Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 New Year’s Resolution for the Yankees’ franchise

Individuals pronounce resolutions every New Year’s Day, so why can’t an entity like the New York Yankees do it as well? Sure, I could create one for general manager Brian Cashman, or another for Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, but in the end they have to act as one collective unit in order to get back to being a continually successful (and by that I mean a playoff team) franchise.

So what should the Yankees’ resolution for 2015 be?

Stay the course -- even if it hurts at first.

It’s that simple really. The Yankees have begun to show they have a plan; one which encapsulates their financial might and an undeniable desire to grow a farm system which can produce talent ready for the show in the Bronx or to be used as trade chips to bring in young MLB-ready players with upside to New York.

The issue is the Yankees had a similar plan being developed two years ago. It was preached throughout the 2013 season; the franchise is done paying the luxury tax and will get below the measure for the 2014 season. Then the Yankees failed to reach the 2013 postseason. Ownership and Cashman caved and went balls-out ballistic on spending; almost $500 million in guarantees put the Yankees further away from that goal.

I’m not suggesting that by staying the course the Yankees should have their eyes on getting below the luxury tax. In fact, if any team can withstand the tax it’s the Yankees, but they must begin to spend their money a bit more wisely. This has started already.

The Yanks have shown some restraint as 2014 winds down, but they have still spent close to $100 million in guarantees (Andrew Miller and Chase Headley cost the Yanks $88 million alone). The difference is that none of these deals will hamper the Yankees future and moreover they will end with younger pieces hopefully ready to fill those spots.

In the past the Yankees threw money at the problem. They overpaid for players that have become and an issue as their contracts wind down. Some of them are coming to an end over the next couple of years. Mark Teixeira’s and Carlos Beltran’s contracts end in 2016; while CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez will come off the books by the end of 2017 (Sabathia has a buyout of $5 million or a vesting option for 2017).

They will probably encounter similar problems with Jacoby Ellsbury (ends in 2020 with a 2021 club option) and potentially Brian McCann (done as of 2018 with 2019 club option). Masahiro Tanaka can stick around until 2020, but can also opt out after the 2017 season.

Now, the Yankees seem to be measuring their financial outlays with an eye toward how it will affect them at the end of the deal. There will be certain contracts the Yankees can take on which will be nine-figure deals, but hopefully they’ll be with younger players reaching their prime and even better if they are players they develop on their own.

For 2015, the Yankees need to remain vigilant in staying the course, even if it hurts at first. If they’re "suffering" through another season swimming just above .500, the Yankees cannot reverse their path. They must continue to get younger, find more athletic players and become more versatile.

They should spend on the international market until the well dries up before the mid-year deadline. The Yanks might want to hold onto players like Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Gregory Bird until they can make a mark in the Bronx. The Bombers can utilize system depth in areas such as catcher to bring in players to fill holes throughout the system.

Finally, the Yankees need to allow the young players to get their shot; a full shot. I have had enough with speculation about run of the mill second basemen like Gordon Beckham and Rickie Weeks. Why pay Stephen Drew a dime (he wants slightly more than that at $9-10 million) when they can play someone like Rob Refsnyder or even Jose Pirela both of whom have nice upside?

I’m also done listening to the need to fill the backend of the rotation with veterans who own no more talent than the young guys like Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos possess. Did anyone think that Chase Whitley and Shane Greene would make a contribution in 2014? Well, they did. Both Mitchell and Banuelos (if he is indeed all the way back) maintain potential well beyond Greene or Whitley.

It’s not going to be easy. With players like Max Scherzer and James Shields still on the market, the Yankees will have their temptations. There might come a point in time that the Yanks can obtain a player via trade and whether it is before spring training or mid-season they need to stick with the plan. If that particular player is under contract beyond 2015, he must not be a hindrance at the end of it. Further, they cannot give away a player who projects to be helpful in the Bronx within a season or two.

Again, I’m not recommending the Yankees seal their wallets shut. I believe they can spend on the appropriate players, those with a bulk of their best days ahead of them, and still maintain a promising farm system (so losing a draft pick for Scherzer or Shields needs to be part of the equation). They can and should continue to spend on international talent until the rules hold them back.

In the end the Yankees need to build a new core. It does not have to be completely developed from within. The Core Four had plenty of complementary pieces throughout the years. A new core can be built via a combination of current talent, international prospects and shrewd acquisitions on the free-agent market or via trade.

The Yankees can win now, but maybe they won’t. And if they fail to reach the 2015 postseason, it doesn’t mean their strategy is wrong. In fact, it might simply mean that they’ll have to have the same exact resolution for 2016. Give it time and the New York Yankees can become a model franchise. Stay the course, even if it hurts at first.

Contract information courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.