Patience & Roster Margins

Andy's impact on Freddy
2012 Season Preview: Platoon Opportunities
(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

The Yankees have a top-heavy roster in terms of payroll, but no longer in terms of talent. A few years ago the club was loaded with high-priced superstars that carried the majority of load with little depth, forcing the team to scratch and claw for bench help, bullpen fodder, and depth pieces. The Yankees still rely on those high-priced superstars to lead the way, but now they have depth in all forms — quality veterans and kids in Triple-A. The payroll hasn’t changed all that much in recent years, but the roster construction certainly has.

All those high-priced stars typically make it difficult for the Yankees to add reserve players via free agency because no one wants to sit on the bench or rot in the bullpen while the big money guys play as much as possible. That’s why they’ve had to swing trades for Wilson Betemit and Enrique Wilson types in the past. That has changed a bit in the last year or two, and we’ve actually seen some quality veteran players take less money and smaller roles to come to New York, perhaps in an effort to win a ring. As a result, the Yankees can now afford to be patient during the offseason and add players on favorable terms.

“We were able to take advantage of the month of January in terms of value in the back end of the free agent market,” said Brian Cashman recently. “Plus, the wishes of certain people to come to camp with the Yankees was a factor. I always remember a ways back when that wasn’t the case — when it was hard to get players to come here — so we can now be patient with the free agent market.”

The Yankees brought in a number of players on below-market contracts this offseason, getting serious value on the margins of the roster. Freddy Garcia returned for one year and $4M, a bargain compared to similar free agent hurlers like Bruce Chen (2/10), Aaron Harang (2/12), Tsuyoshi Wada (2/8.15), and Chris Capuano (2/10). Andruw Jones came back for just $2M while Juan Rivera and Ryan Ludwick got $4.5M and $2.5M, respectively. Bill Hall, Dewayne Wise, and Clay Rapada took minor league pacts from the Yankees even though they probably could have gotten more of an opportunity elsewhere. Andy Pettitte‘s deal could be the bargain signing of the offseason.

Patience is no fun for us fans, especially since we’re so used to loud offseasons and constant rumors. It’s easy to misconstrue patience for cheapness and negligence, but every April there’s a championship-caliber club on the field. There will still be aggressive pursuits of big-name free agents in the future, but the Yankees have put themselves in a position to let second and third tier free agents come to them to fill miscellaneous roster holes later in the offseason. It’s easier said than done of course, especially since those types of free agents tend to be more volatile than the established everyday guys.

“I know it looks good now,” cautioned Cashman, “but I’ve come to learn that whatever makes sense over the winter doesn’t necessarily transfer itself into the regular season.”

Andy's impact on Freddy
2012 Season Preview: Platoon Opportunities
  • gc

    George would be rolling over in his grave at this travesty of a team. He would have broken the bank for Pujols, Fielder and Darvish, but instead we’re stuck with this crap roster and only a $200M+ payroll. Cheap bastards!

    (no, i don’t mean any of this. just channeling the ignorant yankee fan for a moment.)

    • Cris Pengiucci

      (no, i don’t mean any of this. just channeling the ignorant yankee fan for a moment.)

      Well done.

    • Havok9120

      I’ve seen almost this exact same thing posted with complete sincerity here, so you did a darn good job.

  • Chen Meng Wang

    Question I’ve been wondering about for a long time, probably since about when we signed Chavez last season. With all these good veteran off the bench guys we have, what does that do for guys like Laird down in AAA? I mean, with Alex at 3rd and Tex at 1st for at least the foreseeable future and Chavez/Nunez coming off the bench to give them days off wouldn’t it be better for us to look into trading him? I’m not saying we need to or that we should, but if the right deal comes along and we’re in need of something I think a guy like Laird could definitely be a decent trade chip.

    • Donny

      I like your rationale, but I don’t think that would be wise. After Larid, the Yankees really don’t have much depth at the third base position. Austin is a nice prospect but he is probably at least 3 years away. If A-Rod has to become the full time DH, or he spends some significant time on the DL, I would want to have the option of bringing Laird up rather than living with the Nunez circus every day.

      In a way, trading away depth in the minors will put the team in a similar situation to what they are in with the current outfield. They have no depth in the minors and it makes it that much more important that Swisher is re-signed (for the right price) and, more importantly, Granderson is re-upped when the time comes. If they don’t, and they focus solely on the austerity budget, then the Yankees aren’t left with many options patrolling the outfield.

      In other words, trading minor league depth is a hard thing to do if you don’t have other viable options on the cusp of being ready for the show. Depth is one of the greatest strengths a team can have over a 162 game schedule and I think that since the beginning of last year, this is the msot depth the team has had since 1996.

      • Ted Nelson

        I’m in no rush to trade Laird, but I don’t think he’s particularly good depth. Nunez can’t throw to 1B, but at least he can hit.

        I don’t know who will be in the AAA OF this season, but I don’t think Laird is even as good as last season’s AAA OF of Dickerson, Maxwell, Parraz, and Golson.

        Not sure that Laird is any better than Corban Joseph or Jorge Vazquez, and I would take a healthy Adams over him if that’s a possibility.

    • vin

      There’s no rush to move Laird right now, until he proves he can handle AAA. He only managed a .288 obp in Scranton last year (with a less than stellar iso). Straight up, he wouldn’t a player capable of cracking the Yankees 25 man roster. He’ll either be included in a larger package, or the Yanks will just hang on to him until they burn all his options to see if he can make the jump to the big leagues.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Yes, I think Laird should be moved, but I agree with Vin that he alone isn’t going to get you anything. There’s enough excess and blocked players to get some packages in action this year.

    • Ted Nelson

      If the Yankees got a good offer I’m sure they’d deal Laird. I’m just not sure that another team is going to give you anything of value for Laird at this point.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    If you are going to spend 200+ million, this is how you try to do it.

    Personally, I don’t see the point of all the hand-wringing over $189 million. It’s not like the Yankees are insanely over that right now, and are carrying the dead weight of Burnett, Feliciano and the overpay of Soriano. Mo is retiring, Jeter is getting his salary halved in 2014.

    Now you are going to have to part with at least 1 of Martin, Swisher, Cano, and Granderson. This is where Cashman will have to get creative. Cano and Granderson are core offensive guys with top production at their vital positions (making them harder to replace). Swisher is the easiest to replace, when position is taken into account. Martin is good, but is he $15 mil per good?

    In a weird way, I like this austerity budget. It makes the organization have to actually plan ahead, and see the far-reaching effects of decisions. The 2012-13 offseason will affect the 2013-14 offseason, forcing the team to make value judgements on their own free agents, as well as the rest of the market.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    … I like this austerity budget. It makes the organization have to actually plan ahead, and see the far-reaching effects of decisions.

    I like it too, to a certain extent. I do worry a bit that decisions made by the organization prior to this coming about will have some impact on what they can do going forward. Would they have signed ARod to his current contract if they believed something like this were coming? While that was quite some time back, I think any significant changes MLB wants to make should be brought up years before it is implemented. However, since this change really only significantly affects the Yankees, MLB probably saw it as minor, affecting only 1/30th of the teams involved.

    • nedro

      “I like this austerity budget. It makes the organization have to actually plan ahead, and see the far-reaching effects of decisions.”

      Right. Because this wasn’t part of the General Manager’s job description before this season.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        The point is that the team always seemed willing to go above $200 million in the past, especially if it meant they could get “that one player” that might make the difference. If tehy’re truely trying to stay below $189M, they won’t have that flexibility, making the GM’s job and decisions more visibile, if not more difficult.

        • LiterallyFigurative

          Exactly Cris.

          Due to the steep tax penalties for being over $189 million, the “one player away” signing that the Yanks tend to make will cost you far more than he would have in past years.

          So you have to ask yourself: Would a really good corner outfielder, or reliever or starter really be worth going over the threshold and paying $20-$30 million (maybe even more)in tax for?

          Or would you try and sign lower salaried, lesser guys and hope they can fit the one weakness you may have on your team? Every other GM has to make these value decisions. The threshold will FORCE Cashman to.

          • jsbrendog

            it comes down to the would you rather try to win now by sacrificing your draft pick and an extra 20-30 million to sign the marquee guy or save the money and pick and sign someone else and try to build for a dynasty.

            • Cris Pengiucci

              Decisions, decisions ….

  • dan gen

    it is this simple the window is closing on the left side of the infield and we are spending less….if we lose then the cheap ways will be part of it….