Yankees fans looking for a big splash signing this winter are likely to end up disappointed. It has nothing to do with money – just some ole’ common sense…
The Yankees are a team with all the money in the world to spend at will while still satisfying their shareholders with more money than they had before the season started.
In theory, they can buy Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and Madison Bumgarner on a flyer, while zooming over the luxury tax threshold (about $208 million this year), pay the fine, and never receive one nasty text message from an investor.
That’s because the Yankees are all about money. Investors inherit a status similar to the $200,000 initiation fee they pay when they join the nearby Westchester Country Club. It’s play money for these people. Nobody cares.
And yet, Hal Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the Yankees, and his tag-team partner Brian Cashman insist on reining in spending.
As fans, we wonder why is that? How is he so different from his dad, who would quickly terminate Cashman if he came home without Cole?
The Yankees and the Evil Empire past
Hal Steinbrenner has opted to play the game fairly and by the established rules, which include a salary cap (AKA luxury tax). He chooses not to unleash Cashman with a free rein to buy the next Yankee’s World Championship.
But – if the right deal comes along for the right player at the right time – Steinbrenner will happily and eagerly sign the check.
And, you know what? The man has it right. David vs. Goliath is a lovely story, and it fits nicely into the American history narrative of the underdog.
But the fruits of victory are never as sweet as when the field of play is equal, or at least without a Goliath in the field. The 2019 postseason and the emergence of the Washington Nationals against the Goliath of baseball, the Houston Astros, surprised, entertained, and captivated all fans of baseball.
And so it is that the 2020 Yankees, while recognizing the need to tinker with the roster, may not engage in bidding wars to land a so-called “ace” to lead their pitching staff.
Begin with the premise the postseason is a crapshoot. A ball bounces this way or that way in the outfield in the NLDS, or a wrong decision to throw a 2-1 slider instead of the breadwinning fastball, sends Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees home.
Are you surprised to learn, for instance, that Justin Verlander, a sure-fire Hall of Fame inductee, has yet to win a postseason game? Or, that this year’s prize free agent, Gerrit Cole, was 1-1- and not the 2-0 the Astros needed him to be to defeat the Nationals?
Yankees are not on the free-agent grid – get used to it
No, along with Brian Cashman, let’s take a step back to ask yourself this. Is Gerrit Cole worth $30 million a year when you can add Francisco Lindor via a trade with the Indians who can’t afford to keep him at $16.7 million in 2020?
Add Brett Gardner on another one-year deal for $8 million and a starting pitcher the caliber of a Jake Odorizzi, age 29, who had an All-Star season last year for $9 million – and voila – you get three high-quality players for the price of one.
You can juggle the players above in exchange for Cole any way you want to, but the question remains. Does one individual player guarantee you anything in baseball today?
Ask the Los Angeles Angels about the best ballplayer on the planet, Mike Trout, and the number of postseason appearances they’ve had in the last five years.
Ask the Philadelphia Phillies what Bryce Harper did for them this year? Ask the Boston Red Sox how they feel (now) about those long-term contracts they gave David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Sale.
No, the Yankees have the right idea. They’ve come close for three consecutive seasons, but no trophy. The right combination of players is all that is missing.
The Nationals are the poster child for this having made a cameo appearance – how many times – before it, all clicked in 2019?
Fair and square, without buying up all the hotels on the monopoly board, the Yankees with a little of this and a little of that are primed for 2020 and beyond.
George, rest easy. In the 21st Century, this is the best way to do it. You’ll see…