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Friday, December 12, 2014

Will Yankees choose now or the future?

The Winter Meetings were exceptional if you’re into big signings and huge trades, but not for some fans of the New York Yankees. For many Yankees fans, it was a downer, especially after the previous Friday when they signed Andrew Miller and traded for Didi Gregorius. What the meetings provided for Yankees fans is a wake-up call on how the club will be doing business in the future.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is not pulling the trigger in a reactionary way. He will not sacrifice cash and the future of the club by signing contracts which could turn sour quickly, or be a drain at the end of the term. Cashman is going to hold his ground and rebuild this system whether you like it or not.

Or so I hope.

Will he get swept aside by ownership when Scott Boras goes straight to Hal Steinbrenner about Max Scherzer? It is possible. And Cashman will let you know if that’s the case. He hasn’t publically dismissed the notion of entering into talks with Boras about Scherzer, but nothing he’s done so far this offseason points to a man looking to make a splash. That was last year’s answer and it netted the Yankees one less win than the year before and another year without a postseason appearance.

Instead, Cashman looks like the general manager who finally sees the big picture. Loads of money is coming off the books after the 2016 and 2017 seasons. There are several players coming up the farm system, both pitching and positional players, who can make an impact at that time.

The good news is the Yankees aren’t going to turn into a team that doesn’t spend money and looks for the bargain basement deal. I think the Miller deal proves that. But, they’re going to be a bit shrewder about where that money goes and when they spend it. They’re going to want to earmark some of it for players they hope will be the next franchise player. The Yankees want to have a new core of home grown talent and keep them long-term when the time comes.

So getting back to Scherzer; can the Yankees withstand a contract that will be sucking air in years five, six and seven (or even year eight) when Scherzer’s violent motion catches up to him and the volume of pitches thrown that Boras mentions now add up? Financially, yes, but if the future is the key to another run of successful seasons with a potential World Series title mixed in Scherzer is not essential.

Scherzer certainly provides the Yankees with a better chance to win in 2015. The injury history that the Yankees have returning to the rotation this coming season is extensive. And guess what? One starter, even one of Scherzer’s ilk cannot overcome two other rotation members going down with an extended injury.

Most people are looking at the rotation and suggesting that if CC Sabathia continues to decline and/or gets hurt again, or if Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow finally gives out, or that Michael Pineda’s shoulder is not right or finally that Ivan Nova cannot provide enough after returning from Tommy John surgery that the Yankees NEED Scherzer to pick up the slack.

I’ve got news for you. If two of those four players cannot make 30 starts in 2015 (and we know Nova will not), the Yankees will have a very hard time making the playoffs even if Scherzer is a part of the team.

On the other hand, if the Yankees gamble that Tanaka’s elbow will hold out, Pineda can make 30 starts and Sabathia finds enough in the tank to be a viable third starter, would they need Scherzer? Add Nova as the fourth starter and pick from David Phelps, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell or Manny Banuelos as fifth starter and isn’t the rotation as good as it was last season? I can see Phelps, Warren, Mitchell or even Banuelos as 2015’s Shane Greene. Beyond that, Cashman can ink an arm or two from the bargain basement bin and hope for the best as well. Or he can try to find a deadline deal like he found in Brandon McCarthy in 2014 if no one is able to step up.

Need another reason Scherzer is not the be-all end-all answer? Let’s talk about the offense. Has it gotten much better this offseason? No, it has not. And in theory, even if they add Chase Headley, he was in the Bronx for half the season and while he was good, he is not a difference maker with the bat. Does it matter one iota if Scherzer is on the mound and has to hold teams to two runs each time he starts in order to win?

The offense has its own clunker deals clogging up space for the next two to three seasons. Alex Rodriguez is getting paid $63 million for three more years and Mark Teixeira is getting $23.125 million for each of the next two. Jacoby Ellsbury is making close to $21.5 million per year for the next six years and Brian McCann is making $17 million per season through 2018. Carlos Beltran has two more seasons left on his deal at $15 million apiece.

ONE of those players was worth their salary on the offensive side last season and that was Ellsbury. Does anyone feel confident that he’ll play in 149 games again this season? Are you ready to say that each of these guys can turn things around in 2015 and be a factor? I’d make that bet on McCann only, and it wouldn't be a huge play.

What you saw from Teixeira and Beltran might have had to do with injuries, but neither of them was lighting up the scoreboard when healthy either. As for A-Rod, he’s going to be a shell of what he was before the performance-enhancing drug suspension and that was not much. He’ll turn 40 this season, not exactly a savior in my view.

So, the Yankees should dole out $180-$200 million for Scherzer and add to the glut of troubles when the Yankees offense is no better than last season? And they’ll be committed to all the players I mentioned in 2016 as well.

The more and more I think about it, the Yankees should not be nearly as concerned about Scherzer, but should be getting ready to clear the way for some young blood that can make a difference.

Mitchell and Banuelos might get some time in 2015 while Luis Severino and Ian Clarkin have the potential to fill rotation spots in the next few seasons. Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder are knocking on the door from the positional side right now. MLB.com’s top Yankees prospects including Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge, Jake Cave, Gregory Bird, Ramon Flores, and Tyler Austin can all make a difference very soon be it in the Bronx or as a trade chip.

Further, by shying away from Scherzer the Yankees can actually use their first round pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft and along with the compensation pick from losing David Robertson, the Yanks could reap rewards there.

Finally, the Yankees heavily invested in international free agents this year, signing 10 of the top 30 players according to Baseball America. While many of them might not materialize, chances are good that one or two can become an impactful major league player for the Yankees. Again, the Yankees are spending money just in different areas.

Abstaining from the Scherzer sweepstakes could signal another year or even two in which the Yankees could miss the playoffs. But, adding to a glut of bad contracts right before they are about to get others off the books, while the farm system continues to get better, could make matters worse.

What do you think? Should the Yankees stay the course or go after Scherzer? Let me know in the comments below.

Salary information is 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.