Yankees, Red Sox, Money
If those three words don't stoke interest and debate, little will in sports these days. There's an eternal debate between the spending of the Yankees, Boston's frequent attempts to catch up to them, and whether the team's more recent, build-from-within plan will continue to pay dividends.
Regardless of the 2009 results of both teams' respective free agency experiments, it's a non-debate to claim that the Red Sox were far more fiscally responsible. As jca-CrystalCity pointed out in the comments under a post earlier this week, the Red Sox top seven starting pitchers are guaranteed less money than just C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett of the Yankees. That's one startling fact, but the list actually goes much deeper.
According to a fascinating piece by ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, the two starting pitchers Boston acquired -- John Smoltz and Brad Penny -- are guaranteed less than 1/23rd of the money New York spent to land Sabathia and Burnett. Granted, that's because Smoltz and Penny are both pitching on one-year deals, but the pure bottom line is terrifying. It gets scarier for Yankee fans when you consider the respective playoff records of both pairs, too: Smoltz and Penny are a combined 18-6, Sabathia and Burnett are 2-3 (Burnett has yet to pitch in the postseason).
Of course, the starting pitching comparisons are a microcosm of the larger free agency breakdown of the two teams. The Yankees notoriously overspent on Kyle Farnsworth to fill a relief gap. This offseason the Red Sox added Takashi Saito, who -- when healthy -- is a potential All-Star and former closer. They spent only $1.5 million to get him. The same goes with Rocco Baldelli, a former sure-star outfielder for the Rays who was released so Tampa Bay could avoid a $6 million year in his contract. Boston wasted little time wooing him back to New England -- he's from Rhode Island -- and landed him for a pittance; $500,000 plus huge back-end incentives if he's healthy and he plays (which he's likely to do, considering the fact that J.D. Drew is never healthy for an entire season).
When you take in the entire picture, clearly these are two organizations on different philosophical trajectories. Did the Red Sox try to sign new Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira in the offseason to a deal that would have broken all their own franchise records for a free agent? Absolutely. But in the end they didn't get him, and while some analysts expected them to overreact by signing all the big names they could get their hands on, the Red Sox instead stuck to a recent franchise edict to buy low on high talent, offering up rich incentives for playing time and performance.
It's a model that seems to be working, though the assets gained with it have yet to make a monumental difference. The Wade Miller experiment never panned out in Boston, and Bartolo Colon's results were decidedly mixed ... and brief.
Instead, this may be year where Theo Epstein and co. have their experimental philosophies tested in the full crucible of the high-spending AL East, with the biggest test coming from right down the road, from the team Boston loves to hate.
Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 12, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dfh123 | March 13, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse
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