It seems as though you have made a firm commitment to getting the budget under $189 million. The motives are clear, and the benefits will be great for the ownership, and hopefully for the fiscal health of the organization.
You have done an excellent job, in my opinion, of developing a farm that can fill some of the holes that are developing in the organization. Although our farm only ranks 11th by Baseball America, the lower level depth in this organization is unparallelled in this league. This is especially true after your purchase of another GCL team, a necessary and important manuever. There are many players in Triple-A and Double-A now who could fill out the team’s bench slots next season, and possibly even starting spots. This will leave ample money for replacements of the starters who will be leaving after 2014.
My understanding of your plan is that you have a justification for holding off on any major financial commitments for 2014, like Justin Upton, for example. The reason is that you want to see which prospects might be capable of playing a role on the team in 2014 based on their production this season. Then you will know exactly where the team’s holes are and you can worry about filling those holes with free agents or trades when the time comes. If a trade comes along that fills a need cheaply and without giving up too much in prospects, then you will try to get it done. If not, you will wait.
Leading up to 2014, and possibly in 2014 itself, signing veterans to one year contracts is the ideal situation in your plan. You get a known amount of production at a price which is not inflated by youth, and without the risks that are associated with contracts greater than one year in duration. It also allows tight control of the budget. If the player helps the team you can keep them around another year. If not, sayonara. Definitely a reasonable approach to fill 1-2 holes every season.
While I see where you are coming from, I don’t think the above framework constitutes a real plan.
The most concerning part of this plan is that it appears you are waiting until 2014 to make any legitimate move, or filling any of the holes this organization has. The trade you desire for a young stud who costs nothing without having to give up too much in prospects doesn’t exist. If it does exist, then you have to be wary that you could be receiving damaged goods. We may never be able to prove it, but there’s a strong possibility Michael Pineda was damaged goods when we got him. That deal seemed perfect, but it turns out it wasn’t. Waiting for a farfetched deal like this is going to push the team closer to the 2014 season with nothing accomplished. Then you are forced to take whatever is left out there in order to field a competitive team, instead of doing it over time.
The Justin Upton trade was the perfect example of something you should have been salivating over. Upton would make $14.25 million next season and $14.5 million in 2015, while making $9.75 million this season. As was pointed out in a previous article I wrote, you can afford an average of approximately $13 million for starters next season if the bench is filled with prospects. This trade would have been only slightly above that amount. The players involved would not have been an issue either. A comparable deal to the Braves deal would have been Ed Nunez, David Phelps or Ivan Nova, David Adams or Corban Joseph, Adam Warren or Brett Marshall, and a throw in. Only two or three of these guys are even top 10 type prospects. Anyway, I digress.
The major point here is that this front office is clearly procrastinating until 2014 to make any type of a real move. There are no long term free agent signings taking place. There are no trades taking place. All of this while there are legitimate options passing you by.
Recently, at least one player leaves the team for free agency every season, and often no attempt is made to re-sign them or replace their production. This season the significant departures included Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, and Rafael Soriano. Ichiro was signed to replace Swisher, and he marks the only player to be signed for the 2014 season since before the 2011 season. His production comes close to Swisher’s if you account for defense, but it doesn’t match up. No one was signed to replace Soriano, our savior last season. No one was signed to replace Russell Martin either. Several players have been signed to replace Ibanez, but no one with a track record half as strong.
You are willing to trot out a cast of players that is getting closer and closer to a nonplayoff team. You’re willing to walk that dangerous line as the team gets slightly worse every year, and one year the playoffs will slip through your fingers. All of this is in the name of saving the richest organization in sports money.
This is not doomsday. Your team is still a contender, just less of a contender as each year goes by. The problem with the veteran signings is that there aren’t enough available at a reasonable price to replace the production this team is losing every year. Next year there are not enough players to replace the production you have been lucky enough to have from Kuroda, Pettitte, Granderson, Cano, and Mo. There weren’t any catchers to replace Martin this season. Actually, there were, but we weren’t willing to sign them because of financial constraints (see: AJ Pierzynski).
Another thing you seem to neglect is that even amongst the top 100 prospects in all of baseball, there is a 60% prospect failure rate. This is true with our prospects too, despite the fact that many Yankees fans do seem to think that it should be closer to a 0% failure rate with our guys. It’s one thing to fill a hole or two with prospects, but in 2014 we are talking about filling 10 holes with prospects who still haven’t played in the major leagues, or are coming off injuries (Pineda). While it’s going to be fun to watch for me, because I am a farm-o-phile, it’s not smart from a business perspective.
Finally, it seems as though you want to model your team after the Rays, or other teams that shuttle prospects in every year. That’s okay, but really what have the Rays won? Nothing. Hopefully your plan at least involves surrounding these homegrown players with some big time stars. I’m assuming it does. In order for that to happen though, you can’t wait until the last minute. Otherwise all that’s going to be left is the John Lackeys, AJ Burnetts, and Carl Crawfords of the world. Players with a high likelihood to bust. Justin Upton trades only come around so often. Finally, if you are going to model your organization after the Rays, at least do what they do best, give your best players extensions! This is yet another way you are procrastinating!
In short, Brian Cashman, I really hope that your plan involves more than what is listed above. At some point you have to stop waiting around for something to fall in your lap, and you have to go out and get what your team needs. The longer you wait to do that, the more you will have to pay for it, and the less likely it is that the type of talent you are looking for will become available when you need it. You have put yourself in a corner, because you have set a deadline for getting under the budget, but at the same time you’re owner is telling people he will try to win at all costs. Those are bold expectations to live by, especially in a city that loathes having their hopes and dreams dashed. I for one, understand the goals, but I am starting to question how realistic they are with the methods you are currently using to try to achieve them.
Here’s to hoping that either you come to your senses and start making moves that make sense, or that you have some ingenious plan that my simple mind cannot understand, and that you will ninja your way into developing a winning team in 2014.