Over at The Times Bats blog, Tyler Kepner is doing some truly excellent work. With the Rays in town earlier this week, Kepner used it as an opportunity to explore how the Yankees value their players. His conclusion is one with which I agree: They don’t do a very good job of it.
Kepner’s piece focuses around the discrepancies between what Evan Longoria will be making over the next ten years and what A-Rod has heading his way. Now, there is an obvious comparison problem here; Longoria is a very young star with little service time and less leverage. A-Rod is a bona fide superstar and a player widely regarded at points in his career as among the best all time. But Kepner’s point stands:
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 is locked in at first base through 2016.
It’s really incredible to think about the makeup of the Yankees’ roster right now. Over and over, the Yankees meet the salary demands of older players, tossing extra years and dollars on the pile. It hamstrings them constantly.
Was anyone else going to sign Rodriguez through 2017? Or Jorge Posada through 2011? Maybe the Mets would have done that for Posada. But considering his age — he turns 38 in August — maybe the Yankees should have let them. And what do they do when Derek Jeter needs a new deal after 2010, when he’ll be 36?
One of the problems with Kepner’s argument is the lack of alternatives. Who would the Yankees have catching if not for Posada? Who would the Yanks have put at third base who could even approximate A-Rod’s level of production? Ken Davidoff recently suggested the older and less healthy Scott Rolen, but most numbers don’t bear that one out.
Overall, though, Kepner has a point. The Yankees continue to tie up players on the wrong side of their careers to overpriced long-term deals. They have A-Rod for eight more full seasons after this one and Teixeira for seven. If CC Sabathia sticks around, he’ll be through 2015. Meanwhile, the Posada and the Mariano Rivera deals are sure signs of paying for the past. I don’t even want to touch the Derek Jeter issue right now.
After this week’s sweeps at the hands of the Red Sox and Rays, Yankee fans seemed to believe that the Yanks are indeed the third-best team in the AL East even in the standings don’t show it yet. That feeling starts and ends with the way this team is constructed. Whether Brian Cashman should be blamed or the Steinbrenner sons as they try to find their ways atop a baseball organization, that could very well be the reality in this league for the foreseeable future.