A couple of amusing pieces came out of the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., regarding the New York Yankees’ lack of activity at said meetings.
David Lennon of Newsday wrote Tuesday how strange it was to see the Yankees “rummaging through the bargain bin” as the team tries to fill holes in the outfield and left side of the infield.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com was more succinct. The lede to his Wednesday morning column read, “Where the hell are the Yankees?”
This is the new world in which the New York Yankees—once the biggest spenders on the block—are serious about keeping to a budget.
It’s not as if this is a new story. It’s just that many folks in the regional and national media are just now starting to latch on to the fact that the Yankees were serious about payroll austerity.
The New York Times reported on March 1 about managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner’s plans to keep payroll below the threshold of the luxury tax by 2014.
“Is it a requirement with baseball that we be at 189?” Steinbrenner asked rhetorically in March. “No, it’s not a requirement. But that is going to be the luxury tax threshold, and that’s where I want to be.”
Rosenthal echoed the fears of some—OK, many—Yankee fans.
“The Yankees are in the process of building a team that could prove not only unsuccessful but also unwatchable—a double whammy in an era in which regional television networks are the lifebloods of big-market teams.”
It’s true that times have changed. Gone are the days when the late George Steinbrenner threw money around with impunity.
What worked best is the thing that seems to be lost on many who watch and evaluate the Yankees.
In the early 1990s, the Yankees' farm system produced a series of players who became the core of a franchise that won four titles in five seasons (1996, 1998-2000) and another in 2009.
The problem for the Yankees today is that Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera—two already older than 40 and one rapidly approaching it—are still the core of the franchise. There hasn’t been a lot of new blood coming out of the farm system to supplement that core. The only real star to emerge from the within the organization in recent years has been Robinson Cano.
Looking at 2013 and 2014, the franchise is stuck between philosophies. There is so much money being accounted for by so few players that it is difficult for Brian Cashman to put a roster together that can be both competitive and economical.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Yankees are committed to more than $168 million for just 10 players plus the money still being paid to A.J. Burnett as part of the trade that sent him to the Pittsburgh Pirates last winter.
For 2014, Cot’s has the Yankees already down for a shade more than $75 million for only four players (Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Jeter). Jeter’s number could increase if he exercises his option for 2014, currently at $9.5 million ($8 million base plus $1.5 million for winning the Silver Slugger Award in 2012).
That is complicated by the lack of talent at the top of the farm system. According to Baseball America, there is a true scarcity of major league-ready players right now. Catcher Austin Romine is about the only prospect ready to contribute for the parent club and he’s coming off a lost year due to a back injury.
That is the new reality of the New York Yankees, apparently, even if folks like Dave Lennon and Ken Rosenthal have a hard time comprehending it all.