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Everyone remembers the free-spending New York Yankees of the recent (and long) past. They’d whip out their checkbook and hand over huge paydays to players like C.C. Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez without a second thought. But in the last few years, the Yankees haven’t done as much checkbook-whipping. There are reasons for that, of course. Their big contracts started to hinder them and they became less competitive, and their team was getting older. Spending more money on a team with aging, expensive players isn’t wise.
But GM Brian Cashman has a very specific reason for why the team hasn’t been in the hunt for the last few years, and that’s the most recent (and soon-to-expire) collective bargaining agreement. He spoke to the New York Post about it on Thursday, and he was pretty clear about his feelings.
“The CBA is going to affect us in the long term,” general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday at Yankees scout Cesar Presbott’s Thanksgiving turkey giveaway in The Bronx. “It’s already crippled us in the short term. Exhibit A is our free agency last year and a lot of the international markets I’ve been taken out of.
“The previous CBAs have really hindered us, so I think the next one is something we’re clearly going to be interested in on how it will impact us over the entire course of the term of the contract. The previous ones have impacted us in a bad way.”
The Yankees didn’t sign a single free agent last year, and Cashman is essentially blaming the draft pick compensation rules. A team can make a one-year qualifying offer to their players entering free agency, and if a player rejects it, the team the player is leaving will get an extra draft pick and the team that signs the player will lose their first round draft pick. So Cashman is saying that he didn’t sign any free agents because he couldn’t risk losing the first round draft pick.
Cashman also refers to the international markets he’s “been taken out of.” The Yankees have been taken out of the international markets due to their own folly. They’ve had penalties placed on their international spending since they went on a shopping spree during the summer of 2014. They had a $2.2 million spending limit, but ended up shelling out over $15 million on 13 players. That resulted in severe penalties for the next two international signing periods: they couldn’t sign an international player for more than $300,000, and they had to pay 100% tax on the amount they overspent.
Even though losing a first round draft pick would have been pretty significant for the Yankees, the rest of the reasons Cashman gives are pretty weak. In the past, the Yankees have sacrificed heaven and earth to get what they want. In fact, breaking those international signing rules in 2014 is a great example of that. The rules governing international signings and draft pick compensation are not specific to the Yankees, they’re the same rules that every team has to follow. But blaming the team’s issues on the CBA is easier than saying that no free agent was worth giving up a draft pick for. Or that they haven’t been able to be active in the international market because they broke the rules and are being penalized. Instead of admitting that they screwed up and had a team full of aging, expensive players, it’s easier to say that the rules are unfair and should be fixed.
Some of the problems that Cashman laid out could be solved in the next CBA, which needs to be agreed on by December 1 (though an extension is possible). If Cashman gets his wish and the barriers he mentioned are no longer there, then the Yankees should have a free and clear road to contention again, right? Right?
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