COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees vowed in 2012 that they would do everything in their power to get below the 2014 competitive balance tax in an effort to reset the scale.
As 2013 ensued, and the Yankees failed to make the playoffs, they backed off a bit and it became a goal. Now the idea that the Yankees were ever truly entertaining the idea of payroll considerations totaling $189 million or less is laughable.
On a day in which there were several trades and free-agent agreements across Major League Baseball, the Yankees pulled a page from their 2008 offseason playbook and signed outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract confirmed via Twitter by New York Daily News reporter Mark Feinsand. The deal includes an eighth-year vesting option for $16 million and a no-trade clause.
The Ellsbury deal comes less than two weeks after the Yankees came to an agreement with catcher Brian McCann on a five-year, $85 million deal. That's $238 million guaranteed for two players. The Yankees are not playing around, and they've got more needs to fill. I don't suspect they'll be bargain hunting to fill their remaining voids.
The Bombers are still going to pursue free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano, and apparently have not completely ruled out Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo or Stephen Drew despite the Ellsbury signing. Further, the Yanks will be big players in the Masahiro Tanaka posting process, once MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball figure out the particulars of a new agreement.
To see the Yankees spend and do so early brings back memories of their last splurge in the free-agent market. Prior to the 2009 season, the Yankees signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett to huge multi-year deals that totaled $423.5 million. The immediate return on those signings was the 2009 World Series championship.
Will this offseason indulgence pay the same dividends?
Not quite yet. The Yankees are on their way, but they've still got holes to fill. While there is a large gap in proposals between Cano and the team right now, I venture to guess they will reach an agreement in the eight-year/$200-210 million range, despite the Yankees' declarations of not going eight years and above $200 million. If they gave Ellsbury seven years, it will be hard for them to not offer an eighth year to a more valuable player. Plus, who believes anything the Bombers say about their spending now?
I'm not discounting the Seattle Mariners' interest, but I do think that Cano and his reps would prefer to play in the New York for all the extra glitz and glamour that the city brings. Cano would get lost in Seattle and hiring Jay-Z was about life besides and after baseball. So, I see Cano in pinstripes for a long time.
The Yankees can't and won't stop spending after Cano. They desperately need starting pitching. Beyond CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, there are few assurances with the current roster. Honestly, neither of them is a sure thing, either. They'd like to get Michael Pineda back on the hill, but even if he is finally healthy, he has not pitched since 2011 at the MLB level -- so what they will get from him is suspect.
The Yankees have an offer on the table for Hiroki Kuroda in the $15-16 million range, according to Andrew Marchand at ESPNNewYork.com. The Yankees would need to fill a void left by Kuroda signing elsewhere or returning to Japan, and they'd feel much better with a bona-fide No. 3 starter than relying on Pineda. That could come by way of Tanaka, free agency or a trade.
Add in Cano ($200 million-plus), Kuroda ($15-16 million) and Tanaka ($50 million-plus in salary?) or another starter to what they've already committed and the Yankees will at least approach, if not eclipse the $500 million mark in guaranteed contracts this offseason.
The long and short of it is that the Yankees may never be a team that builds from within. They have the financial might and the wherewithal to break the bank in the free-agent market when necessary. They can push long-term contracts that have run their course to the side and not flinch.
The Yankees have demonstrated, one week before the Winter Meetings even begin, an undeniable commitment to spend loads of cash on players they feel will bring them a championship. They will not stop spending because of the luxury tax. $189 million -- yeah right!Chris Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work as a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports, Chris created and maintains his own blog site, The Baseball Stance, which provides commentary about all of Major League Baseball. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
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- New York Yankees
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- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Robinson Cano