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For Yankees, a Different Concept of "Value"

It's well-established that the Yankees operate in a different financial stratosphere than the rest of baseball. No one's ever claimed that New York does anything short of go to the ends of the earth to lock up players they deem essential, often overpaying their own veterans -- or others they decide need to be their own -- to ensure that they become Yankees instead of Orioles, Nationals or, most of all, Red Sox.

Yet what the Yankees think they need and what they actually do need is often a vastly different reality, as elucidated in a terrific recent post from longtime New York Times beat writer Tyler Kepner.

Kepner's not the first to point out the times that the Yankees have overpaid for a veteran they deemed essential, but he may put it more succinctly and acutely than anyone else. Just check out this passage, comparing young Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria to Alex Rodriguez:

Longoria, 23, is in the second year of a contract that could run for nine years and cost the Rays about $45 million. Rodriguez, 33, is in the second year of a contract that will run for 10 years and could cost the Yankees $305 million.

Now, the Yankees were never in position to draft Longoria, who went third over all in 2006, a year the Yankees picked 21st. But they're likely to be tormented by Longoria again and again over the next nine years, while he improves and Rodriguez inevitably declines.

So for one extra year and $260 million more -- repeat: two hundred sixty million -- the Yankees have an older player who just had serious hip surgery. And there's nowhere on the field to move him as he ages, because Mark Teixeira (batting .198) is locked in at first base through 2016.

That's a pretty compelling argument against New York's willing opulence if you ask us. It's one thing to consistently spend money on smart additions. It's another to spend money on players who lock in a near AARP demographic (at least for baseball) and tie down an organization's flexibility.

A year after the new Steinbrenner era claimed it would build with the organization's youth, the ownership and general manager Brian Cashman drastically altered that approach in the offseason, signing three massive free agents, one of whom -- as Kepner points out -- keeps Rodriguez from being able to move to the other side of the diamond as his age affects his defense. New York is nearly contractually required to re-sign Derek Jeter when he becomes a free agent because of his legacy with the organization and his considerable pull with the team's fan base (both across the country and internationally). Trying to find a place for Jeter, as we've talked about here, is another story, but he's practically guaranteed to be an over-compensated Yankee for years going forward.

Add to that the sudden pitching roadblocks in the form of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, and much of the team's highly touted pitchers out in Scranton-Wilkes Barre suddenly seem superfluous or, as so many young pinstriped arms before them discovered, potential trade bait for another deadline acquisition.

Naturally, none of this is to say that the Yankees won't make the playoffs. None of it gives a real reason to believe they won't make a run at the AL East title again.

What it does mean is that the near annual tradition of crowning New York as champion of the offseason deserves a healthy amount of skepticism until it starts delivering annual titles to the Bronx, the way the teams that didn't include the long-rotating crop of galacticos did a decade before.

By Cameron Smith  |  May 14, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Yankees  
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Next: Does Northern California Want the A's?


In the words of the immortal Nelson Muntz: ha-HA! Go, Evan!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 14, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Comparing ARod to Longoria doesn't make much sense to me. ARod may be the best player right now, but alot of people think Longoria will be the best player in the next few years. So you are saying "oh look, they don't have the other best player in the league, which clearly they should have done instead."
Also, in ARod's first 7 years in the league, he made $12 million dollars. Longoria is in his 2nd season - this is the economics of baseball.
Should the Yankees be trying to get more production from their farm system? Yes. Should they stop spending their money on free agents? Probably not. I won't argue, though, that they need to do it smarter.

Posted by: CharlieF | May 14, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of their willingness to go over slot in the amateur draft, the Yankees forfeighted their 1st, 2d, and 3d round picks in the draft. They will not get picks for Abreu, because they did not offer arbitration. They have 2 picks in top 100, #29 and #76, as compensation for their failure to sign draft choices last year. Their first pick of their own is around #135 in the 4th round.

In contrast, the Angels signed Brian Fuentes and still have 5 picks in the top 50. That's very similar to Boston in 2005, when they came up with Ellsbury, Hansen, Bowden, Buchholz, and I think Lowrie in that position. The Angels are nearly as much of a NYY rival for the AL pennant and right to play in the World Series as the AL East teams.

Even if the NYY spend as much as they can to sign those picks, other teams willing to go over slot will potentially grab the better tough signings before them. Don't expect Aaron Crow to last until #29. While the draft is a gamble, the odds are better with the higher round picks.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | May 14, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Surprisingly cool reference to the "galacticos". I don't know how many here get the reference, but I dig it. Spot on, too. Look at Real's recent flameout in La Liga.

Posted by: fischy | May 14, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

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