It's official. The New York Yankees have made their first big signing of the offseason.
No, not Robinson Cano or any other free-agent hitter or pitcher. It's a bit too soon for that.
As it was announced via MLB's official Twitter account, the Yankees re-signed their manager instead:
BREAKING: @Yankees re-sign manager Joe Girardi to 4-year contract through 2017 season.— MLB (@MLB) October 9, 2013
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was able to dig up the terms of the agreement:
Girardi gets $16M for 4 yrs plus bonuses— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 9, 2013
Girardi wrapped up a three-year, $9 million contract that paid him a salary of $3 million in 2013, according to an ESPNNewYork.com report from 2010. At an average of $4 million per year, Girardi's new deal means he's getting a decent raise and, indeed, some pretty good money for a manager.
Now that the deal is done, it's our responsibility to dive right into the ramifications of it.
On that note, well...Geronimo!
Is It the Right Move for the Yankees?
One word: Abso-freakin'-lutely.
For starters, there's the obvious. Girardi has been a darn good manager in his six seasons as skipper of the Yankees, leading the Bombers to a 564-408 (.580) record, three AL East titles and one World Series title in 2009. The Yankees have won at least 85 games each year under his watch.
And it's not like Girardi has had it easy. The Yankees' payroll has remained astronomically high throughout his tenure, but a lot of that money has gone to waste recently.
Girardi's time in New York has happened to coincide with Alex Rodriguez's decline, and he's also had to put up with other struggling, high-priced players like A.J. Burnett, Jorge Posada and Mark Teixeira. CC Sabathia joined the parade this year, posting an ERA near 5.00.
That was just one headache that Girardi had to put up with in 2013. Teixeira basically missed the whole year with a bad wrist, as did Derek Jeter with various injuries and Kevin Youkilis with a bad back. Curtis Granderson also missed much of the year with two separate broken bones.
They didn't make the playoffs, but it's remarkable that the Yankees managed to win 85 games given how much went wrong in 2013. That's a cue to tip one's cap to Girardi, as he kept the Yankees focused and, in the end, respectable despite the fact he was dealing with a decimated roster and the usual high-pressure atmosphere that surrounds the Yankees at all times. He did his best work as a manager this year; no doubt about it.
But perhaps more so than the desire to retain a quality manager, the other incentive the Yankees had to retain Girardi was the need for stability.
These are weird times in Yankeeland. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are gone. A-Rod is doing everything in his power to appeal a 211-game suspension that was handed to him in August as a result of the Biogenesis scandal. The 2013 season broke the seemingly unbreakable Jeter. There's the matter of whether the Yankees will lower their payroll under $189 million for the 2014 season. And then there's the matter of them doing something about their prospect pipeline, which has been dry for years.
So yeah, uncertainty is the name of the game in The Bronx these days. Retaining Girardi doesn't really change that. But had the Yankees missed out on him and had to go out and replace him with somebody else, the uncertainty only would have intensified.
Good on the Yankees for making sure that didn't happen, but how about the man himself?
Is It the Right Move for Girardi?
OK, fine. This is a bit of a trick question. Since he agreed to the deal, the man himself obviously felt that re-upping with the Yankees was the right move for him.
Girardi certainly had at least one intriguing option. The Chicago Cubs opened up their managerial position when they fired Dale Sveum after two seasons on the job, and George A. King III of the New York Post recently wrote that Girardi could likely get more years and more money out of the Cubs than he could from the Yankees.
David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com found out why Girardi ultimately chose not to:
I just spoke to Girardi + he said Cubs opportunity was very tempting but his kids are very happy in NY + in their school. Family won out.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) October 9, 2013
Let it never be said that Joe Girardi isn't a family man. Can't hate on that, as the kids say these days.
But that doesn't mean we can't say, "Gee, I don't know, man..."
If the Cubs were indeed willing to offer Girardi a better deal, he had at least one major reason to go to Chicago. But the Cubs also offered other attractions, such as a brighter future, more spending leeway and less media pressure.
The Cubs already have some good young talent in place in the likes of Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood, and they have a darn good farm system too. ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required) ranked it as the fifth-best in baseball before the start of the season. Then, the Cubs went and had themselves a solid draft, highlighted by taking University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick.
Right now, the Cubs are basically the anti-Yankees. Young talent could make them a very good team in the very near future.
As for spending leeway, it comes down to the Cubs being a big-market team with only two heavy long-term commitments (Castro and Edwin Jackson). There's money to be spent there, whereas there only seems to be money to be trimmed in The Bronx.
And as for less media pressure, it should be granted that Chicago isn't exactly a low-pressure environment. But it's also not New York. Simple as that.
The Cubs weren't the only team Girardi could have bolted to. The word via Kaplan last week is that the Washington Nationals wanted to interview Girardi. If he wanted to head elsewhere and was in a win-now mood, he might have chosen the likes of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg over what the Cubs have brewing.
Girardi made the best choice for him and his family. But in doing so, he definitely turned down a couple of better jobs.
What Are the Expectations for the Team Now?
Yankees fans ought to overwhelmingly approve of the fact that the team was able to bring Girardi back. A hunch says so.
Well, that and one of the polls that ESPN's SportsNation recently ran. One asked, "If you were a Yankees fan, would you want Joe Girardi to return next season?" The end result was 82 percent in favor of "Yes."
And that sounds about right. It was a disappointing year for the Bombers, but nobody was really dead-set on running Girardi out of town. Heck, one of the other polls that SportsNation ran showed that less than five percent of all those who voted thought the 2013 season was Girardi's fault.
This is not to say there isn't frustration, of course, but it appears to be going more in the direction of general manager Brian Cashman and principal owner Hal Steinbrenner. And if that is indeed the case, well, rightfully so.
Cashman's ultimately responsible for the Yankees' increasingly unimpressive rosters and the sorry state of the farm system. Steinbrenner, meanwhile, would prefer to scale back the organization's spending after years and years of spending big.
Given where the Yankees have been, where they are and where they appear to be going, expectations for the team feel more subdued than they've been in a long time. The "Championship or else!" vibe that surrounded the Yankees for so many years is gone and presumably won't return until they make themselves into a juggernaut again.
When the Yankees have a roster loaded with talent again, that's when Girardi will be feeling the heat. Until then, the only reasonable expectation to have for him is that he at least keeps the Yankees respectable on the field.
Judging from what he did in 2013, Girardi can handle that.
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