The current frugal path Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees are taking remains the right strategy via long-term success.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made headlines at the Winter Meetings on Monday, effectively eliminating the Bombers from the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.
Brian Cashman indicated that Bryce Harper isn’t a fit for the #Yankees. Said the team already has six outfielders and that playing Harper at first base isn’t realistic.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) December 10, 2018
Naturally, Yankees twitter was outraged, as the team’s newfound frugal nature continued to come into the limelight.
Passing on Harper, who will likely get a contract for over 10 years, and over $300 million, makes sense– so did passing on Patrick Corbin, who inked a six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals.
The Yankees are passing on impulse, and focusing on need–they don’t need to commit to a player for 10 years, especially if he doesn’t fit in with their immediate plans. They also don’t need to splash the cash on a starting pitcher with, realistically, two strong years under his belt.
Spending massive sums of cash in free agency has often been the Yankee way–they did it in 2009, spending $423.5 million on Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
And again in 2014, spending $438 million on Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran.
Can any of those contracts be deemed worthwhile return on investment? Teixeira made the All-Star team twice in eight seasons with the Yankees, and only had one really stellar season (in 2009 when he finished runner-up for AL Most Valuable Player). And while the Yankees won the World Series in his first season, Teixeira often struggled with injuries, slow starts, and poor batting averages.
Burnett had his moments in the postseason of 2009, but was largely inconsistent–his lowest ERA for the Yankees in three seasons was 4.04–his highest was 5.26.
Ellsbury’s contract has been and still is a disaster; McCann and Beltran led the Yankees to a grand total of one playoff game.
You can argue that Sabathia and Tanaka are the only two big Yankee signings to make a positive return on investment.
Which returns us to this offseason. Patrick Corbin was not worth the risk–even if he twirls several dominant seasons in Washington, spending six years on someone about to turn thirty, and handing them $60 million more than the original asking price (Yanks wanted him at five years, $100 million) was telling.
Same with Harper. The Yankees biggest offensive flaw was the over-reliance on the home run. Players like Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez can hit all the solo home runs they want, but the reason the Red Sox won and the Yankees lost is because Boston was able to string together hits and rallies at a higher volume than New York.
Harper is a similar player to Stanton–he hits a ton of home runs, walks a good amount, and strikes out just as much. Even if his lefty stroke is tailor-made for the short porch in right, giving him a 12-year deal screams ineptitude–especially when he hits .230 with 200-plus strikeouts in year nine.
It’s definitely frustrating to see the Yankees bow out of big-name players and big-time free agent deals–Brian Cashman said publicly that he wants to change the notion from the Yankees making “splashy” moves, to making “smart” ones.
The Yanks need another starter. They need one-two relievers. And they need a middle infielder.
They also don’t need to tie themselves down to even more crippling long-term contracts. Not when they have Stanton on the books. And not when, in a couple of years, they have to lock down Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, and Luis Severino to long-term deals.
Be patient. Trust in Cashman to make the right decision, as he has in so many instances. It is hypocritical to complain about paying Jacoby Ellsbury (who was a World Series champion and an All-Star), and not paying Patrick Corbin.
As uncharacteristic as it is for the Yankees, being frugal is a good thing.