Here’s a big snip of what he wrote:
Over the past month, the New York Yankees have invested $49 million in one-year contracts for four free agents: Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and most recently Kevin Youkilis. That is close to what the Oakland Athletics spent on an entire division-winning roster this year. But even after handing out that sum of money, the Yankees can’t argue that they are better now than they were when the Detroit Tigers swept them out of the American League Championship Series.
Pettitte turns 41 in June. Kuroda will be 38 by the time spring training begins. The Yankees hope each is as good in 2013 as he was this year.
Rivera is coming off a catastrophic knee injury. He’s the greatest closer of all time. He’s also 43 years old. It’s hard to imagine the 2013 Rivera will be better than the 2012 Rafael Soriano, who recorded 42 saves with a 2.26 ERA and is now a free agent.
Youkilis? He is the early-season — and maybe full-season — replacement for Alex Rodriguez at third base. Prior to his farcical postseason, A-Rod had an above-average 2012 by the diminishing standards of major league third basemen. His OPS was .783. The mean was .753.
Youkilis’ was .745.
So, again, let’s ask the question: How have the Yankees improved this winter?
The answer is they haven’t.
For Yankees fans, the near- and medium-term outlooks are unsettling. The team’s next move will probably be re-signing Ichiro Suzuki to play right field. Ichiro performed well in New York — a .794 OPS — after coming over from Seattle in a July trade. But he’s no longer a difference-maker at age 39.
Ichiro is expected to sign a one-year contract. Notice a trend?
The Yankees are headed for the Bronx version of the Fiscal Cliff. Hal Steinbrenner has made public his intent to keep the payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold beginning in 2014. This is the transition year, as the Yankees are trying to shoehorn their extravagant past and austere present within the confines of a 25-man roster. The result is a tighter fit than a Manhattan studio apartment.
The strategy of general manager Brian Cashman has been to slightly overpay free agents on one-year contracts in order to keep them off the books for 2014. That has prevented the Yankees from signing high-dollar, multiyear free agents — so far. (We must leave open the possibility that the Old Yankees return, delivering Josh Hamilton and Anibal Sanchez on the very same day.)
The Yankees, coming off a season in which they led the American League with 95 wins, will compete for the division title in 2013. They are going to carry a payroll of around $200 million — once more, for old time’s sake — and should benefit from salary drives for free-agents-to-be Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. But it appears they won’t fulfill the longtime Steinbrenner mandate: dominate the offseason back pages and drink champagne in October.
The problem, such as it is, will be exacerbated at this time next year. To build a championship team around the enormous contracts of Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter, Cashman will need homegrown players on reasonable salaries — players like Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke, who were traded for Granderson three years ago.
It’s not that Cashman made a mistake by acquiring Granderson. He finished fourth in the AL MVP balloting last year and has hit the most home runs in baseball over the past two seasons. But Granderson was the archetype for the Yankees’ old model; if they missed Jackson, Kennedy and Coke, well, they could blow up the budget and buy replacements.
No more, Hal says. So, what was the correct decision under the old rules could be scored an E-Cashman one year from now.
It’s hard to argue with any of this, in my opinion. What do you think?