The Advantage of Money

Update: Yankees, Nakajima still far apart in talks
Thinking Out Loud: Ryan Madson
Worth every penny. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

For the last decade and a half, the Yankees have had two very distinct and undisputed advantages over every other team in the league. They are the only club with Mariano Rivera working the ninth inning, and they have the most money. The former has given them countless stress-free innings and wins, but the latter has brought both good and bad. You don’t need to do much more than take a cursory look around the league to see that it’s easy to spend money, but much more difficult to spend money wisely.

Like every other team, the Yankees have had their fair share of free agent duds. Mistakes come with the territory, but the Yankees have made bigger mistakes because they play in the deep end of the talent pool. The Carl Pavanos and Jaret Wrights and Kei Igawas … there’s only one team that can make mistakes like that and not miss a beat, but those mistakes aren’t without consequence. Contrary to popular belief, the Yankees do have a finite amount of money, and blowing $40M on Pavano means you have $40M less to spend elsewhere. That’s the reality of the situation.

Over the last three offseasons, the Yankees have shied away from free agency to a certain extent. They did offer Cliff Lee more guaranteed money ($148M) than either the Rangers ($138M) or Phillies ($120M), but otherwise they’ve signed just one free agent to a contract worth $10M+ over the last three years*, and that was the ownership-mandated Rafael Soriano. Pedro Feliciano is the only other player they’ve signed to a multi-year contract since the ’08-’09 offseason. The batch of non-Lee free agent pitchers during the last three winters is highlighted by John Lackey, Randy Wolf, Erik Bedard, Joel Pineiro, Mark Buehrle, Hiroki Kuroda, Roy Oswalt, C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish, and Edwin Jackson. There are no CC Sabathia‘s in that group, no one comparable to Lee.

* Not counting the new contracts for Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter. Those are clearly special cases.

There’s only one team that could afford to offer Sabathia the richest pitching contract in history on the first day of free agency and use it as a starting point for negotiations, and sure enough that’s the team that got him. That is the advantage of money. Having the ability to blow everyone else out of the water for elite talent. Those last two words are key, because those players are in short supply. The one or two or three win type players are interchangeable in a sense, because there are other guys capable of providing the same production at similar prices. The Sabathias and Lees, those fellas are far from interchangeable. If you don’t get them, you’re out of luck, as the Yankees learned last winter. Everyone else, eh not so much.

There were no available elite players who fit the Yankees needs this offseason, at least not in their eyes. I think Darvish is going to be pretty good and you probably do as well, but at the end of the day we really have no idea. I don’t know, you don’t know, and the Yankees don’t know either. But they do know more about him that you or I probably ever will, and they obviously felt he wasn’t worth the price, a price commonly associated with elite pitchers. Given how much success the team’s pro scouting department has had lately, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. Same deal with Gio and Wilson, those were two non-elite players at elite cost. Having the advantage of money is marginalized when you start overpaying for players that aren’t worth overpaying for.

Is this slow offseason a bore? Of course. Are the Yankees still a really good team? Obviously. They need a starting pitcher, really just one to bump Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia down to the three and four spots of the rotation, where they belong. Anything after that is gravy. As I’ve said before, the Yankees don’t need that pitcher today, just at some point later in the season and before the playoffs. I think we’d all have realized by now the World Series isn’t won in the offseason after living through it so many times. The Yankees have the ability to top any offer for elite players, but just one of those guys have fit their needs in the last three offseasons. Spending big on second and third tier players just because they fit a need often winds up being counterproductive at this point of the year.

Update: Yankees, Nakajima still far apart in talks
Thinking Out Loud: Ryan Madson
  • mike

    I suppose the luxury tax is actually having an impact on the Yanks – it seems it is really impacting their actions and behavior, and while I don’t disagree with the idea of husbanding resources, I wonder if Kuroda was costing 13mm and not 17mm would he already be a Yankee

  • Johnny O

    The Advantage of Money would have allowed them to trade prospects for Johan Santana and offer him a massive extension.

    (But if they did that, then they couldn’t use their money for CC)

  • Bill Tetley

    The A-rod contract strikes again. Listen everyone knows number 27 absolutely does not happen without the red-hot A-rod in October, but imagine the Yankees having 30 million to play with at this moment. I would think Nunez and some other FA could platoon a servicable 3B, leaving the rest for decent SP help.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      The thing is they already have a number of decent SPs. It would sting a lot more if it were holding them back from acquiring an ace-type pitcher.

      • Soriano Is A Liar

        Plus, Mike’s point is there’s no one elite out there anyway. Maybe that money would help in a trade for an elite pitcher, but more likely it would just mean giving money to Edwin Jackson or the like. I think this ‘austerity budget’ is almost a blessing in disguise in that it forces the Yankees to see what they have in the next group of potential “core four” type players.

    • Rainbow Connection

      Bill Tetley! YYYYYYY Bill Tetley!

    • MannyGeee

      I will take my lumps on the rest of A Rods contract over throwing good money after bad at Buehlre/CJ Wilson/Edwin at their going rates…

      those three contract are gonna look ‘AJ Burnett bad’ when they turn the corner, you know…

  • Mister Delaware

    2009 > Ability to sign CJ Wilson

    • Mister Delaware

      (Supposed to be a reply to Bill Tetley)

      • Bill Tetley

        I agree, 09 was amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for CJ…I’m only saying 30 mill is best spent other ways these post 2009 days

  • Mattchu12

    It’s really hard for me to complain about a team that won 97 games and will be upgraded in the lineup (full season of Montero), bullpen (adding Joba to the mix), and have a whole host of pitching prospects more seasoned to help out the rotation as well as hopefully a healthy season for Phil Hughes, which could be a much bigger deal than we’re giving credit to.

    Hughes was pretty good after coming back, he held teams to two runs or less in eight of his last twelve starts of the season. I find that encouraging.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      I agree very much with your view. I also think Hughes will have a very good season and so will Nova and if Noesi is given a chance from the beginning he would also have a good one. Garcia should win 10+ games. The only question mark is AJ. And I hope that if he does not perform well the first two months, we let Noesi have his spot.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Just put up my new 2012 Yankees Calendar in my office. Phil Hughes is the January picture. I’m also hopeful (always a “glass half full” type of guy) that he’ll have a strong season. There is plenty of AAA talent that can fill in the 5 spot if necessary. And, there is also plenty of time to trade for a true ace (or a guarantted #2, as much as you can guarantee those kinds of performances) if necessary between now and when the playoff rosters are finalized.

        •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

          I put up my office calender today too. Found out that it was 1/3 when George bought the team.

      •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        Wouldn’t you rather see AJ just pitch well so that they could avoid having to replace him and his large contract?

        • Jose M. Vazquez..

          That is my greatest desire, that AJ have a fine season. I am also preparing for the worse at the same time.

      • Ted Nelson

        Agreed. Between Burnett and Garcia I think odds are you have at least one mid-to-back-end starter this season, even if the other one totally bombs.

        Definitely will be interesting to see if they remove AJ should he continue to perform like the past two seasons.

  • Rainbow Connection
    • MannyGeee

      well played.

  • OldYanksFan

    Yeah… I know… Pitching wins the PS.
    Just ask the Phillies.
    But really… it’s still about Runs Scored vs. Runs allowed.
    If their ERA is a run better then ours, we just need to score an extra run or 2.

    Last year, our offense lost the PS.

    My issue is most of our guys prefer a long swing and strike 3, rather then a short swing and fouling one off. It’s fun to watch these guys drive the ball (when they’re ‘ON’), but I do wish the team could be taught that the first 2 strikes belong to the batter, but Strike 3 belongs to the team.

    Both JD and Paulie showed us that not striking out in ONE AB can turn around a series. We have an ‘all or nothing’ offense which often leads to a lack of ‘timely’ hitting.

    With 2 Strikes, the goal should be to NOT strike out, rather then to drive a gapper. Mo gets beat on bloops and bleeders. We lost 2001 on a bloop. I believe this is a real issue for us.

    • CP

      Last year, our offense lost the PS.

      Last year, the team lost in the post season based on bad luck. They outscored the Tigers 28-17 over the 5 game series – that’s more than 2 runs per game. That should be enough to win the series, but they got unlucky in when the runs came.

      With 2 Strikes, the goal should be to NOT strike out, rather then to drive a gapper.

      This is the wrong attitude. A strikeout is not that bad (no worse than any other out, and better than some). The goal should be to drive the ball every pitch. That will lead to more runs scored.

      • Rainbow Connection

        “Last year, the team lost in the post season based on bad luck.”


        • Ted Nelson

          Luck had a whole lot to do with it. Besides when the runs came, there’s also the Yankees #2 starter pulling up lame in the deciding game. If Nova were on in Game 5 like Game 1… they might win. Instead he was hurt, gave up two runs in the first inning, and the Yankees lost 3-2. I wasn’t really a fan of bringing him in, but your ace giving up the series winning run in a 1.1 IP relief outing is also pretty bad luck.

          • Rainbow Connection

            They should invest in four leaf clovers. $200 million will buy a lot.

      • Jimmy

        I’ve been reading this theme on the Yankees having hit well in the series but just unlucky and I don’t buy it. At the least, its overplayed. Not to pick on you because its a common theme.

        Eight of the runs the Yankees scored were off of Al Albuquerque in mop-up time either directly off of him or off of inherited runners he allowed to score. Add Dan Schlereth to the mop-up time scoring and we were just about even with Detroit in hitting.

        We lost that series not because of bad timing on when we scored the runs but because a struggling but fighting Doug Fister and Max Scherzer were just good enough and our batters weren’t.

  • jsbrendog

    ::slow clap::

  • Monteroisdinero

    Money Money Money. The ARod contract etc etc.

    Jesus $ave$.

    • jsbrendog

      blah blah, yada yada yada, etc etc.


  • CJ

    Prediction: Yankees will make a move for a starting pitcher and it will be unpopular and labeled an “ownership-mandated” move.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    Even with A-Rod’s precipitous fall, and his ridiculous cost except for Beltre there hasn’t been a better 3B available during that time. Also there has been two aces available during the past three years. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, we went 0-2 and still won 90 plus games both years.

  • Bronx Byte

    The Yankees won’t be making any pitcher moves until Burnett is gone.

    • Mike Axisa

      You should really seek some help for your Burnett obsession. You can’t make a comment without mentioning him.

      • Monteroisdinero

        Yeah, what’s up with these player obsessions?

        • Ana

          Self-aware trolling or wonderfully self-oblivious trolling?

          • Cris Pengiucci

            Obviously self-aware. He knows what he’s doing and is able to poke a jab at himself.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        What about Tyler Austin?


      • dan gen

        yeah,and mike a. cant make a comment w/o saying nunez sucks

  • Jamey

    CMP trolls in 5, 4, 3, 2…..

  • MikeW

    This post should be mandatory reading for Levine, Trost and Hank Steinbrenner. Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner already get it.

    Mike, you should also post about contract length too.

  • Rookie

    You’re absolutely right, Mike, as I’ve already said, that the Yankees know far more about Darvish than we ever will. And I agree that you have to give them the benefit of doubt in terms of scouting given their recent track record. And long-term contracts to pitchers rarely pay off.

    But I guess that I find Darvish’s stats and profile intoxicating — because despite all those things, it seems obvious to me, less informed/less knowledgeable as I am, that he’s likely to be a beast — an elite pitcher with a 2-something ERA for four or five years.

    Again, logic suggests I must be wrong. But it just seems so right…