When news first broke of Cuban superstar Yoenis Cespedes’s impending free agency, the Yankees were immediately connected. In fact, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan wasted little time in making the connection, opening his second paragraph with: “The New York Yankees are particularly hot for the right-handed Cespedes.” This is not a surprise. The Yankees are always connected to international talent and high-priced free agents. But given the team’s recent words about spending, there’s a chance that they might sit this one out.
Earlier today Peter Gammons heard word that Cespedes will cost more than the $30.25 million the Reds paid Aroldis Chapman in 2010. The low end, according to Gammons, is $35 million, and the target is around $50 million. That’s an enormous outlay for unproven talent, and chances are Cespedes won’t hit the high end of that projection. But even at $30 to $35 million, the Yankees could back away from Cespedes, perhaps focusing on some of the younger and less expensive Cuban defectors.
In an article for the Star-Ledger, Marc Carig describes the Yankees financial situation:
These Yankees work with budgets — yes, still the largest war chest in the game — but limits nonetheless. And this week, with representatives for the game’s top free agents trying to drum up interest in their clients, the Yankees left no indication that they’ll stray from the target area they’ve established over the past three years.
Instead, according to people with knowledge of the team’s thinking who requested anonymity to speak candidly, the Yankees came away from the GM meetings Thursday skeptical of their willingness to meet the asking price of top free agents such as pitcher C.J. Wilson or Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish.
True, the $30-$35 million outlay for Cespedes isn’t quite the $100-million-plus outlay for Wilson or Darvish. But it’s a significant chunk of money for a player who has zero major league experience. The Yankees have around $190 million on the books for 2012, when counting projected arbitration raises, and the focus this winter centers on pitching. It’s doubtful that they’ll fit both a pitcher and Cespedes in their budget. They’d have to really like Cespedes in order to make that kind of exception.
They are the Yankees, though, and you never know. After all, in the same article Carig describes the process behind signing Russell Martin, which involved asking Hal Steinbrenner for a few extra million. But that filled a specific need, and it went towards a player who had significant major league experience. Will the Yankees make a similar exception for a player whose only experience has come in another country? The smart money, right now, is on no.
This is also incidentally why I think they’ll make a non-aggressive bid on Darvish, but that’s a subject for another day.