By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
Even in the recession America is facing today, the biggest financial powerhouses in baseball, the New York Yankees, still found a way to spend near $500 million dollars to three players—pitchers CC Sabathia (seven years, $161 million) and AJ Burnett (five years, $82 million), and 1B Mark Teixeira (eight years, $180 million).
Was it helpful? The Yankees did clinch the AL East and homefield advantage after missing the playoffs last season, but let’s go inside at each of the Big Three’s performance. Putting on my accountant’s hat, I’ll rate whether, in year one, each player has put the Yankees in the red or the black.
The signing of CC Sabathia was a huge moment for New York, giving the team a young ace in their pitching rotation. The 2007 Cy Young winner was traded midseason in 2008, and when he became a free agent, the Yankees swooped in. But did he live up to his past performance?
His 2009 season started off rocky, but he quickly picked up steam, establishing himself in the rotation. Sabathia’s numbers echo his 2007 Cy Young award, right up to the record (19-7, tying his career high), ERA (3.21), and has thrown 194 strikeouts, his third highest.
He did have some slip-ups, though, as he only threw two complete games, a far cry from the ten he flew the previous season splitting time in the NL and AL. He also hit eight batsmen, matching a career high.
Sure, we’re nit-picking here, and at the end of the day, the real concern is going to be how Sabathia performs in the postseason (he’s lost three straight decisions), especially being the number one starter for the Yankees. His postseason numbers will make the final decision, but for now, we’ll call this investment a positive return, placing it in the black.
Burnett came to New York after three years pitching in the AL East for the Toronto Blue Jays. His numbers have been up and down, but after setting career highs last season, has Burnett made the leap to elite starter?
Burnett had career performances last season in Toronto, which undoubtedly assisted in his contract negotiations. However, this season in New York has seen his pitching revert to a combination of his best seasons in Florida, with a mix of Toronto thrown in.
His 2009 numbers are a pedestrian 12-9, a far cry from the 18 wins he posted last season. His ERA is high, at 4.10, but he is pitching in the brand new Yankee Stadium, a hitters park, and the AL has higher ERAs than in the NL. However, Burnett has struggled, throwing a career high 96 walks and 17 wild pitches.
Burnett has yet to pitch in the post-season in his 11-year career, and, much like Sabathia, his season won’t be fully determined until he pitches. At this point though, it would be hard to put Burnett in the black, due to his subpar record and erratic pitching. For now, we’ll put Burnett in the red, but a strong postseason performance could change all that heading into year two.
This journeyman has bounced back and forth between the AL and the NL, but spent the second half of the 2008 season helping the Angels towards the playoffs. He signed a huge contract in the offseason, with New York expecting him to be a huge bat in front of A-Rod, as well as a defensive specialist at first base. How did the Yankees fare?
Teixeira’s 39 home runs and 121 RBIs are slightly below his career high of 43 and 144, but are still good enough to lead the American League in 2009. His .294 batting average is off from his two straight .300 seasons, but his overall performance this season was enough to get him his second All-Star nomination.
This year’s postseason will only be Teixeira’s second, and with A-Rod’s penchant for falling apart in the postseason, he will need to be on his game nightly. Up to this point, we’ll put Teixeira in the black for his powerful performance.
So, there you have it. Sabathia and Teixeira have lived up to their first season hype, while Burnett has had a good year, just not at the standards it could be. All of this is moot if the Yankees don’t dominate in the playoffs, and these three will be key cogs in that engine.