Is the New York Yankees’ $189 Million Era Over Before it Begins?

Hal Steinbrenner Appears Ready to Spend, by George

Yahoo Contributor Network
Is the New York Yankees’ $189 Million Era Over Before it Begins?
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New York Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, second from left, rides during a parade celebrating …

COMMENTARY | The two notions appeared to be at loggerheads.

The New York Yankees were trying to navigate the treacherous terrain between keeping four-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano and following last year's edict by managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner to keep the team's payroll at less than $189 million by the 2014 season.

Cano is in the final year of the six-year contract he signed for the 2008 season and is scheduled to become a free agent this fall. The asking price to keep a second baseman that has averaged .314/.365/.534 with 29 home runs and 102 RBI over the last four seasons is not likely to be cheap.

Particularly not when that free-agent-to-be is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, who is notorious for not negotiating home-town discounts for his clients and for getting them absolute top dollar once they enter the open market.

Exhibit A: Boras client Alex Rodriguez signed a record 10-year, $252 million free-agent deal with the Texas Rangers after the 2000 season.

Exhibit B: Boras client Alex Rodriguez signed a record 10-year, $275 million free-agent deal with the New York Yankees after the 2007 season after he opted out of the final three years of his previous record contract.

So, yeah, the 30-year-old Cano is going to demand ... and get ... a king's ransom at some point in the next nine or 10 months.

The evidence is mounting that the younger Steinbrenner, son of the late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, is backing off the edict to reduce the payroll.

Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com reported Thursday, Feb. 21, that sources close to the organization say that instead, Hal Steinbrenner appears to be ready to spend, by George.

Matthews cited a source who said, "This is the first time since George died that it appears a Steinbrenner is actually running the Yankees."

That would appear to roughly translate to: The only thing about to be cut in the Bronx is checks with lots of zeroes at the end.

Reaction among Yankee fans was mostly negative to the plan to cut the payroll to a level that still would have been the highest in Major League Baseball in the days prior to Guggenheim Baseball Management buying the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.

It's hard to blame Hal Steinbrenner for wanting to run the Yankees like a business. After all, he's a self-confessed "finance geek" who balances numbers for fun.

But after a negative fan reaction that, according to another "insider with knowledge" cited by Matthews that "freaked out" the younger Steinbrenner, it appears that the man in charge of the Yankees is fully beginning to grasp what really matters in the Bronx.

That bottom line is simply this: Wins and losses, particularly in late October and early November.

There are other factors, however, that could be at work behind the decision to open the proverbial wallet and dig in with both hands.

It had been anticipated, according to Matthews, that the saving from getting payroll to a level less than the $189 million luxury-tax threshold could have been as much as $60 million once the stiffer penalties for spending went into effect in 2014 under provisions agreed to in the latest collective bargaining agreement.

However, three franchises who were expected to be feeding at the revenue-sharing trough-the Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals-have since boosted payroll and are expected to reap a windfall at the box office as a result. That would render them ineligible for supplemental revenue.

However, it's just as likely that Hal Steinbrenner-finance geek-ran the numbers and discovered that saving tens of millions in the short run might translate into losses of much, much more than that in the long run, should the New York Yankee brand be cheapened by a new era of austerity.

In any event, after two straight winters of watching from the sidelines as other clubs dove in after the biggest and brightest players available on the open market, it appears that the Yankees are finally ready to behave like ... well ... the New York Yankees again.

Phil Watson is a freelance sports journalist and commentator who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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