New York Yankees Can't Afford to Pinch Pennies
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What a bad time for the New York Yankees to decide they don't want to fall off their own fiscal cliff. To avoid a luxury tax in 2014, which may cost them $50 million, the Steinbrenner family is insisting that general manager Brian Cashman bring payroll down into the $189 million range.
That would be great if the Yankees had a core of players just reaching their peak or a farm system ready to shuttle three or four Major League-ready players to the Bronx. Instead, the Yankees keep getting older and breaking down like an old car.
Instead of Yankee Stadium, they might want to change their home field to Jurassic Park.
The news about Alex Rodriguez' impending hip surgery ends any expectation that he would be on a mission in 2013 to prove he isn't washed up as the postseason indicated. Blaming his ineptness at the plate on his hip shouldn't make Yankee fans feel better either; the surgery and recuperation is supposed to take from four to six months and ultimately diminish A-Rod's power even more.
The Yankees gave him that ridiculous 10-year contract extension because they factored in a marketing bonanza when A-Rod eclipsed the all-time home run record. Well, that isn't going to happen now. Instead, the Yankees are saddled with a one-time superstar who is now a shell of what he used to be, but who will be getting paid for what he was.
The five years and $114 million owed to the 37-year-old Rodriguez and the four years and $88 million owed to Mark Teixeira, who may also be prematurely in decline, are responsible for the lack of payroll flexibility. Losing catcher Russell Martin to free agency and potentially outfielder Nick Swisher and closer Rafael Soriano as well has created holes in the lineup and bullpen that could be fixed with some old-time George Steinbrenner spending.
That seems unlikely, however, as the Yankees have become more cash-conscious. They recently agreed to sell 49 percent of their YES Network to News Corp., which will net them more than $270 million initially, but Hal Steinbrenner is not expected to invest any of that in player acquisition or to pay luxury taxes.
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In fact, it gives more credibility to the notion that in a few years' time, when the A-Rod and Teixeira salaries come off the books or those players reach a compensation settlement, the Steinbrenner family might sell the franchise. Hal Steinbrenner, the managing partner, is not his father's son when it comes to bombast and grandiose moves.
Hank Steinbrenner is a chip off the old block, but he was quickly moved into the background after George died.
In the highly competitive American League East, the Yankees are now facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs. Signing 40-year-old Andy Pettitte to a one-year deal and bringing back Mariano Rivera after his 2012 season ended abruptly with a torn ACL demonstrates there are no heir apparents in the minor league system that can help immediately.
With Derek Jeter returning from a broken ankle and those previously mentioned holes to fill in right field and behind the plate, the Yankees may be going with low-cost options such as Cody Ross or relying on re-signing more older players such as Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and the Ancient Mariner Ichiro Suzuki.
Perhaps these grumpy old men have one more season left and then the Yankees promising farmhands will be ready for that big step up to the Bronx. Perhaps Michael Pineda will be ready to step into the rotation by middle of next summer.
But one thing is clear: A team that always measures success by whether they win the World Series might be grateful just to get to the postseason in 2013.
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