In case you haven’t heard Brian Cashman say it often enough, the Yankees have a budget this season. He hasn’t revealed the exact number, though context clues have most pegging it at roughly $200 million. That leaves very little wiggle room this off-season, meaning we can forget about any more big names. It strikes me as odd, though, that the Yankees plan to hold back this off-season. There has to be some big picture aspect to this restraint, right?
Cashman has made clear his admiration of the 2010-2011 free agent class, noting its superiority over this year’s market. Consistent with that, the Yankees have signed just one free agent, and for a reasonable $5.75 million, one-year contract. They might add another, but expect that price to be even lower. In other words, the Yankees have used this free agent class to fill out their roster. To take care of their larger concerns they have worked two trades, one of which involves a player whose contract expires after the season.
It appears that the Yankees will bide their time (“[to] the extent acquiring Granderson and Vazquez can be called biding one’s time,” says Craig) and wait for a more robust free agent market. Even then, however, signing more than one free agent would likely involve expanding payroll well above the $200 million mark. The Yankees currently have $140 million committed to nine players, and that doesn’t count Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. Assuming they bring back both, Jeter at $20 million and Mo at $15, then they’re at $175 million for 11 players.
Almost certainly the Yankees will sign a starter, with Cliff Lee as the presumed frontrunner. That will cost $20 million or more. If Hughes and Chamberlain prove themselves in the rotation this season the Yanks could fill out the rotation relatively cheaply, but then again both pitchers will enter their first arbitration years, making them slightly more expensive. Then there’s the left field situation. Maybe Gardner proves himself this season and allows the Yankees to fill LF cheaply in 2011. But if he doesn’t, and if Jamie Hoffman doesn’t turn into Dan Uggla, the Yanks could look to Carl Crawford of Jayson Werth, costing them another $12 to $15 million per season.
So is this off-season’s budgetary restraint just a precursor to wild spending in the future? It appears possible. The Yankees have a ton of money committed to their 2011 team already, and have a few holes to fill. They obviously like the free agents on the market next year, and to make a run at more than one would mean to put the budget well over $200 million. With the way the team looks heading into this season, I quite like the idea of restraint now and wild spending later. It perfectly fits the Yanks mantra of win now, win later.