he would have no problem pitching here. Maybe he’s matured a bit and put his problems behind him, but it doesn’t seem as if the Yankees are eager to get in touch with him.
Then there is Robbie Cano himself. Now he gets a tough break. Joe Girardi and the Yankees coaches do nothing but praise him for his hard work, but he comes across as a lazy player at times. It’s especially hard to stand up for him when he’s not diving for balls or running hard down the first base line during the playoffs.
Cano is asking for a 10-year deal too and it’s one thing to give a 25-year-old Alex Rodriguez (note I said 25-year-old), who hustles every time and is clearly an intelligent ball player, a 10-year deal and another to give a 30-year-old Cano who can’t be bothered to run out a grounder in the ALCS a huge contract. So instead it might be smart for the Yankees to wait another year and see how David Adams and Corban Joseph shake out. Obviously they want to re-sign Cano, but as they are now his contract demands might be cost prohibitive.
So while the Yankees are more cost conscious than ever, even at the cost of wins at times, it could just be the nature of baseball that has changed. The sport is doing well. There is a lot of parity in the game and teams can afford to keep their quality young talent. It is more important than ever to save for the truly elite free agents and supplement a strong farm system with smart signings.