In the past the New York Yankees have not hesitated to spend money like drunken sailors.
But in this offseason the Yanks have repeatedly said they are operating within a budget.
So the question must be asked. If the Yankees are saving their money, for what are they saving it?
After the 2010 season the Yankees will have several absolute needs and several more intriguing opportunities.
The first critical need is to sign Derek Jeter. Jeter is the face of the Yankees and must be resigned. Rumors have floated around a three year contract at $25 million per. That would take the Captain through the season in which he will turn 39.
The Yankees may go out farther than that. There is precedent in the four year contract given to Jorge Posada that will carry him to age 40. And in the three year deal Mariano Rivera got that takes him to the same age.
A nice round number such as $100 million for four seasons would not be out of the question for one who has as much value to the brand as Jete has.
A second absolute need will be a replacement for Jorge Posada. Posada will be under contract for 2011 but in all likelihood cannot be a full time catcher then.
The Yankees have a big time prospect in Jesus Montero who will begin the year at Scranton in Triple A. If Montero continues to hit against better pitching than he has faced yet and if he shows that he is a real catching prospect, the Yankees may have no need to go out after a big name catcher in next years free agent crop.
But there are many who think Montero will not catch in the bigs. He is such a good hitter that he may be the future DH for New York. But it would be rare to take such a young talent and make him a DH for his entire career.
If he cannot catch there are two big free agent names that should attract Yankee attention.
The first of course is MVP Joe Mauer. There is very little realistic chance that Mauer will ever leave the Twins. He is a home town kid who seems to really love the quiet atmosphere in Minnesota and will not be tempted by the lights of Broadway.
In fact the odds are that Mauer will sign an extension during the coming year and will not be a free agent.
The other intriguing free agent is Victor Martinez who could be swept away from the Red Sox for the right money. Martinez will be 32 when the season ends.
Although he has some defensive deficits, the Yankees have been willing to put up with Posada's weakness on defense in return for his extraordinary offensive production at the position.
In that respect Martinez is very similar to Posada and could be a target of Yankee bucks come next November.
The biggest needs the Yankees will have next off season are the same they had over the past three months—starting pitching and outfielders.
Cashman made it clear at the beginning of this past offseason that he wanted another starting pitcher.
He made no serious effort to go after John Lackey and let the big Texan make his way to Boston.
Cashman thinks he filled his need by bringing back Javier Vazquez who did not overwhelm in his previous short stint in New York in 2004.
Vazquez has good in Atlanta last year but now features much stiffer competition in the AL East.
Vazquez has already talked about retirement and his stay in NYC will probably again by only one year.
Andy Pettitte has signed one more one year contract and will pitch at age 39 this season. Andy is not likely to be productive after this season so the Yankees will look elsewhere for 2011.
The two biggest starting pitchers who will be free agents for 2011 are Josh Beckett of the Sox and Cliff Lee of Seattle.
Both of these guys would add greatly to any starting rotation. Putting one or both of them with CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett in New York would unquestionably give the Yanks the most dominant staff in the majors.
Equally enticing would be taking Beckett away from Boston. Certainly Theo Epstein will do everything possible to keep Beckett in Boston. But Beckett will test the market and might end up in New York.
The Yankee outfield is currently the biggest weakness they have. Brett Gardner figures to start in left field unless Johnny Damon is re-signed at the last moment.
Everyone knows Gardner is not the long term answer as a starting outfielder in New York. He is nothing but average on defense and has yet to prove he can hit big league pitching. After winning the starting job in 2009 he could not hold it.
Even if the Yankees bring Damon back it will probably only be for one year. He cannot play defense anymore and should have been signed as a DH only.
But the Yankees now have Nick Johnson as DH. So Damon will play left field if he is re-signed. But Posada will be the DH in 2011 and the Yankees need outfielders.
There are two big names who will be free agents for 2011 and a number of lesser stars who would still be big upgrades over what the team has now.
The two big names are Carl Crawford and Jason Werth.
Crawford is young, is extremely fast and is very productive offensively. Crawford would upgrade the defense and add components the Yankees don't have now.
Some will argue that Gardner is almost as fast as Crawford. But the key difference is the obvious. No one can steal first. And Crawford has proved he can get on base whereas Gardner is not certain.
Jason Werth would be an incredible upgrade over Nick Swisher in right field. He is a better defensive player than Swisher and is a consistent producer at the plate.
Of course, no mention has been made here of the number one free agent and that is Albert Pujols. The reason he is not mentioned is multi-faceted.
First of all, the Yankees have no need for Pujols. They have an incredible first baseman in Mark Teixeira who will still have six years on his Yankee contract at the end of 2010.
But in addition Pujols will cost you a contract comparable or higher than ARod's and the Yankees can add more for the same money.
The Yankees should first sign Jeter. It would be nice if Cashman would break his sworn commitment to not renegotiate until a contract is over and go ahead and sign Jeter now.
The Yankees should then open the bank and get a catcher. Mauer would be great, but is probably not going to be available. So they should try to sign Victor Martinez.
Then they should go hard after Josh Beckett and Cliff Lee. Go get them both. Yeah, they will cost you a combined $40 million per year, but they will be worth it.
And then go out and sign Carl Crawford and Jason Werth.
Before you call Belleview and send the whitecoats after me, I know all this is not likely to happen.
But Cash and Hal have been saving for something. Wouldn't it be nice to see them finally spend some money (the tongue is firmly in the cheek here, folks).