Friday, December 4, 2015

Yankees' strategy for Winter Meetings differs from their fans' desires

The chasm is closing, but some fans still want it all, and want it now.

Hal Steinbrenner
Photo credit: Jeffrey Putman via Flickr
When the New York Yankees vowed to try and drop below the luxury tax threshold in 2012, many fans couldn’t understand how such a valuable franchise could think about penny-pinching where it concerned building their roster.

Gone are the days of the old patriarch of spending, George Steinbrenner III. His son Hal believed then, and trusts now, that the Yankees do not need to maintain a $200 million payroll to win. Yet, that’s exactly where they still stand because of the free agent splurge two offseasons ago that brought Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka aboard combined with the massive contracts of Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira that were already on the books.

The Yankees now operate from the vision of spending big on the free agent market when there is significant money coming off the books in the same season, as they did before the 2014 season. That’s not happening this offseason with only $12 million departing, but $38.125 million is gone after this season (Beltran and Teixeira) and another $46 million after 2017 (Sabathia and A-Rod).

As they did last offseason, the Yankees seek to get younger and more athletic via the trade market this winter. In their minds, any free agent pickup will be on a smaller scale, and more likely of the minor league, non-roster spring-training-invite variety of player for depth purposes.

While the Yankees have been extremely vocal about their new methodology, there are plenty of fans who remain just as outspoken about the club’s unwillingness to go after every big-time free agent that fits a need. The Yankees are trying to be a bit more financially responsible, but some fans only see high ticket prices and reports the franchise is among the most valuable in all of sports.

As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and his team ready for the Winter Meetings, he’s sticking to the assertion that the roster is complete, but any moves that would upgrade the roster will be fully investigated. Cashman spoke with reporters Friday morning as he prepped for his annual rappel down the side of a Stamford, CT building for a charity event to be held Sunday evening.

“I feel that we have a good, strong process,” Cashman said via LoHud’s Chad Jennings. “We’ve evolved. We’ve grown. The way I do business today is radically different than the way I did business back in the day, and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of how we’ve moved forward, despite (the fact that) as you’re going through the turbulence of remaking your 25-man roster with all the variables that go into that, I know patience is important. I trust our process. I believe in it. 
“Do we currently have the ability to play on every available talent that pops up in the sightlines? The answer is, no. We’re not in a position right now to take a shot at anything that comes along, but I’m pleased with the shots we have taken and I’m proud of those results. We’re hoping to continue to pile up a collection of those type of acquisitions that will benefit this place as we move forward.”

While the Yankees are chatting with other clubs next week, the subjects discussed from their side will be Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller and of course the prospects the club would rather not part. Gardner and Miller are the easiest contracts for other teams to take on which provide some upside in Gardner’s case, and plenty of it in Miller’s.

The hitch is that the Yankees want young, controllable starting pitching and Gardner or Miller alone will not be sufficient. I’ve written recently that Gardner makes the most sense to trade, but there is a chance that both could be dealt. If Gardner goes with prospects for the starter the Yankees want, then Miller could be the tool to recoup assets. Cashman simply stated that it is more likely that Gardner and Miller are staying in New York, but that things could change.

Look, the point is this. The Yankees are not going to react to the Boston Red Sox trading for Craig Kimbrel and signing David Price for $217 million. Boston has made a splash for the second year in a row and the Yankees did not respond in kind last offseason. I would not expect them to this winter.

The Yankees have question marks; there is no doubt about that. They have a suspect rotation both from a performance and health perspective. Plus, they have multiple players who have to come through with big 2016 seasons that we cannot realistically expect from them. Does anyone anticipate Teixeira, Rodriguez AND Beltran to perform like they did last season at the plate? Can the Yankees hang their hats on a turnaround from Ellsbury and Chase Headley? How about a better second half from Gardner? Will Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder be the answer(s) at second base?

Despite all the open ends, the Yankees are locked into a payroll that will once again go beyond $200 million, costing the team another $20+ million in luxury tax costs. The team has decided that there is a limit and they’ve reached it. Once money comes off the books at the end of this season, if the right free agent is out there, they’ll try to sign him. If not, they’ll continue to try to develop talent of their own or trade for it, and look again after 2016 when more cash leaves the payroll.

The Yankees are trying to refrain from the same long-term mistakes (Sabathia and Ellsbury, and to a lesser extent, A-Rod and Teixeira). So, be happy or be upset, that’s your choice as a fan. I for one, agree with the methodology and I'm willing to wait for the changes to show results.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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.