Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Expanding the Budget

Yesterday Buster Olney reported that the Yankees are thinking of expanding the budget this season. This report was picked up by River Ave Blues, The LoHud Yankees blog, and elsewhere (the Olney article is Insider at Here's the exact quote from Buster...

The New York Yankees will determine in the next couple of weeks whether they will expand their current budget, and this, of course, will determine exactly who they might add for their pitching staff.

My initial reaction was a positive one, as I'm not comfortable with the question marks in the rotation as it stands now. Can Ivan Nova repeat his 2011 season? Will AJ Burnett continue to be awful? Can Freddy Garcia contribute again? What about Phil Hughes? Honestly, it's CC Sabathia and then question, question, question, and question. So I would really like to see the Yankees acquire another starter, who can fit into the #3 or #2 spot in the rotation without a problem.

This is also a positive because earlier this off-season I expressed a desire to sign Hiroki Kuroda, after it was reported that he'd take a one year deal. That seems perfect, because after free agency next off-season, the team really wouldn't need another starter. They could have Sabathia, Hamels, and Nova in the top three spots, then fill the bottom with two of Burnett, Hughes, Warren, Phelps, Mitchell, Banuelos, and Betances. I'm not saying the reasons for backing off of Kuroda a bit weren't legit, as signing him to $13 million would end up costing an extra $5 million or so due to the luxury tax. Last season the Yankees had to pay $13.9 million towards to luxury tax, due to a payroll of $212.7 million. As things stand now the Yankees are looking at paying a little under $10 million towards the Luxury Tax, with a payroll of around $202 million. Adding Kuroda could bring the payroll to $215 million, and cost the team $14.8 million for the Luxury Tax. So we're not talking about pinching pennies here.

Well, I spoke of my "initial reaction" in the last paragraph, which means I had a different reaction after thinking about it. And that reaction wasn't a great one after looking at the payroll and luxury tax numbers. Well, in the following case, the payroll and Luxury Tax cost would likely go down a bit, but not enough to overcome my other issues. I'm talking about signing Edwin Jackson. For one thing, it's going to cost a 3-4 year contract. Which throws a wrench into the plans of getting a starter next off-season (although there's no guarantee there will be anything really good out there anyway). And on top of that multi-year deal, I'm simply not a big fan of the guy.

Edwin has averaged 203.1 innings over the last three seasons. That's great, but AJ Burnett has averaged 194.2 innings over the last three seasons, and I'm not exactly jumping around in excitement over him possibly being a starter in 2012. Being a workhorse is great, but you have to have the effectiveness to go with it. Does Jackson? Well he's given up more hits per 9 innings each season over the last three years (including giving up more hits when he moved from the White Sox to the Cardinals during last season), his ERA+ of 109 over the last 3 years suggests that he's above average but not spectacular, his BABIP was pretty high last year which suggest a regression of some of his numbers (it was .338), his batting average against has gone up in each of the last 3 seasons, and his line drive percentage was a fairly high 25%.

So Edwin may help improve the rotation a bit, I don't think it's enough to warrant a 3-4 year deal. So the idea that the Yankees are expanding the budget, and will likely make some sort of improvement when it comes to the starting rotation, frightens me a bit. And all for different reasons (Kuroda's issue is the extra money, while Jackson's is the extra years). Oh, and that doesn't get into the possibility of Roy Oswalt and his problematic lower back.

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