On taking less to join the Yankees

Prospect Profile: Gary Sanchez
Thursday Night Open Thread
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The way I think about baseball has changed quite a bit over the last few years, and I’m not just talking about statistics or analyzing players or stuff like that. My perspective on free agency and arbitration and trades has changed, and a lot of that started once I began contributing to MLB Trade Rumors. Rather than focusing solely on the Yankees, I was exposed to all 30 clubs and I’ve gotten more familiar with their preferences over time. Billy Beane and the Athletics will ask for your top three prospects in exchange for their good but not great big leaguer, and every so often they get it. The Brewers favor power, both at the plate and on the mound. The Red Sox have a sieve of a front office that can’t accomplish anything in secrecy or without weeks of rumors. So on an so forth.

The Yankees, of course, have their own unique tendencies and preferences, plus they’re also just different than everyone else. They just are. Their market is different, their payroll is different, their history and tradition is different. They are the most valuable franchise in the sport and their importance to MLB is greater than any other club’s. They are the league’s villain, so to speak. A revenue-generating, attention-drawing villain. Their prospects are judged differently, their moves are analyzed differently, their wins are downplayed and their losses are overblown. Everything about the Yankees is different compared to the rest of the league. They’re in that own little baseball world, separated from everyone else.

The city of New York plays a part in that as well. There’s more than 8.2M people living in the five boroughs these days, and that doesn’t include Westchester, New Jersey, or the millions of tourists who check in through the year. Shiny new Yankee Stadium is easily accessible via mass transit whether you’re coming from Brooklyn or Poughkeepsie. I’m willing to bet that if we ran some polls, the Yankees would also be the most popular team in Florida given their Tampa roots. Probably a few other states as well. Few teams have that kind of reach in one community, nevermind multiple.

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent here and I want to get back to the point I originally wanted to make. Bryan Hoch recently published an article with some quotes from Brian Cashman that caught my eye. To the blocked quotes…

“I think we’ve improved our pro scouting network, and I think we’ve improved our evaluation of statistical data streams,” Cashman said. “It puts us in a position to make informed decisions and much more comfortable knowing what is really available, and what you can expect from those players if you sign them and what you’d be comfortable paying them.”

[snip]

“I don’t think we see things that others don’t,” Cashman said. “A lot of people have access to the same types of information and are organized the same way. I think we’re in position to make better and informed decisions. We have a circumstance where we have a city that’s a wonderful place to play, with huge fan support, with great players that we can surround ourselves with.”

[snip]

“It’s worked to our advantage,” Cashman said. “A lot of teams see similar stuff that we see. We’ve been able to benefit because we are the Yankees and this an exceptional place to play.”

Just this offseason, at least three free agents have taken a smaller offer to join the Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda turned down more dollars and years to return to New York back in November. Kevin Youkilis spurned a multi-year offer (and an extra $6M) from the Indians to take a one-year pact with the Yankees last month. A few weeks after that, Ichiro Suzuki rejected multiple multi-year offers and took a lower annual salary to return to the team after enjoying his two months in pinstripes at the end of the season. Other players like Eric Chavez, David Aardsma, and Raul Ibanez have joined the club on team-friendly terms in recent years.

We’re never going to know these guys’ true motives, but it’s obvious there is something about the Yankees drawing them away from bigger paydays. It helps that they’re all multi-millionaires who don’t have to worry about their kids or their kids’ kids financially, but this does extend beyond money. Youkilis, for example, already has a World Series ring and turned down the opportunity to play closer to home. The Yankees do have a veteran clubhouse but it’s not just any veteran clubhouse. Players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and CC Sabathia (among others) are highly respected within the game and that is a draw for fellow established veterans. Perhaps it’s the need to not be “The Guy.” Maybe it’s the city itself. I’m guessing all of these things and more contribute.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, and in fact I think I may have written about guys taking less money to come to New York once before (eh, kinda). It’s a nice skill (?) for a team to have, especially since the Yankees plan to trim payroll in 2014 and will need to find bargains to fill out the roster. Last year it was Chavez and Ibanez, this year it’s Youkilis and Ichiro, and who knows who it will be in 2014. The Yankees just need to be careful about diversifying their roster, because these guys are complementary players at this point of their careers, not cornerstones. That phase of their careers is long gone.

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Prospect Profile: Gary Sanchez
Thursday Night Open Thread
  • Jerkface

    Outside of Ichiro, are the others really that special? Youkilis took a premium 1 year deal so that he may end up making way more than his multi-year deal. Kuroda already took 1 year below market deal with the Dodgers, its his preference, and he still got paid this offseason.

    Ibanez & Chavez made as much as Ichiro this year, how can that be compared to Youkilis & Ichiro? The Yankees had to go to multi-year on Ichiro & pay a premium to Youk.

    Not sure this is evidence of front office skill.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Well…..when they play the games, we’ll see if the money was really allocated on the right guys and not, say, on Mark Reynolds and Nate Schierholz or whatnot.

    • Midnight Rider

      what is so special about Ichiro. No power, no walks and as was mentioned before other than a 5 game stretch where he went 14 – 20 he was a meh .285 hitter. Shiny name but hardly “special” other than maybe selling 1000’s of jerseys back in Japan.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        That’s not going to exactly be easy to chant from Section 203 this season.

    • Gonzo

      I don’t think it’s a FO skill either. Maybe just a nice benefit the FO works with every now and then. Maybe not for big money, but a million here and a million there saved is always nice.

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s that they’ve built a brand, which does take skills (baseball skills and business skills).

      I don’t think Mike is saying that it’s a huge deal, but a marginal advantage. Free agents seem to require a premium money wise to play for the Royals or Pirates, for example, and some seem to take a bit less to play for the Yankees.

      The brand shouldn’t just help get them a discount, but in theory it should help them get the guy for basically the same money. Obviously there are a lot of other factors playing into a guy’s decision, but if all else equal a guy will go to the Yankees over Team X for the same $… that’s a nice advantage.

      I don’t know that it’s definitely true or how valuable it is if true, but I think it makes sense given how valuable their brand is with fans, their record of on-field success, and that the NYC area is a pretty nice place to live if you’re really rich.

      • dalelama

        What they underpaid on the margin they pissed away by paying way over the odds for Aroid and Tex. Net, net it seems if anything they have to overpay to get people to play in a brutally high tax mecca like NYC.

  • Bob Buttons

    Poughkeepsie, hahaha… Makes me laugh every time.

    • Gonzo

      I went to school there for a very short time. It’s a nice place for not young people.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        ….and Snooki.

        • Gonzo

          Crap, I forgot about that. That’s usually something that sticks with a town for a while.

      • Bob Buttons

        I’m not laughing for the reason you’re thinking of.

        It’s for TOW the Girl from Poughkeepsie

        • Gonzo

          Ahh, I had to look that up. I wasn’t a Friends person.

          • http://thehateparade.com WFAN CALLER

            My HS played Poughkeepsie in football, even though we were an almost 90 minutes south. After we beat them on their home field, the players, parents and supporters (younger kids) started throwing rocks at our bus. That city is a dump.

          • Bob Buttons

            Don’t blame ya, it was a more obscure episode since most jokes in that one stays in the episode, so it might have been hard to tell even if you watch Friends a lot.

      • Andruw’s Smile

        Aww man, I go to school there now. Not the worst place in the world really, the city is kind of a dump though.

        • Gonzo

          You visit the farm often or at all? My favorite obscure place in Poughkeepsie.

          • jsbrendog

            the chance has some good shows.

  • Steve (different one)

    Sorry to nitpick, but I don’t believe Ibanez has a ring. Joined the Phils in ’09.

    This prob furthers your overall point though, as he may have come here on a cheap contract for exactly that reason.

    • MannyGeee

      NO. He came here to be clutch and to show up that bunch of choking chokey ass chokers that can’t hit in the playoffs. He was the savior of the 2012 season and not only should he be back in pinstripes, the Steinbrenners should have framed A-Rod for a murder by stuffing dead hookers in the trunk of his Town Car and sending the feds to find it. Seriously George is rolling over in his grave seeing how this team is refusing to spend like $300M this season in salary to make sure this TRAVESTY never ever happens again. This team is the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever did suck.

      And our prospects are junk and they should all be in the Bronx this summer so wee can tell them they suck in person.

      Also, Joba Rules and Giancarlo Stanton and Austin Romaine and something anti-semetic…

      #AmIdoingTrollingrightyet?

      • Eddard’s Pants

        I am Eddard’s Pants and I approved this message.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Oppenheimer forgot to check Cito Culver for a “666” on the back of his neck.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        anti-semetic? would that be something that DOESN’T make you throw up?

  • Midnight Rider

    It’s also possible for these old players whom are in obvious decline can more easily be hidden in this lineup where they are not required to carry any heavy lifting. When they do have the sporadic production it gets magnified (see Ibanez, Joines, Chavez) like they are still vital cogs. Even Ichiro was very pedestrian last season after coming over save for one magical 5 game run where he went 14 – 20 otherwise he was a 38 year old .285 hitter.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      A remixed version of that is actually huge and quite spot-on, though. They aren’t counted to be “the guy.” They’re counted on to play a role. Some of these guys have enough left in the tank to play the role they’re being asked to quite well, and even excel.

      The problems happen (and, in Raul’s case, he held up better than any of us thought he would) when injury causes them to take on a bigger role than was envisioned, or when we just picked the wrong guy *coughrandywinncough*

      • Kiko Jones

        Even Stevie Wonder could see that getting Randy Winn was a bad idea.

    • Ted Nelson

      Ichiro wasn’t good for a RF in August, but he was much better than he had been in Seattle since April 2011.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I think playing for the New York Yankees, playing and, probably, spending a lot of time on New York City are absolutely qualities in themselves that are going to be attractive to a majority of players. There are few cities like this one, few teams with tradition like this one, and few teams that offer you the opportunity to play with a walking HOF worth of guys.

    However, there really are folks out there that don’t belong in NYC and honestly don’t give a crap about the town and tradition who’d rather somewhere else.

    I guess your question is that, in their “diamonds in the rough” sort of hunt, are the Yankees picking those veterans who fit the former description and will rise to the task because of it? I’d say recent history tells us that they’ve done a very good job of that.

    We should absolutely worry about one-year-contracting ourselves to death, but it’s pretty hard for any of us to know what strategy here is going to be in the 2014 and 2015 off-seasons, try as some might.

    Prediction on number of Papa Bear George grave rolling comments?

  • stu phillips

    This group of owners dont care if they win or lose. As long has they make money.!!!!

    • jjyank

      .!!!..!!.!

      !!!!..!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      PAPA GEORGE JUST TOOK A HUGE DUMP IN HIS GRAVE, THEN ROLLED ON IT!

    • trr

      when their pleasure palace is empty in August, and the TV ratings in the toilet, they will see with new eyes

      • Havok9120

        Do you actually expect that to happen this season? I mean, they were 2nd in the MLB in average and aggregate home attendance last year and they led the MLB in overall and road attendance (again, both average per game and aggregate).

        • trr

          would you pay big bucks to see a .500 team of injured, washed up 40 year olds?

          • Need Pitching & Hitting

            No. I might pay big bucks to see the Yankees though.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Bravo.

              I’d also pay to see the Yankees, regardless of their record, because I am a YANKEES FAN.

    • Steve (different one)

      stu, do you really love lamp? or are you just naming
      things you see in the room?

  • Mike HC

    Cliff Lee would disagree.

    But in general, I think that is definitely true. Many players just want to play for the Yanks.

    • jjyank

      Of course. I don’t think anyone would argue that every player views their contract negotiations with the Yankees in the same light. But there’s probably some mystique and awe there that other teams can’t take advantage of.

      • Mike HC

        I’m with you. I think it goes beyond mystique and awe though. There are tangible advantages to joining the Yanks that Mike did a good job of hitting on.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          The strippers in Tamps do MUCH more than the strippers in NYC. Don’t even ask about Ft. Lauderdale.

          • Now Batting

            +1 on Cliff Lee. He dwarfs all of these examples of players taking discounts to play for the Yankees.

            Also, it’s a different era, but Maddux took less money not to play for the Yankees.

    • Gonzo

      If everyone didn’t throw pig’s blood all over his wife…

      • http://thehateparade.com WFAN CALLER

        …or root against the Phillies during the World Series. Why couldn’t Yankees fans just get over their ‘homerism’ and root for the Phillies and be really nice and sweet and lob rose pedals at the feet of this wonderful woman who most-assuredly does not wear the pants/jock in their relationship?

    • Kiko Jones

      Yankees were paying Lee more in the short run, but the Phils gave him a longer contract with more overall money.

      #cliffleesigningwithphilliesforlessmoneystoryishogwash

  • endlessjose

    I still think giving Ichiro two years was stupid.He’s not that great anymore and will need a platoon.

    Also he won’t hit 3000 hits the next two years.I mean he has 2600 hits and own’t hit more than 175 next two season each.

    • DC

      Who was expecting him to “hit 3000 hits the next two years”??

  • LK

    This whole scenario is going to be tested if the team has a couple non-playoff seasons. It wasn’t too long ago that Maddux and Bonds were taking more money to play elsewhere; the history of the team and NYC are great, but for most players I don’t think that they would be any more than a tie-breaker. The Yankees are able to sign players primarily because they:

    A. Offer the most money – this does not appear like it will continue into the future due to the budget constraints and inflow of cash to the rest of the league
    B. Are the closest thing to a playoff guarantee in the league – this is why players are willing to take less

    This is why I think the whole $189M budget is short-sighted. Massive savings in revenue sharing is great, but if you sacrifice any of the brand that’s been built the reduced costs might not make up for all the lost revenue/ability to sign players below-market. Being the most famous and successful team in the league confers huge advantages, and the Yankees won’t be that any more if they don’t continue to win almost constantly. Players take less to join this team because of the 17 out of 18 playoff streak; I don’t think any of the history before that has much of an effect.

    • LK

      Sorry, that should be Maddux and Bonds taking *less* money to play elsewhere.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      $189 mil or not, I think there was still going to be some major transitioning with this franchise around the middle of this decade for which it’d be hard to spend their way out of. You weren’t going to easily spend your way out of watching your biggest mainstays for almost 20 years reach retirement while having the high-priced guys who came after go past their peak.

      The true value will be seen in how far, or not, the fall truly is and how quickly and strongly the franchise is able to retool.

      Nothing last forever, even cold November Rain.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        i(still)etc, though.

      • LK

        I agree for the most part. However, as Mike mentioned in a previous post, when you take into account player benefits/players on the 40-man but not the 25-man, the payroll actually has to get to more like ~$175M. I think we could all see that a tough adjustment was coming in the middle 2010s, and that spending more and more money wouldn’t make that adjustment go away. But cutting tens of millions of dollars from the payroll instead of modestly increasing it over time like they had been is going to make that adjustment far worse than it needed to be in my opinion, and do so in a way that will do more long term harm to the organization than good.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Absolutely. It makes it harder. I’m just saying there was going to be uncertainty no matter what right around now or next season.

    • Ted Nelson

      I agree that it’s about the recent brand building through winnings more than the long-history (though that probably helps too). I don’t think it’s as dire as you’re making it out, though.

      When Maddux and Bonds didn’t want to sign it wasn’t after a couple of years of missing the playoffs. They had finished below .500 for four straight seasons. They hadn’t finished better than 4 of 7 in the AL East in seven years. They had 6 different managers in that 6 year stretch. Bonds also had really strong ties to the Giants and Bay Area, and not every free agent will value the same things.

      I also imagine that the Yankees realize the same thing we do in terms of profits being a function of both revenues and costs, not just costs. If it starts to look like the benefits of $189 will not outweigh the costs, then they might pull out. If they don’t start planning for $189 now, though, it will not be an option. Right now $189 or not are both options. If they start spending now, they won’t have any options. I see their plan as trying to put a contender on the field this season, and see how things develop with their own players/prospects, the trade market, and free agency next season.

      People are freaking out about this strategy because they don’t know how it will turn out. Neither do the Yankees. This course of action seems to me to be the right one given the circumstances, though.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Exactly.

      • Ted Nelson

        I have no idea at what point, if any, the Yankees will just blow off the $189 plan because the team is just too bad without surpassing the limit by the way. Depends on a lot of factors.

        • LK

          I agree that this (at what point they would give up the plan) is a huge factor that we can’t really know anything about.

          I also agree that it’s unlikely things will get as bad as they were when Bonds and Clemens spurned the Yankees, I was just pointing out that players wanting to come to the Bronx is not some birthright, it has to be earned on the field.

          I do think that *trying* to get under $189M was the correct strategy at the time the new CBA was announced. I personally think that the Pineda injury, Nova’s disaster 2012, Betances’ disaster 2012, the Banuelos injury, and the continued steep declines of A-Rod and Tex have already provided enough of an impetus that the team should accept that getting under $189 probably won’t happen without a pretty big downgrade on the field – I’m not saying they should’ve signed Hamilton and Greinke, but refusing to give Martin $8.5M for 2014 is adhering to the plan too closely in my opinion given the current circumstances.

          • Ted Nelson

            I don’t know why they didn’t sign Martin, but they could have done that and gotten under $189 easily. So I think it has a lot to do with what they think of Martin and/or their other C options.

            I think it’s very premature to say what the situation will be going into 2014 at this point. If Nova puts together the Ks and the hittability and Pineda recovers nicely, your comment won’t mean anything. Plus there are countless other things that can go right.

  • Blake

    “We’re never going to know these guys’ true motives, but it’s obvious there is something about the Yankees drawing them away from bigger paydays”

    Companionship to the early bird specials ?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      …and an extra hand to help roll Papa Bear over in his grave.

  • Gonzo

    They want to sign with the NYY for the gift baskets.

    Mystery solved.

  • Austin Aunelowitzky

    I would take less to join the NY Yankees. Just saying.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I did take less. You should see what the Astros comment section was offering.