COMMENTARY | This is a situation that is unfamiliar for the New York Yankees and their fans. A star player is entering the final year of his contract and there's absolutely no guarantee he'll be in pinstripes after the 2013 season.
These are not your father's Yankees. More to the point, they're not the Yankees of Hal Steinbrenner's father, either.
Hal Steinbrenner is the managing general partner of the Yankees and has issued an edict that the team's payroll is to be lower than $189 million when the 2014 season starts. The younger Steinbrenner wants to avoid having to pay the increased luxury tax.
That complicates things for the team as second baseman Robinson Cano enters the last year of his contract in 2013.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Yankees already are on the hook for more than $75 million for 2014 and that's just for four players. Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to make $26 million in 2014, Mark Teixeira is owed $23.125 million, CC Sabathia $23 million and Derek Jeter has an option that calls for him to receive at least a $3 million buyout.
That's a lot of roster spots to fill for $114 million, 22 to be exact unless Jeter exercises his $8 million option.
The Yankees have actually been preparing for this for awhile now. After making a huge splash in free-agency after the 2008 season, when the team signed Teixeira, Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, New York has been going the budget route the last three winters.
There appears to be no change to that plan in 2012-13. The team never made an offer to free-agent catcher Russell Martin, who signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to the Associated Press.
Some fans may not be happy about the new approach. But at the same time, the reality is that a $189 million payroll would still have been the largest in baseball in 2012. So let's not confuse the Yankees with the Miami Marlins holding a fire sale.
But the Cano situation is new territory. In the past, it would be a no-brainer: The front office would make a Godfather offer to Cano (as in "an offer he couldn't refuse) and Cano would remain a Yankee.
Instead, Yankee fans are starting to come to grips with a brave new world; a potential free agent walking away from the pinstripes to ply his trade somewhere else.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor at several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is a long-time New York Yankee fan.
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