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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

SOMETIMES THE BEST DEALS ARE THE ONES NOT MADE

There is no question that this has been one of the quietest off-seasons in recent memory for the Yankees. No major multi-year, multi-million dollar free agent signings, no blockbuster trades. We lost a few players that were fan favorites, and we re-signed a few key players, but nothing earth shattering. As Yankee fans, we are not used to this. We measure the success of our off-season by the number of times we make the back page of the paper, or the number of minutes spent by sports radio talk-show hosts on the latest additions to the roster. The question is - is this inactivity really a bad thing? Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make.
Back in 2008, the Yankees were in a state of turmoil. For the first time since 1994, the Yankees did not make it to the playoffs.  Many expected heads to roll, and the Yankees certainly went on a shopping spree. The major acquisitions were CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher.  It is obvious that the Yankees were looking at Sabathia and Burnett as franchise players, signing them to 7 year and 8 year deals respectively for upwards of $20M per year. Fortunately, both players have been incredibly productive, and no one questions their salaries. The Yankees signed Burnett to a 5-year deal for $82M. Maybe the shorter term reflected the Yankees concern about his durability, but everyone agrees that it was still too long. Sure, he was a cornerstone of the postseason campaign in 2009. Nevertheless, was that worth signing him for the additional four years? Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and the answer is obviously no.


Now look at some deals the Yankees did not make in that and other recent off-seasons  In need of an additional outfielder after 2008, the rumors started about the Yankees pursuing Manny Ramirez. He ended up signing a 2-year deal for $45M. Over that time, he hit about .290, never breaking past 20 homers in either season, and created lots of drama. The Dodgers finally gave up on him and he finished out his contract in Chicago. Was that worth $22.5M per year?


How about Carl Crawford's 7-year $142M contract? Did the Red Sox get their $20M worth when Crawford hit .255 with 11 homers in 2011, or when he played just 31 games before needing surgery in 2012? I could talk about Barry Zito's 7-year $126M contract and contrast that with his spectacularly mediocre performance since signing it. The list goes on and on.

Look, I am not saying that every long-term big-money deal will go bad. But for every Sabathia and Teixeira deal, there is a Burnett and Crawford deal to match. Many major league teams, including the Yankees, are starting to take notice. Simple logic tells you that these deals are fraught with danger. Let us say a 30-year old superstar files for free agency and wants an 8-year, $200M deal. Furthermore, let us say that he has a great first year in that contract. Do we really believe that he will be just as worth the $25M in the year when he turns 37, as he was when he was 30?  Never mind the risk of injury. With the threat of the luxury tax being ever-present, every year that a team pays these extravagant salaries is a year that they are less financially capable of acquiring new talent.

I do not want to jump on the Alex Rodriguez bandwagon too much, but when we see that kind of drop in productivity, with that kind of financial obligation for that long of a period, it handcuffs the team.

So, going back to the Yankees, maybe a quiet off-season is not such a bad thing. I certainly think they have issues to address if they are going to have a successful year. However, maybe trimming the budget is a good thing in the long run. Maybe being in a better position to acquire talent in 2014, when the free agent market looks to be richer than in recent years, is a good thing for the Yankees. For my part, I believe the team will make the adjustments needed during the course of the season to have a successful run. I am just not afraid of the quiet as some might be.




--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row


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