The New York Yankees have failed to make the playoffs just once in the past 14 seasons. During that time, they have won the AL East 11 times, which included a string of nine consecutive division titles from 1998 to 2006.
The Boston Red Sox ended New York’s domination the next year and it appeared that the division would remain a two-team dog fight. However, the sudden rise of the Tampa Bay Rays the following season upended both teams and the Rays have been a threat ever since.
Since Boston’s 2007 division title, the Rays and Yankees have alternated as AL East champs.
It appears that a new contender has emerged as the Toronto Blue Jays have quickly become a legitimate threat this season, and have also ensured it for many years to come.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman has taken notice.
“This is not a long-term project anymore,” he stated. They are knocking on the door. It is undeniable that they are going to win and win for a while. They are reaping the benefits of great scouting, patience and doing things right.”
The Blue Jays boast an excellent farm system. Last season, their Double-A affiliate the New Hampshire Fisher Cats won the Eastern League title. One scout went as far as calling the 2011 Fisher Cats the best he had ever seen.
With the exception of Jose Bautista (31) and Kelly Johnson (30), the Jays will not have anyone older than 30 on their Opening Day lineup. In fact, Toronto has only nine players 30 or older on their roster and three them are bench players Rajai Davis (31), Ben Francisco (30), and Mike McCoy (30). In addition, none of the starters are over 27.
In comparison, New York will have 12 30-something players and Mariano Rivera (42) on their roster. Many of New York’s core players are over 30 with Derek Jeter (37) and Alex Rodriguez (36) leading the way, while Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira are all 31. Although they are still dangerous, the Yankees are slowly becoming an expensive aging ball club.
Could money be an issue for the Yankees moving forward?
Consider this. The Yankees’ Rafael Soriano will earn $14 million in 2013, equaling what the Jays will pay Jose Bautista.
New York has committed $117 million to just five players next season: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, and Mark Teixeira, while Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are set to become free agents and will be looking for a substantial raise. In 2016, the Yankees will owe $67.5 million to three players. They will pay a 40-year-old Alex Rodriguez $20 million, while 35-year-olds CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira will earn $25 and $22.5 million respectively.
In contrast, Toronto’s entire payroll this season stands at $78 million.
Money has never been an issue for New York, but even a team like the Yankees has a self-imposed budget. Eventually there’s a limit to what any team is willing to spend and it appears that the Yankees have reached theirs as they are looking to shed their payroll.
With the Yankees looking to reduce their budget, the Blue Jays have the resources to spend and spend big. Toronto is owned by Rogers Communication and will provide GM Alex Anthopoulos with the resources to keep the organization’s homegrown talent. The Jays will also be able to compete with and possibly outbid the Yankees for missing pieces that could push them to the next level via trading for a big contract player or through free agency.
“It is not good for anyone going up against them,” stated Cashman.
The New York Yankees and the rest AL East will soon find out.