The free agency gospel according to Brian

Patience with Vazquez pays off
Curtis Granderson and BABIP

The New York City sports crowd is abuzz with talk of free agency this week. It has nothing to do with Cliff Lee, Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. Rather, the attention is on the NBA. With their salary cap and free agent signing period, basketball has a concentrated flurry of news that keeps the pressure on teams to improve. We’ve seen the Knicks sign Amar’e Stoudemire, and now those with an interest in the sport are waiting for LeBron’s chip to fall.

While Yankee fans could care less about baseball’s free agency as the pennant races unfold, Brian Cashman knows that he and the Yanks’ Front Office have some decisions to make this winter. They’ll want to land Cliff Lee and must dole out contracts to two Yankee lifers who aren’t quite ready to hang it up. In an ESPN New York piece by Ian O’Connor — save it before it’s gone! — Cashman discussing New York City and their free agents.

As the premier media market in the country, free agents, says Cash, want to come to New York, and New York spots teams usually land the players they want. “LeBron James is going to be a Knick,” the Yanks’ GM said. “I’m convinced of it. New York is the place that will allow him to be the player and person he wants to be, and it’s coming together. Just listen to me, LeBron James will be a Knick.”

It’s all well and good for Cashman to predict the NBA free agent market, but it’s a different beast than that of MLB. In baseball, without a salary cap and constrained only by the Steinbrenners’ desire to win and their willingness to pay a luxury tax, the Yankees can spend and spend and spend. In fact, Cashman admits as much to O’Connor:

“In free agency, it’s not about cutting the best deal, it’s about securing the player,” Cashman said. “I gave CC an extra year and an out after three years because we needed him. We couldn’t afford to lose him. He was the most vital piece to our entire game plan in free agency.” …

“You don’t get a gold star for saving money on a deal; your goal is to win championships,” Cashman said. “You can’t enter the free-agent market as a buyer hoping to beat the other teams by one dollar. You can’t mess around and lose the player.”

Cashman is laying his cards on the table right here. The Yankees, he says, are willing to go above and beyond for players they want because that’s how badly they want them. It’s no big deal to give CC more years at the back end because, by passing up on Johan Santana, the Yanks absolutely had to land Sabathia 12 months later.

On the flip side, this statement illuminates another move I long thought curious. The Yankees needed a center fielder after 2005 and could have pursued Carlos Beltran a year before. The former Astro wanted to be a Yankee and was seemingly willing to give the Bombers a discount. But the Yankees passed on Beltran. They didn’t outbid the Mets, and they didn’t take Beltran up on his offer. In fact, they didn’t bid at all. The Yankees simply didn’t want Beltran, and although his offensive production was still tops among center fielders until he got injured, his injury has thrown into doubt whether the Mets made a sound seven-year investment.

When it comes to free agency, the Yankees are always buyers, and if money is no obstacle, they will get their man. If Jerry Crasnick is to be believed, the Yankees “covet” Cliff Lee, and if the lefty is reading Cashman’s comments on free agency, he knows he will soon have a hefty check coming his way. Whatever Brian wants, Brian gets.

Patience with Vazquez pays off
Curtis Granderson and BABIP
  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Nobody puts Brian in the corner.

  • gc

    “save it before it’s gone”…..I laughed. :)

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Ian is the best writer at, hands down. Go look at his archives; he’s never made a bad prediction yet. He’s batting a thousand. Nobody else could have foreseen John McCain picking Sarah Palin, but the O-C nailed it.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    I still find the Cliff Lee rumors to the Yankees an attempt to get Yankee fans to read their stuff.

  • Jose the Satirist

    “The Yankees simply didn’t want Beltran, and although his offensive production was still tops among center fielders, he just hasn’t stayed healthy enough to warrant the large investment he received.”

    Really? Beltran has a 7 years/$119M contract. A 25.0 WAR on fangraphs and 26.6 WAR on B-ref. That seems to be a pretty good contract, even with injuries. Not to mention the Yankees supposedly were offered roughly a $20 million discount. If he had signed the deal he would’ve been worth every penny of his contract.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      It depends upon what he does over the last 1.5 years of the deal. It’s not a good contract with the injuries; it’s a very good contract without them. The Mets will probably break even, but they also need to fill a roster gap which costs money. I’m fine with the Yanks’ not wanting to go that route and now understand Cashman’s thinking.

      • Jose the Satirist

        If the Yankees had signed him for 7 years/$100M and he put up a 26.6 WAR in the first 5 years, then never played another day in the majors, in my opinion the deal would be worth it.

        Of course that is very much a vacuum and we are looking at this in hindsight. I’m just bothered at the fact you say it was a bad contract but have nothing to substantiate it. Getting guys under contract who can put up an 8.0 WAR in a single season is difficult and expensive.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          Getting guys under contract who can put up an 8.0 WAR in a single season is difficult and expensive.

          Of course, but it just depends upon your perspective. Are you willing to pay out over seven years for four years of top production? Do you amortize his WAR over the value of the contract? For the first four years of the deal, Beltran outplayed his earnings. For the last three seasons, he’s going to be significantly overpaid. Does that make the deal a good one or a bad one?

          (Mets fans would also talk about his 2006 NLCS strike out as a negative, but that’s neither here nor there for the sake of his overall contract.)

          • ChrisS

            “For the last three seasons, he’s going to be significantly overpaid.”

            Yes, and so will a whole bunch of players. The Yankees, IMO, dropped the ball on not signing Beltran. We could have avoided the Johnny Damon experience (older player, worse defense, worse bat, similar injuries). A-Rod will not come close to earning his $30 mill a year on the back-side of his contract. Who knows what Jeter is going to get. Beltran, had he signed with Yankees in 2005, would be the only the 4th oldest and 7th highest paid player on the roster.

            Instead, the Yankees have been treated to the ghost of Bernie Williams, Damon, and Melky. Injuries happen, and there’s no guarantee that Beltran would have blown his knee out as a Yankee, but as it stands, he’s out-performed his contract, even more-so had the Yankees signed him with the fabled $20 million discount.

            • jsbrendog (returns)

              the yankees made the playoffs every year except 08 and won a WS. does beltran help them win the WS in 05-07 or make the playoffs in 08? not likely.

        • Ed

          If the Yankees had signed him for 7 years/$100M and he put up a 26.6 WAR in the first 5 years, then never played another day in the majors, in my opinion the deal would be worth it.

          I think that’s the easy case. If you’re a team with money, that’s an easy call to make. Especially because it’s likely that insurance would pick up a lot of the cost in that case.

          It’s when you get the sporadic DL stints that it gets tricker. It makes roster construction much harder, as you usually can’t replace your star with a player anywhere near the same level. You also have to work around a dead spot on the roster. And insurance usually only picks up longer term injuries, so it hurts financially.

      • CTyankee

        You understand’s Cashman’s thinking? Did he predict this injury and missed it with Pavano?

    • Mike HC

      I agree. I definitely think Beltran has been worth it for the Mets. It definitely did not work out to be a “best case scenario” worth it, but worth it nonetheless.

      • CTyankee

        Could not agree more

    • Poopy Pants

      Maybe we should also figure that the Yankees might not have bungled his injury situation as badly as the Mets.

  • Rose

    Let us proclaim…the mystery of Brian Cashman’s thinking…in the free agency with Cliff Lee, Mo, CC, and Derek Jeterrrr….forever and everrrr…

    [bell chimes]

  • Brien Jackson

    Predictably a lot of non-Yankees fans are pissed at this, but I think they’re missing the point. He’s not so much saying that every team should spend as much as the Yankees, rather that:

    1. There’s no singular market value for players. Every team has different needs, and that’s going to affect what they’re willing to pay for a particular player.

    2. Teams get too hung up on bartering over details that ultimately don’t matter, trying to squeeze every nickel and dime they can out of a negotiation, and that ultimately hurts them. Look at the way the Red Sox handled their negotiations with Teixeira for a good example.

    • vin

      Completely agree on both points.

      This is absolutely Cashman’s way of saying, “Hey Cliff, we’ll take care of you. Don’t waste the ink signing a deal prior to hitting free agency.”

    • Mike HC

      ” Teams get too hung up on bartering over details that ultimately don’t matter, trying to squeeze every nickel and dime they can out of a negotiation,”

      That is something that the wealthy says. The Yanks clearly have a huge monetary advantage. Boston is a cute city and all, but lets be real, it is no where near the money maker that New York is.

      • Brien Jackson

        No, but it’s more about the idea of being pot committed, and teams not really getting it. Look at it this way: if you offer Player X a 6 year, $140 million contract and he counters with 7/$150M, unless you just absolutely don’t have the extra $10 million, it makes no sense to try to nickel and dime him down to 7 years, $155 million or something. Especially if you really need the guy, it’s better off to just ink the deal before someone else has a chance to take him from you.

        • Mike HC

          I don’t think you are using the term pot committed 100% correctly here, but I get your point, so you really cares.

          I guess I just disagree that Boston is on equal bargaining ground to the Yanks. The Sox and Yanks were clearly going after Tex hard, and the Yanks won the battle. The Sox did not do anything to lose it, in my opinion with the information we have. I see how you can think the other way though.

          • Mike HC

            *who really cares

          • Brien Jackson

            Um, IIRC, the Yankees ownership hadn’t even approved the additional spending for Tex until after Boston made a big show of walking away from the table with Boras. That was what got Hal’s attention, and he gave Cash the ok to go after Tex.

            • Mike HC

              Well, I highly doubt Tex walks away from the Sox without any idea that the Yanks were after him. Who really knows exactly how it played out. I don’t believe anything that leaks during negotiations and all that.

              Also, from a Buster Olney article after the signing, “With the Red Sox, Angels, Nationals and Orioles making well-documented runs at signing Teixeira, the Yankees made an offer weeks ago, but then withdrew it; their intention all along was to make an offer, which they did formally on Tuesday, if it fell within parameters acceptable to the organization.”

              Meaning, Tex full well knew the Yanks wanted him, and knew they were going to offer him a deal.

              The things I know sure sure though, are that the Yanks offer blew the Red Sox already huge offer out of the water.

          • Brien Jackson

            I think the pot committed analogy works, so long as we’re talking about a free agent the team really, really, needs to sign, not someone for who there’s a suitable substitute or set of substitutes.

            • Mike HC

              Pot committed means you have already committed a significant amount of assets on a particular play, where it would be a mistake to leave the hand. Here, they had paid Tex no money and they had not gone out of their way, or made any moves detrimental to the team, just to sign him. Leaving the table did not put them in any worse of a situation than before. They just lived to see another day and used the money elsewhere.

        • Poopy Pants

          I would never try to talk someone ‘down’ to 7/$155M from 7/$150.

      • rbizzler

        True enough, but Theo and co. are walking a fine line. It is no secret that the Sox make a ton of money and they risk alienating FA’s by forcing injury clauses into contracts. So far, it hasn’t come back to bite them, but it is not hard to envision a situation where it does.

        • Mike HC

          The only way it would come back to bite them is if they lose a free agent only because they demanded an injury clause, and that player goes on to not get injured for the other team. I don’t think that is really a big deal, and if they are able to get those injury clauses into the contracts like you say, good for them.

          • rbizzler

            Oh, I agree. Like I said, it hasn’t come back to bite them yet. As we are not privy to all of the details in the Tex negotiations, we have no idea how much, or if at all, protecting John Henry’s pocketbook has impacted their on-field product.

            All I said was that their insistence not paying above their perceived player value and the inclusion of injury clauses could come back to haunt them.

            • Mike HC

              definitely true. There is some risk in demanding that, if they really do that.

  • KeithK

    Am I the only person who would be wary of signing Lee this offseason? He’ll turn 32 this year and if he gets a long term contract his future employers may be on the hook for a number of years of decline. Not that I expect Cliff Lee to be a bad pitcher at age 35 or 37, but I just worry whether he’ll be worth $20 million per at that point.

    • Mike HC

      That is the criticism that Cashman is trying to preempt. Yes, he might not literally be worth every penny, but the alternative is not getting him at all, which would be far worse than getting slightly ripped off on a deal.

      • rbizzler

        The A-Rod deal aside (which is the most untradeable contract in pro sports, even considering Gilbert’s terrible deal in DC), I agree, that the Yanks are saying that they can afford to overpay a bit.

        Also, these comments by Cash also say a little something about their valuation of players that they don’t go the extra mile for (I am looking at you, Damon).

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Cliff Lee isn’t the only option. It wouldn’t be ‘far worse’ not signing him 20 million per year until age 37 if you instead have Javy + Joba/McAllister/Nova for a bit more than half of what Cliff Lee should make while making room for another player such as Crawford.

        Granted I don’t care which option the Yankees take because either will be fine but the Yanks can live without signing CLiff Lee.

        • Mike HC

          Well, you can’t overpay everyone. So I agree with you. I would have no problem with the Yanks going either route.

          • Sweet Dick Willie

            I would.

            Granted, it’s been only a half of a season, but Crawford would appear to represent only a marginal upgrade over Gardner, at a tremendous premium.

            It will probably take a minimum of $10 mil/yr for 4 years to land Crawford (and maybe more), whereas Gardner will make the league minimum in 2011, and then be eligible for arbitration.

            No matter how you slice it, Cliff Lee will represent a massive upgrade over the alternative(s), albeit at a much higher cost.

            If it’s between Crawford and Lee, it’s a no-brainer – pay the bucks and get the difference maker.

            • Mike HC

              I agree with you. I was just trying to be diplomatic.

  • steve (do)

    I’m not sure we can compare the current decision making processes the yanks have in place with the one from the beltran offseason. That offseason, to put it charitably,n was a gigantic clusterf*ck.

    It is very possible that Cashman’s plan was “sign Pavano and Beltran”. Except others in the FO derailed that plan by swapping Javy for RJ, necessitating another starter (Wright) and killing his Beltran budget.

    Not saying we know this for sure, just that it’s possible and that we do know that the 2004-2005 offseason was the one where everything came to a head in the Cashman/Tampa war.

    Those days seem like a long time ago, don’t they? That’s a good thing. Cashman isn’t perfect, but womack and wright aren’t going to happen anytime soon either.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      You know what? You’re probably right about that. It’s probable that Cashman wanted Beltran but the Tampa faction did not. Maybe that was the conflict. I can see it shaking down either way.

      • Johnny O

        Beltran’s not a warrior because he’s from PR. Unit is a warrior and proved so by beating up a camera man. The Boss got his man, Cashman is an idiot.


    • Ed

      I agree with your general take on the politics, but how did swapping Javy for RJ result in the team needing another starter? I think they needed a starter with or without that trade.

      The RJ trade was brutal on the budget though. RJ cost more than Javy, and the Yankees gave cash to Arizona. So I can definitely see the trade hurting their ability to get Beltran.

      • steve (do)

        You are right, I may have miscounted, thinking CMW was the 5th starter, but before the season started, they wouldn’t have known that.

  • theyankeewarrior

    Basically, the Yankees can replace one of Javy and Andy with Lee next season and see the payroll climb somewhere between 5-10M, depending on what they decide to do with the bench and DH.

    I think that’s their best bet. Stack your rotation while A-Rod, Tex, Jeter and Mo are still producing.

    In an ideal world, Javy is offered arb, declines, we get 2 picks, resign Andy for 12M, Lee for 18+, Jeter and Mo for their going rates and let Posada/Montero/Cervelli/(insert 1yr rental FA bat here) figure out the DH/catching platoon.

    That payroll should be somewhere around 210M.

    Lets go kill some birds. I’m psyched.

    • Bret

      210 million. Let me see.

      144 mill committed plus arb for Joba and Hughes goes to 154 million. Cliff Lee at 18 million goes to 172 million. Jeter at 20 goes to 192 million. Rivera at 15 mill goes to 207 million. Pettitte at 12 million goes to 219 million. Your math doesn’t work.

      That makes rotation Hughes, Lee, Pettitte, Burnett, Sabathia. Excellent.

      That makes lineup SS – age 37, 3B – age 36, C – age 40, unproven DH – I think that makes an already declining offense quite vulnerable. In my opinion, they need a bat in a major way. The run prevention thing is working out so far but it will be difficult to maintain anything close to this pace the rest of the year.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        In my opinion, they need a bat in a major way.

        I was not aware that that was your opinion until now, but you have now enlightened me.


      • theyankeewarrior

        You’re right about the payroll. I’m calculating it based solely on the 25-man roster and comparing next year’s to this year’s. I think next year’s would be around $217-$219 depending on how much you think Joba/Hughes will get in arbitration.

        It’s basically raising the payroll 12+M.

        As far as the offense goes, I think they will be fine for another season. Remember, some guys are declining, sure, but guys like Cano, Gardner, Granderson, Tex, Swisher etc. are all in their primes.

        Oh, and there’s the fact that the Yankees have one of the best, if not THE best offense in MLB already. I wouldn’t get too down on next season’s offensive production.

        There’s also a guy names Jesus who we can always look to for help.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        That makes rotation Hughes, Lee, Pettitte, Burnett, Sabathia. Excellent.

        With that rotation, they could win with a line-up consisting of 9 Ramiro Pena-like bats.

        /just slightly exaggerated

  • Mike HC

    New York teams will always have a monetary advantage. Baseball teams spend upwards of 200 million on players. Basketball teams have no problem going over the luxury tax threshold, thus paying double for every dollar spent over the line. The Suns not giving Amare the max, but “messing around” with the three year guarantee and two year games played incentives at the end is the very example of what Cashman is talking about.

    Gotta give Cleveland credit though for doing whatever necessary to keep James throughout the years, regardless if it completely hamstrung their future if LeBron decided/decides to leave.

  • Dela G

    not signing beltran was a brilliant move in hindsight

    the guy can’t stay on the field as of late

  • Ed

    In fact, they didn’t bid at all. The Yankees simply didn’t want Beltran

    I don’t think we can really say either way on that. The team really needed pitching at that point and made that the priority.

    When everything settled, the payroll was at $208m. The year before was $184m, and the year before that $152m. I think they just shot the payroll up really high really quickly, and didn’t want to go any higher, even if they got a discount. The two years after that the payroll went down. The only times it was higher than 2005 were 2008’s $209m and this year’s $213m.

    The 2005 luxury tax threshold was also $42m lower than it is this year, which means an extra $16.8m in luxury tax compared to today.

    It’s quite likely that about $210m is really the most the team can afford to spend on payroll, which would make their like or dislike of Beltran irrelevant.

  • Enoch44

    I always thought the Yankees passed on Beltran because of the current state of Giambi at the time. I thought they had no appetite for another LTD at that point.

  • Rose

    The Steinbrenner’s really have no other major investment other than the Yankees also. Other owners who are part owners with other investors or other investments in some cases…those investments may be higher on the priority list than the baseball team. This certainly is a disadvantage as well…but it’s just like any other business. It takes money to make money and of course “location, location, location.”

    Saying it’s unfair that the Steinbrenner’s made a great investment and have taken advantage of their great investment shouldn’t be their problem. Common sense tells me that if you are looking for an investment…don’t feel like holding it that high on your priority list…and you’re looking at a major league baseball team in Oakland or some bad area in Florida…you should understand what it’s going to take to make it successful before you pull the trigger and immediately complain that your investment wasn’t immediately as successful as the Steinbrenner’s.

  • A.D.

    “In free agency, it’s not about cutting the best deal, it’s about securing the player,”

    This is true for the big name free agents in which their are multiple bidders, however frequently teams to pay out too much for guys with little market for their services, or aren’t particularly amazing

    • whozat

      *cough*Ollie Perez*cough*

  • Total Dominication

    Is the post title a “Lamb” reference?

    • Rose

      ‘Lights please…

      And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid … And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord.

      And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.”

      That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown Total Dominication.’

      • poster on another computer

        Lamb might be my favorite book. Fucking genius.

        • Total Dominication

          Definitely the funniest book I’ve ever read.

  • dan genovese

    lee will be a yankee…….write in down.

    • Tom Zig

      Write it down where?

      • gxpanos

        Best ever comment.

      • Steve H

        I just wrote it on a post-it.

  • AndrewYF

    There is one way that Lee to the Yankees makes sense, and no, it does not include trading their best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter.

    If the Yankees can spin Vazquez to some other team, and then use those prospects packaged around Austin Romine and maybe someone like Noesi or Phelps, then it would possibly make sense for the Yankees to trade for Lee. Think about it – signing Lee in the offseason gives away their 1st round draft pick. Factor that into the equation, as well as having Lee for the stretch run AND the postseason, AND taking him away from a possible postseason opponent, and it would definitely make sense to trade Romine, especially considering the insane amount of catching depth in the Yankees’ minor league system. Yeah, Cervelli sucks as an everyday option, but how much worse is he than Romine years 1 and 2?

    Anyway, the possibility of something like that happening? Less than 1%.

    • All Praise Be To Mo

      Ummm, no. Romine will be our starting catcher in 2012. I’d rather wait 2 months and get Lee in the offseason where it’s only money we give up along with a 1st rounder. Which hopefully by letting Javy go we’ll end up getting a better first rounder anyway along with a compensaton pick.

      • poster on another computer

        Everbody assumes this, but right now, Montero is still behind the plate.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      If the Yankees can spin Vazquez to some other team, and then use those prospects packaged around Austin Romine and maybe someone like Noesi or Phelps, then it would possibly make sense for the Yankees to trade for Lee.

      No, that still doesn’t make sense. Keeping Romine/Noesi/Phelps is worth more than the marginal upgrade from Javy Vazquez to Cliff Lee for the rest of 2010. We need to balance both the short term and the long term.

      Think about it – signing Lee in the offseason gives away their 1st round draft pick. Factor that into the equation, as well as having Lee for the stretch run AND the postseason, AND taking him away from a possible postseason opponent, and it would definitely make sense to trade Romine…


      Austin Romine >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> a first round draft pick + the marginal upgrade from Vazquez to Lee for 4 months

      • AndrewYF

        Alright, but I don’t see it as marginal. The Yankees get the services of Lee, AND they keep him away from any team they may face in the postseason. Plus, they probably gain an edge in signing him to a long-term deal. Plus, in the postseason, Lee is a HUMONGOUS upgrade over Vazquez. Honestly, he’s a humongous upgrade over anyone not named Sabathia.

        That’s just from a fan’s perspective. Think about it from the Yankees perspective. They made $72 million on the postseason alone last year. Getting Lee significantly increases their chances of going deep into the postseason once again, and making another $72 million. If you don’t think they know that, and if you really think they value Romine that much, then you’re crazy. The reason Romine is available is because the Yankees have so many options ahead and behind him. Plus, while Romine now may be better than a first round pick in the draft next year, he’s not THAT much better as to outvalue the significant upgrade of a half season of Lee plus the postseason over Vazquez. And I like Vazquez. But you’re delusional if you think the upgrade from him to Lee is in any way marginal.

        • Total Dominication

          You’re deeply undervaluing Romine.

          • Benjamin Kabak

            I think you’re woefully overvaluing Romine. He sounds like a solid defensive catcher, but he’s putting up a sub-.800 OPS at AA, and Cliff Lee is a huge addition.

            • Total Dominication

              You really think trading Romine, a top prospect, plus one of our top pittching prospects, is worth the uprade for half a season of lee over our worst starter.

            • AndrewYF

              This is exactly my thinking. If the Yankees are really lucky, Romine can develop into a guy who hits 15 homeruns annually, puts up a .275 average, and is slightly above average at defense, and is cheap for many years.

              That’s nice to have.

              But Cliff Lee, even for half a season, is nicer.

              Let’s fall into the trap of what Texas did and stockpile premiere catching talent just because ‘one of them has to work out, right?’ You cash in when it’s prudent to sell. And if Romine can get you Cliff Lee at the trade deadline, baby, you’ve got to sell.