There are two things that come to mind when you think about the New York Yankees; championships and money. The Yankees have been the richest franchise in baseball for decades and until recently held the highest payroll in the MLB. The L.A. Dodgers surpassed them for the 2013 season with a payroll of over $220 million. The Yankees sat in second place at $203 million.
Yes, with a payroll of $203 million, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They were spectators, while teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Oakland Athletics with team salaries of $79.5 million and $60 million respectively, made it to the postseason. In fact, the A’s won their second straight division title with the fourth lowest payroll in baseball.
That’s not what irks the Yankees the most, though. This year, the Boston Red Sox won their third World Series of the 21st century. The Yankees have won only once since 2000. Granted, Boston is a big market and has a high payroll themselves at $140 million for 2013, good for fifth in baseball. However, that’s still $60 million less than New York, and they’re the world champs. That tells you their money was better spent. This has led to an even more aggressive approach by the Yankees to go after their 28th championship.
In response to their disappointing 2013 season, the Yankees have already spent a whopping $300 million in free agency this offseason. It started with signing catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal. Just days later, The Yankees signed all-star centre-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract, taking a piece from their arch-rivals and the defending champions. They weren’t done yet. They have also added clutch-hitter Carlos Beltran, agreeing to a three-year $45 million deal with the former Cardinal. In a span of just three days, the team added a star player from both the defending American League and National League champions. They also brought back pitcher Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $16 million contract. It’s incredible how that number looks like peanuts next to the others.
The price the Yankees paid for these signings was losing Curtis Granderson to the Mets, and second-baseman Robinson Cano. Cano signed a monster deal at 10 years for $240 million with the Seattle Mariners. So far the Yankees have spent about $30 million less than what their payroll was last year. However, with the loss of Cano, they will have to replace an all-star second-baseman, and they’ll also need to bring in at least one starting pitcher with Andy Pettitte retiring this offseason, as well as the best closer of all time in Mariano Rivera. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees spending spree this offseason exceeds $400 million. Pitchers are a premium cost. Pitching is what wins championships in this era of baseball and now the Bronx Bombers have a lot of replacing to do.
The Yankees won’t turn to their farm system for replacements. They can just reach into their wallets and get themselves any available starter they want. When your franchise is worth $2.3 billion, you have that ability.
New York will have to pay a luxury tax for exceeding the MLB’s $189 million payroll limit, which was implemented to help small-market teams compete with the spending giants. The Yankees will exceed that, but will gladly foot the bill, (estimated to be at $29 million). Since the team is a repeat-offender when it comes to exceeding the payroll limit, their tax will be 50% of the amount in which they exceed the $189 million budget. However, the economics of postseason baseball in the Bronx is so high that it’s worth paying that tax if it means getting into the playoffs next season.
The Yankees won four World Series’ in five years to end the 20th century, with one in 1996 and three in a row from 1998-2000. They made it back to the World Series in 2001, before losing in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks. After falling to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series, the Yankees were absent from the Fall Classic until 2009 where they made their triumphant return to the big dance, defeating the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games. How they did it is the reason many baseball fans despise the team.
College Humour posted a funny parody of the Yankeess, following the release of the movie Moneyball. The film chronicled the Oakland A’s 2002 season in which the organization adopted a cost-effective way of running a winning franchise with a limited budget. Conversely, this video parodies how the Yankees built their championship team in 2009.
After missing the playoffs entirely in 2008, the Yankees held nothing back in pursuing a championship. They signed Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $163 million deal, as well as A.J. Burnett to a a five-year deal worth $82.5 million. On top of that, they brought in first-baseman Mark Teixeira, which cost another $180 million for an eight-year deal. Nick Swisher was also brought over via trade with the Chicago White Sox.
This was in addition to some other free agents they had gathered in the previous few seasons, including Boston fan favourite Johnny Damon from the Red Sox. Damon’s contract was worth $52 million over four years, signed back in 2005. They acquired the highly-paid Alex Rodriguez in 2004, who had $179 million remaining on his contract with Texas at the time. The Rangers paid $89 million of that contract in order to facilitate the trade with New York.
With a league-high $201 million invested in their roster, the Yankees won World Series no.27, which is exactly what makes them both the most loved and the most hated team, not just in baseball, but perhaps all of North American sports. Following that season, the Yankees lost some key pieces, including Damon, World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera. The well-oiled machine kept rolling, but watching the Red Sox win the World Series is what prompted the Yankees to revert back to what won them a championship in 2009. Ultimately, the production of their free agent signings won’t live up to their enormous contracts, but the Yankees only care about the here and now. At 30 years old, Ellsbury’s best days are probably numbered. By the end of this contract, he won’t be worth what he’ll be making.
Things won’t change in New York. The Yankees can give their team a quick fix, while others have to rely on scouting, patience and home-growing their players. Championships will quell any debate on whether the Yankees free-agent signings were worth it. Winning and winning now is what professional sports is about. The Yankees have their way, and 29 other teams each have their own ways, too. Now we have to sit back and see whose way is most effective in the 2014 season.
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