So the New York Yankees signed front-line free agent pitcher CC Sabathia yesterday for a major league record $161 million over seven years. Yes, it was reported later that the deal is really a 3-year $69 million deal since it includes an opt-out feature after three seasons should the team fail to compete during that time.
My only comment is, big deal.
That's right, I said it. Big deal. This move should be seen as a mulligan by the Yankees for last year's failed attempt at Johan Santana. The Yankees' front office realized they made a mistake by not trading for Santana when everyone knew they needed a front-line, Cy Young caliber starter. Instead, they allowed him to go to their media-created "rival" the cross-town Mets.
Let's see, last year the deals we all heard about involved: supposed-stud Phillip Hughes, over-rated because-of-the-team-he-plays-for Ian Kennedy, and over-hyped Melky Cabrera, who, ironically, will soon be traded to the Brewers for aging, has-been Mike Cameron.
Any of those deals would have killed the mid-market and fiscally conservative Twins which couldn't afford the miserable seasons Hughes, Kennedy, and Cabrera gave the Yankees. Mix that in with the typical year Santana had and it was this close to being an all-time coup.
These cuts would consist of (based on 2008 salaries):
DH Jason Giambi $23,478,571
34 year old RF Bobby Abreu $16,000,000
39 year old Mike Mussina $11,071,029 (currently retired)
36 year old Andy Pettitte $16,000,000
For a total savings of $66,549,600.
Looking at this more closely, it appears as though the Yankees basically spun Giambi for Sabathia since its reported that at 7 years/$161 million, Sabathia will make an average of $23M a season, assuming he stays all seven years. I, however, predict he'll do a much hyped-A-Rod like opt out, only to come back to the Yankees for even more money.
I love how the Yankees are just willing to let a career .300 hitter in Bobby Abreu walk away for no compensation when he's right there for the taking (re-signing) at an "affordable" $16 million a season. Yes, he's 34 but he has career averages of 100 runs/180 hits/20 HR/100 RBI to go along with that .300 average and a good arm. Releasing Abreu is and will be a mistake when they finally make it official.
Who are you going to get to replace those numbers?
He'd play good for the Yankees for 1-2 years and then dog it like he does everywhere else (better include an A-Rod like opt-out clause).
Mike Mussina's loss will prove to be huge. The man finally gets 20 wins in a season and then walks away. This time Roger Clemens ain't coming back as a mid-season hired gun either. Like I said in a previous column on the Yankees mess, "New York Yankees do your worst, cause it still won't matter", Sabathia has to win twenty games just to equal Mussina's success from last season, which for anyone is a tall order.
Some will say, "But former nineteen game winner Chien Ming Wang is coming back." This is true, but we don't know to what extent. Prior this his injury, Wang posted a career-high ERA. Mix in the fact that he's not a strike out pitcher and it could be a slow transition back.
The Yankees can go ahead and sign oft-injured A.J. Burnett for a reported 5 years and $90 million but then you'll be holding your breath every start he makes. He could be Pavano II as both signed huge contracts coming off similar "breakout" seasons. I alluded to this in a previous column using the surprising Ryan Dempster as fodder.
Burnett will never be as clutch as Pettitte (remember 2003 when he won 3 consecutive Game 2's after the Yankees lost all 3 game 1's in the playoffs?). He single-handedly kept the Yankees in each series, and in the former two cases, helped them come back and win them. I don't even like the Yankees, but that is still one of the best performances I've ever seen. Burnett? He's been in the playoffs once (2003) and didn't even pitch that series.
Burnett additionally has the injury history that Pettitte never had until this year. Finally, signing Burnett would erase all the payroll the Yankees had shed and add more should Burnett actually get $18 million a season. At that salary, Burnett should be expected to win at least 14 games, a typical Pettitte season.
Some will say, "Yeah but if he signed with the Orioles you'd be singing his praises." That may be true but only because he'd have more potential than any current starter (which should tell you something) and also the most talent. However, I'd also be cringing each time he took the mound for each of the five seasons knowing it could be his last of the season.
Giambi's loss will be big too, not only from a numbers stand point, but also from a depth standpoint. 32HRS/96 RBI-- gone just like that. And can you say, "Hello Andy Phillips?" Are you kidding me?
So lets reevaluate these "savings."
Giambi for Sabathia (savings of $478,571).
Pettitte for Burnett ($2,000,000)+.
No Abreu replacement or Giambi replacement for hitting. If they sign Teixeira or Manny both will cost $22-25M plus considering what lowly teams like the Nationals and Orioles are reportedly offering.
So in reality all of Mussina's $11,071,029 would have to go for a Manny upgrade in addition to Giambi's $478,571 wash-of-a-contract. Basically since you can't get a hitter to replace even an Abreu at a price of $11,549,600, the Yankees would have to add payroll.
Either a Teixeira or Manny signing would place an additional $10-12 million on top of that so that would cancel out the rest of these "savings".
Don't forget that newest Yankee Mike Cameron makes $10 million when the Brewers picked up his 2009 option on Nov. 4. By my math, that's $9,538,800 more than the Yankees would have paid Cabrera for similar numbers.
Don't they ever learn? I guess it wouldn't be baseball if the Yankees weren't adding payroll and the Brewers weren't finding younger, cheaper alternatives to established players all the time. That is why economics-wise this just makes sense (cents?) for both teams.
2008 Yankees total savings of $66,549,600
2009 Yankees +$2M for (Burnett over Pettitte)
+9,538,800 for (Cameron over Cabrera)
-$478,571 (Sabathia over Giambi)
no solutions for Abreu or Giambi offensively, their replacements (Manny/ Teixeira will cost about $10-12 million more. Not counting raises to players like Matsui, Posada, or Rivera who signed long term deals last year or arbitration (what's that in NY?) cases.
2009 Yankees total addtions: $23,060,229
How again are they better?
We are missing two key X-factors. Hollerin' Hankis no George in every sense of the word business wise. I am confident he has no clue what he's doing unlike his crafty old man. Second, Girardi is no Joe Torre and he never will be. That aura is gone and all the wisdom and experience too.
They are still making the same old mistakes. Getting older (Cameron) and signing other team's free agents, and the wrong ones at that (Sheffield over Guerrero anyone?) instead of doing what helped them win-promoting from within AAA, AA etc, the farm system and adding that last final veteran piece like a Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, or Tino Martinez.
Even if they do this, they will still be the same old (literally and figureatively) Yankee$ throwing money at problems and hoping they work.
Only this time, they're likely only the third best team in their division.
Disclaimer: the point of this article is/was not to whine about how the Yankees keep spending money while the lowly Orioles do not. It is not a "sour grapes" piece, rather its continued amazement over how the Yankees don't evolve with the times and continue to not "get it" that you no longer just throw money at players and expect to win. It helps but this isn't the nineties anymore.