The last time the New York Yankees spent big in free agency was in 2014, when they went on a huge spending spree. Looking back three years later, were the deals actually worth it?
Following a 2013 season in which the New York Yankees suffered many injuries, resulting in a non-playoff season, GM Brian Cashman decided he needed to make some moves in the offseason.
Long-time second baseman Robinson Cano was a free agent and the Yankees had to decide whether they were going to give Cano the money he wanted or let him walk.
Ultimately, the Yankees let Cano walk but instead spent big on other free agents which included Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos Beltran. Now that we have seen these players in pinstripes for three full seasons, we can decide whether or not these deals were truly worth making or not.
The first signing to look at pertains to former Red Sox centerfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury. After the 2013 season, Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million contract with the Bronx Bombers.
Since signing with New York, the 33-year old has slashed .264/.326/.382 with 80 stolen bases and 32 home runs. Sure, he hasn’t been the player the Yankees were expecting when they signed him, but he has not been bad at all.
He has given the Yankees a presence at the top of the order, leading the team in stolen bases each year since he began his contract. In 2016, Ellsbury was tied for third on the team in the runs created category (69) with Starlin Castro.
Defense wise, Ellsbury has been hard to match. He has only committed four errors in center throughout his first three seasons in pinstripes, but the advanced metrics help him out even more.
In 2016, he ranked second on the team in defensive runs saved (DRS) with eight, just behind gold glove winner Brett Gardner. He was also in the top five on the team when it came to defensive WAR, earning a 2.7 rating.
It’s definitely reasonable for fans to be a bit displeased with Ellsbury’s performance thus far, but as you go deeper into the metrics, he has been a vital asset to the Yankee lineup.
The next signing from this infamous offseason worthy of looking at is catcher/designated hitter, Brian McCann. The longtime Brave signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the club that will expire after the 2018 season (2019 option).
Since joining the team, McCann has slashed .235/.313/.418 with 69 home runs and 227 RBIs. He has provided the Yankees with the left-handed power bat they desperately needed as well as a veteran presence behind the plate.
His offensive numbers have been on the level with his career averages, so there is not any steep decline being seen just yet. Most of McCann’s time with the club has been remembered more for his defense rather than what he has done with his bat, as it has been even better than expected.
The 32-year-old could still be the everyday catcher for most major league teams, especially due to his success behind the plate. In 2016, the seven-time all-star only allowed 47 stolen bases against him, registering below his career average. His fielding percentage was .995, coming in slightly above his career average.
Ever since the arrival of rookie phenom Gary Sanchez, the Bombers have not needed McCann as much due to his decrease in catching duties. This has sparked many trade rumors this offseason which could ultimately lead to the seven-time all-star playing in another uniform for 2017.
With that said, this does not mean the signing has not been worth it for the Yankees thus far. For three seasons, McCann was a great placeholder for Gary Sanchez, and he will certainly be a force on whatever team he is a part of in 2017.
The 2014 offseason also brought along a highly-touted Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, to New York. Coming over from Japan, Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155-million deal with the Yankees, containing an opt-out clause after the 2017 season.
In his three seasons so far, he is 39-16 with a 3.12 ERA and 445 strikeouts and has proven to be nothing short of an ace when he is healthy.
In 2016, he pitched his first full season in pinstripes and did not disappoint, sporting a 3.07 ERA with 165 strikeouts. This performance led him to finish third in American League starting pitching ERA leaders, as well as giving him a chance at the AL Cy Young award.
The signing of Tanaka was certainly worth it looking back three years after the contract was signed, but hopefully — for the sake of New York — his success in the major leagues can continue. As long as the 28-year-old does not opt-out following the 2017 season, he will surely be in New York’s plans moving forward.
The 2014 offseason also saw veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran make his way to New York. Beltran signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the club that recently expired at the conclusion of the 2016 season.
One word to describe Beltran’s two and half seasons with the Yankees would be consistent. The nine-time all-star proved the entire worth of his contract in 2016 when he was the only bright spot in the first half, sparking an otherwise depleted Yankee lineup. The 39-year-old would go on to slash .304/.344/.546 with 21 home runs in the Bronx before being traded to the Texas Rangers on August 1.
Despite only playing in 99 games with the team, Beltran would still finish the season leading the Yankees in home runs, just ahead of Starlin Castro and Gary Sanchez.
With Beltran currently a free agent and the Yankees needing a designated hitter for 2017, a potential reunion between the two could be in the works. Therefore, this deal was definitely worth it for the sole purpose of the show that Beltran put on for fans in a down season for the Bronx Bombers.
In judging the four major signings of the 2014 offseason, it is safe to say that — despite no World Series title — the deals have certainly been beneficial for the club so far, perhaps even benefitting them into the future.