Buy now, pay later? Yankees again banking on big names, big contracts

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

They're still the New York Yankees.

Talk about your luxury tax. Fret about the team ERA. Wave goodbye to one icon, then another, then another. Have the third baseman go up in flames. Watch the Boston Red Sox win a World Series. Another World Series, make that.

They know what they like, they see what they like, and then they buy what they like. They play – and pay – for today, because that's who they are, and tomorrow they can fix whatever happened today, or so they think, and that's all that matters here.

Hours after the Yankees made the official announcement they'd signed Brian McCann, the best catcher on the market, to a five-year, $85 million contract, they reached an agreement to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, the best outfielder on the market, to a seven-year, $153 million contract, according to sources. And, if they have their way, they'll get through this clumsy courtship with Robinson Cano and sign the best infielder on the market for something even more than Ellsbury, which will leave them with only a pitching staff to rework. You know, tomorrow.

So, they take the center fielder and leadoff hitter from the Red Sox and make him their own, and they make things a little squishy in the Cano camp, and they plan to score a few more runs – McCann will help a lot there, as well – and maybe the pitching staff doesn't have to be perfect, which is good, because it won't be.

The Yankees would seem to be banking – literally so – on the likelihood Alex Rodriguez will serve at least a good portion of 2014 on the suspended list, which would save them $25 million in real money, as well as $25 million in against-the-tax money. They're also protecting themselves against the possibility Cano does indeed take the Seattle Mariners' money, in which case he might never see his agent again, which may or may not suit him.

Today, however, the Yankees win. Ellsbury is a star, even at 30, even with a single season in his past in which he hit more than nine home runs. He has some trouble staying on the field, though one could argue that's less about his being fragile than him being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He stole 52 bases last season and was caught four times, which is remarkable. He's a career .297 hitter, with a career .350 on-base percentage, and after all those games in Fenway Park's crooked outfield, Yankee Stadium will be a breeze.

In four or five or six years, the Yankees might be left wondering why they paid a 30-year-old for his speed, but the sorts of contracts that wind well past a player's prime have never bothered them before. No, what bothers them is one championship in 13 years, and their first dark October since 2008 (and second since 1994), and the fact they had to sit home and watch the Red Sox for a solid month.

They've gotten old and crusty and a little hard to watch, and Ellsbury makes them more athletic and exciting. He'll make plays. He'll run hard. It's how you win baseball games, as the Yankees sometimes seem to forget.

That, and pitching. So, maybe tomorrow. It's the Yankee way.

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