Sunday, November 1, 2015

Get On With It!

Coming from a baseball fan that might sound weird. I mean, more baseball should be a good thing? Right? Well, I'm as big a Yankees fan as you'll find, so when the Yankees are no longer playing my love for the game does take a hit. 

Don't get me wrong, it's been fun watching the postseason, and seeing a team like the Royals one win away from the title is cool. I guess it's because there's nothing about the Royals that I don't like. Other than the fact they aren't the Yankees, of course.  But I'd be lying if I didn't want it to be over with, because the sooner the World Series ends the sooner the offseason starts, and the Yankees can start to make improvements for the 2016 season.

However, I'm afraid this offseason is either going to be awesome, or it's going to be a big disappointment. For right now I just don't see any in between.

Let's start with the "disappointment" part.

The last time the Yankees spent a lot of money during the offseason we saw some big contracts come off the books. Between Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Andy Pettitte, Kevin Youkilis, Mariano Rivera, and Phil Hughes, the Yankees had over $71 million coming off the books after the 2013 season. What did they do the next year? They paid Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran just over $75 million.

That didn't turn out too well, huh?

We saw the same thing at the end of the 2008 season, when Jason Giambi's, Bobby Abreu's, Mike Mussina's, and Carl Pavano's contracts were up. That was when the team agreed to spend over $400 million for CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett.

So how much payroll will come off the books for the Yankees between last season and next? A whopping $17.5 million (Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Garrett Jones, and Chris Young are free agents). And that doesn't take into account possible arbitration raises for Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Esmil Rogers, Adam Warren, Justin Wilson, and Didi Gregorius.

So there's one reason to be pessimistic about the Yankees making a big splash this offseason.

And then there's the fact that the Yankees roster is basically full. Losing Capuano affects nothing, as the team has plenty of pitching (how good or bad it is is a different story). The Yankees have Dustin Ackley and/or Rob Refsnyder to replace Stephen Drew at second base. And as for the losses of Jones and Young, I don't count filling bench spots as "big" moves. 

So how could I, one of the more optimistic writers when it comes to the Yankees, believe the team will make big improvements for next season?

Well, I admit that the chances of that happening roam around somewhere between "slim" and "none". They would have to open up roster spots by trading away guys. For example, I'm not the only person on the "sign Jason Heyward" bandwagon. However, the Yankees outfield is full with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran (who should probably DH, if it weren't for Alex Rodriguez). The latter two players are not going to get traded, meaning the Yankees would have to find a taker for Brett Gardner. Honestly, that wouldn't be that difficult, as Gardy can play strong defense anywhere in the outfield (including the all-important centerfield), and at least be a solid lead-off hitter.

But would the team do that? Even though he was far from great in 2015, Brett still outplayed his contract by quite a bit (he made $12 million, while Fangraphs had him worth $20.4 million). The Yankees may also still believe he and Jacoby Ellsbury could be a vicious 1-2 punch atop the lineup. I don't... but they might.

I'm not going to give up on that idea, though. 

Nor am I going to accept that the team doesn't want to increase payroll. While I accept that the Yankees still want to get under the luxury tax someday, 2016 should not be the year to do it. The free agent market after this year is far from great, so biting the bullet and going with a higher payroll next year is the way to go. After next season Teixeira's and Beltran's combined $38 million to go away, the year after that Rodriguez's and Sabathia's* $46 million goes b-bye.

*I see Sabathia's option for 2017 vesting.

So as much as I'm looking forward to this offseason getting underway for the Yankees, I'm afraid that by Spring Training of next season they will have done little to nothing to improve. But there's nothing wrong with staying positive, right?

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)