It is starting to become an accepted fact that the Yankees are going to get under the $189 million budget in 2014. I understand the incentives behind getting the budget under control and the long term benefits of it as well. The strategy, however, that the Yankees are using to get to that number is alarming.
It seems as though the organization, and almost everyone who follows them, is okay with the fact that the Yankees are only seeking one year deals until after this season. It is a decent strategy, and probably the one most likely to allow them to accomplish their budget goals, but there are some flaws in the plan.
The biggest concern with this plan is that the team is going to be dishing out one year contracts, which are one of two things; either they are more money per year (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda if he declines the qualifying offer), or they are for an inferior player (i.e. Andruw Jones instead of Torii Hunter). The first part doesn’t matter for this year, because the Yankees aren’t worried about the 2013 budget. The second part does matter though, and the 2013 team will undoubtedly suffer because they are unwilling to give multi-year contracts out.
Aside from that, the 2014 team may suffer too. First of all, who is filling all of these holes we are creating with one year contracts? Right field, catcher, and two starting pitchers (if we get Kuroda and Pettitte back). This doesn’t even begin to mention that the Yankees will have to re-sign Cano, Granderson, and Phil Hughes after this season (if they choose to keep them). That’s seven key players this team will need to replace after 2013.
Assuming Jeter exercises his player option and no trades are made, the Yankees will have somewhere around $75 million dollars to work with, and 15 players to sign. That’s about $5 million per player. Now, some of those players will be cheap. A DH and relief pitchers shouldn’t be too expensive. This will allow the Yankees to spend more in other players. The big problem, however, is Robinson Cano.
The title of the article is in reference to #24. With so many positions to fill and so many players leaving, the Yankees have no choice but to sign Cano for whatever ridiculous sum of money he requests. Cano and his agent will know this, and thus the Yankees will have no bargaining power. Other teams will drive up the price, and Cano could make upwards of $24-25 million/year, maybe even more. That leaves approximately $50 million for the other 14 players, or about $3.6 million per player. If they don’t resign him, both the offense and defense suffers and the team would be lucky to even be a contender.
Good luck finding one quality starting pitcher at $3.6 million per year, let alone three. Good luck finding a quality outfielder or catcher at that price. Hell, good luck finding a quality relief pitcher.
As a prospect enthusiast I have to look to the farm for answers. The problem is that the farm doesn’t currently contain any answers for 2014. There are a few guys who look like they might be ready to contribute by that time. Brett Marshall is one, Nik Turley is another. David Phelps is another one to consider. But what about the Killer B’s? This sums up about everything you need to know about that. Basically, Brackman is gone, Betances is not a viable starting option, and Banuelos will be coming off a major injury in 2014. Who knows what we’ll get from Pineda.
Austin Romine could be a viable catcher by then, but that’s questionable at best, and his injury history is concerning to say the least. Then there’s Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, and Slade Heathcott. All will likely play in Double-A in some capacity this season. If all goes perfect with them, they could be ready by 2014. 2015 is more likely for any of them though. To me, if you are looking to win in 2014, this farm system is not going to be a big help.
The way I see it, there are two solutions. One, you get on your knees and pray that the farm system can produce some studs and pray that Cashman can pull a few trades out of his ass. The other, better solution in my opinion, is to stop the one year contract madness.
Extend Cano. Now. Offer to increase his pay this season to $30-35 million since the budget doesn’t matter. Then, extend him another 5 seasons for $20 million a year. That’s right, front load the contract. This way, the average annual value from 2014-2019 is still $20 million, giving the team an extra $5 million to work with every year while staying under the budget.
Next, don’t limit yourself to one year contracts this season. If Cashman does this, he is handcuffing himself to more one year contracts next year, which will either be more expensive than multi-year deals or will end up being just a team of bad players on cheap one year contracts. Get some players on middle of the road, long term contracts now instead of waiting until next year. There are only so many quality players available every year, and it’s doubtful that there will be 14 quality free agents looking for reasonable contracts next season. You have to knock some of those out now.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of concerns with the 2014 team. I failed to get into the fact that the players clogging up most of the payroll will be aging, deteriorating veterans. No one knows how long CC can keep this up, and A-Rod, Tex, and even Jeter have showed signs of aging. Mo will be gone, and the replacement is going to have to come from within, because $3.6 million isn’t going to get you a quality closer.
Brian Cashman, you have your work cut out for you.