Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Yankees' best offseason decision was passing on Max Scherzer

The New York Yankees were seemingly never in on Max Scherzer, and that’s a good thing. The club, from the outset of the offseason, claimed they were not going to get roped into another nine-figure deal with a player, let alone a pitcher this time around. And with the Washington Nationals signing the former Cy Young award winner to a seven-year, $210 million deal this past weekend, we can finally say the Yankees are sticking to a plan with the future in focus. The non-move was their best decision of the offseason thus far and it demonstrates cohesive management and a committed strategy going forward.

In the end, the Yankees did not want to take the chance on another contract blowing up in their faces halfway through it. The Nationals are in a better position to win right now, forming a fantastic rotation for the upcoming season. For Washington, spending big on Scherzer made sense, and for the Yankees it did not.

Now, James Shields still sits out in the free agent market, but the team has not expressed the least bit of interest in Big Game James. For good reason – he’s got much more wear on his arm and wants a nine-figure deal of his own – and Scherzer’s contract is going to help him attain it. Either Scherzer or Jon Lester was the player to make a splash with if the Yanks really wanted to.

No, it seems the Yankees are completely out of the big name pitcher market this offseason. They have several of their own that they have decided to rely on. The Yanks need CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda to be healthy and to pitch to their abilities. If that can happen, the feeling of loss for Scherzer, Lester and to a lesser extent Shields will be minimal.

Some have suggested that the Nationals are now going to shop one of their returning rotation arms. Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are in their walk years, so they are less attractive at the moment, from the standpoint of a long-term commitment and the prospects a trade would take to secure their services as a pure rental. Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are also presumably available. Strasburg and Gonzalez are controlled through 2016, and the latter has a team option in 2017 and vesting option for 2018.

But, why should the Nats trade any of these players right now? Who knows what could happen through the season on the injury front, and being as deep as they are benefits them in the long haul. If they stick with the starting five as arranged now, they’ll have Tanner Roark, who went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA (3.47 FIP) sitting in the wings. That’s an impressive sixth-man.

Could the Yankees speak with the Nationals if they make their pitchers available? Sure, but they would need to take extreme caution with Zimmermann and Fister because of the rental agreement it would become. Who wouldn’t want Strasburg, and Gonzalez is a bonafide arm, but they’ll cost some considerable talent the Yankees have coming through the system.

Any upper echelon pitcher the Yankees look at in a trade, like those previously mentioned and Philadelphia Phillies' southpaw Cole Hamels, will begin with Luis Severino at the top of the wish list. The Yankees' prized – maybe the only prized – pitching prospect is perhaps two years from reaching the big leagues. The Yankees' outlook all along was to get younger and regroup using tactical free agent signings, trades and their own farm system. The basis of the club’s plan does not seem to entail developing Severino for another club.

The future of the Yankees is taking shape. Each move, and non-move, points to the course of action the team set forth once they missed the postseason again in 2014. It’s not about splashy signings, and it might not even be about winning now. The future is about sustainability and the Yankees have realized that they cannot reach that goal operating in the same fashion they did right through the last offseason.

What are your thoughts? Was refraining from involvement in the Scherzer sweepstakes wise for the Yankees? Or should they have gone full-throttle for him? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

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.