Apr
01

Old policy flies in the face of the new reality

By
Don't go, Cano (Elsa/Getty Images)

Don’t go, Cano (Elsa/Getty Images)

Perhaps the policy had been in place previously, but the first time I remember Brian Cashman mentioning it was during the spring of 2007. In camp that year the Yankees had two important players who were set to hit free agency following the season: Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera (plus A-Rod’s looming opt-out situation). Instead of talking contract with them before the season and therefore keeping them out of the free agent picture, the Yankees instead opted to wait, saying it was policy to not extend contracts before free agency.

At the time the policy was sensible enough. It allowed them to remain flexible. If a player got hurt before the end of a contract, they weren’t on the hook for any additional years and dollars. Once the players did hit free agency, the Yankees had a whole pool of players from which they could choose. At a time when many small and mid market teams let their best players hit free agency, the Yankees stood to take great advantage.

In the past six years the situation has changed quite a bit. Those small and mid market teams have bigger budgets now, thanks in part to the revenue sharing program. They’re using those dollars to lock up their best players to long-term deals. Here is a list of significant extensions in recent seasons. (Free agency dates in terms of, would be a free agent following the XXXX season; option years in parenthesis.)

Player Orig. FA New FA
Joey Votto 2013 2023 (24)
Felix Hernandez 2014 2020
Buster Posey 2016 2021 (22)
Cole Hamels 2012 2018 (19)
Justin Verlander 2014 2019 (20)
David Wright 2013 2020
Matt Cain 2013 2017 (18)
Ryan Zimmerman 2013 2019 (20)
Adam Wainwright 2013 2018

That just covers the $100-million-plus extensions. Adam Jones, Andre Ethier, Ian Kinsler, Yadier Molina, Starlin Castro, Miguel Montero, Andrew McCutchen, Gio Gonzalez, Alex Gordon, and Madison Bumgarner, among others, also got extensions that take them past their original free agency dates. Given the rash of recent extensions, the younger of that group could see further extensions before they reach that already delayed free agency date.

Another name will soon join the $100-million-plus club: Elvis Andrus. This morning Jon Heyman reported that the Rangers and Andrus were nearing an eight year extension worth $120 million, which will keep Andrus under contract for the next 10 years at $131 million total. This comes when the Rangers still have two years left on Andrus’s current contract and also have baseball’s No. 1 prospect Jurickson Profar waiting for a chance. There goes another player the Yankees can’t acquire via free agency.

The days of acquiring superstar talent via free agency seem like a distant past. This past off-season there was little superstar talent freely available. It was essentially Josh Hamilton, and he went to the Angels with all of his flaws. If you look at next year’s top free agents you’ll notice that one of them is already off the board, and the rest have plenty of downside. After Cano there are injury risks and older players, but generally there isn’t a superstar present. It’s Cano by his lonesome. The 2015 free agent list looks bleak as well. There’s Clayton Kershaw, but he appears to be nearing a mammoth extension. The only player that looks halfway useful for the Yanks is Asdrubal Cabrera, but even the Indians appear willing to spend money these days.

The old policy doesn’t work in the new world. Teams simply aren’t letting their best players reach the point of free agency. They’re offering security in exchange for some level of savings from full market price, and the players are jumping at the opportunities. When the Yankees let their own players hit free agency, they’re not longer creating flexible situations. They’re essentially driving up those players’ prices. Unless they have an in-house replacement, chances are they’re going to lose production in the deal if they don’t re-sign the player.

All of this, of course, goes back to Robinson Cano. The Yankees have apparently thrown out their policy and have made a significant offer to Cano, but apparently it’s not enough to get the deal done. With Scott Boras that’s expected, but then again Andrus is a Boras client. There remains a small chance the Yankees can work out something with Cano before November, but given his status as the league’s best second baseman, combined with possible interest from the newly rich Dodgers, it doesn’t seem like a strong possibility.

Hindsight suggests that the Yankees should have started working on an extension for Cano after the 2010 season. Unfortunately, that’s also when Cano hired Boras as his agent. Boras did come to the Yankees with the idea of ripping up Cano’s current contract and negotiating a new one, and at this point that appears to be an option the Yankees should have considered. They now face losing not only their best player, but their only star player — one who has no apparent successor. (As a superstar, not as a second baseman.)

Where will the Yankees be next year if they lose Cano? They’re then back to relying on Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to be their superstars. Much as I like both of them and appreciate what they contributed to the 2009 World Series team, it has become apparent that their lineup-carrying days are over. The free agency market is bare. Teams aren’t willing to trade premium talent for prospects any longer. If the Yankees want to continue having a star in their everyday lineup, it will mean ponying up huge dollars, and probably nine or 10 years, for Cano.

Perhaps in a few years the situation will change and star players will either hit free agency or get dealt to a big market team that offers an extension. For the time being, the emphasis is on developing premium talent in the minor leagues. The Yankees are greatly disadvantaged here, given their annual draft position. But that’s a topic for a different post.

Categories : Players
  • Eddard

    I wouldn’t go more than 7 years and I’d prefer 6. Anymore than 7 and I’d say see ya, Robbie. And this policy is garbage. You should always talk and negotiate, except Hank. I wouldn’t let him anywhere near the F.O.

    • There’s the Door

      Agree. Hank has to sit in the back, and a couple of times a day someone brings him a tuna salad sandwich and a glass of milk.

      • Barry

        milk and tuna, together? Gross.

    • screwball4u

      At this point, stop negotiating w/Cano. If the club remains competitive throughout the season, the Yankees can evaluate his year, & all things considered, determine if they want to lock him up for the rest of his career. If the club falls out of contention relatively early, say by the a/s break, deal him for at least one very good to can’t miss prospect to a contending team that a player of Robbie’s skill set will potentially put over the top.

      The Yankee front office can always negotiate for Robbie over the winter regardless of where he finishes this year. I wouldn’t give Robbie more than a FIVE (5) year deal under any circumstances, & I foresee very few of the players locked up by their respective clubs for crazy years & money that Joe lists above ever coming close to giving fair value back to those teams.

      This is an old Yankee ballclub that needs to rebuild. Player development is clearly the way to go looking at 2014 & beyond, & until then, I’m fine w/patching w/the Ichiro’s, Youkilises, Wells, Overbay’s, etc.

      If it’s clear by the a/s break that this team just isn’t good enough to make a serious run, I’d also move Sabathia, Texeira, Granderson, any of the above named veterans, and even some of our own younger arms & prospects if it gives us back better &/or younger foundation players or prospects.

      W/Mo hanging ‘em up following the season, Jeter’s ankle leaving him done, Pettitte well over 40, & let’s not even discuss you know who, 2013 is a hope for the best kind of season, but the future is about cost-controll & young talented players. If they’re not in the system now, it’s long past time to get them here. IF the ownership or scouting & development team isn’t up to that challenge, maybe it’s time for Hal & his baseball people to cash in their chips & sell the club to someone who is up to it. Hal’s right about one thing though. They don’t need a 230M$$ budget or even a 189M$$ budget to put a quality ball club on the field every year. They need more/better scouts, a commitment to drafting the best talent available, & an organization that knows how to develop, maximize, & get that talent to produce at the big league level. Here’s hoping for the best.

  • There’s the Door

    Very sharp piece, Joe.

  • mike

    Which is why the Yankees poor drafting/development process – including their reluctance to overpay for international FA’s as they had in the past – has left them in a pickle.

    This direction must have been apparent to the Yanks a few years ago, whether it was because of discussions in committee, the obvious growth of revenue from regional sports networks, overall value of franchises rising etc., and hopefully well before it became aware to bloggers and fans.

    thus, the valuation of Darvish, Cespedes, Puig etc is even greater than their abilities …it short-circuits the development process, which the Yanks have shown a disinclination to go crazy for professional international guys, and for producing quality thru the domestic draft. Their successes in international amateur market was OK…and now those wings are being clipped as well.

    • MannyGeee

      I think the counterpoint of this is… Darvish & Cespedes play well and the Yankees are goats. However if Darvish turns into Dice-K or Cespedes becomes Juan Miranda and you are on the hook for the next 5 seasons of Gyroballs or AAAA ball players for $100M or $30M respectively.

      Just because you have the means to throw all the monies at the International FAs doesn’t mean you should

      • mike

        of course – but not as risky in terms of $/ draft picks and luxury tax as current FA

      • OldYanksFan

        I agree to some extent, but I would not lump Yu and Cespedes in the same boat. One is an Asian PITCHER (a group that has not had a great history in MLB) for $100m, while the other is a Latin OF’ER for $30m. Yu was a BIG gamble. Cespedes was a relatively fair deal and reasonable risk.

  • jjyank

    Agreed whole-heartedly. I’m in the camp that isn’t worked up about the budget, since I get why they’re doing it and might do the same if I were in their position. But, the strategy needs to be tweaked. Extensions are going to have to be part of the team’s strategy if they’re going to stay under budget.

    I’m not necessarily talking about Cano, because I think it’s pretty clear he’s going to get a market value contract either way. But generally speaking, the team needs to start locking up guys a couple years from free agency to give them cost certainty. Plus, as Joe notes rather extensively, all the other good players are getting locked up. Can’t rely on free agency if there are no good free agents hitting the market.

    • BaltimoreYankee

      To call Cano “their only star player” is a bit of a stretch. I would say Sabathia and Granderson are easily current stars and certainly the old guys (Jeter, ARod, Teix) are aging stars.

      • jjyank

        Fair enough. I wasn’t really thinking about that when I said that I agreed, I meant the core idea of the article. But it is pretty clear to me that Cano is the best player on the team. Maybe CC is on par, but that’s about it.

        • dalelama

          Cano is their only regular season superstar. With the lack of available free agents, our barren farm system, and plethora of over paid aging choke artists our future looks real bleak.

          • Cool Lester Smooth

            It’s not that bad.

            Harvey and Wheeler look like top of the rotation pitchers, and they won’t have to pay Jason Bay’s salary anymore after this year.

            • jsbrendog

              does not compute…

              • Cool Lester Smooth

                Since he’s a Mets fan…

  • trr

    $100m for Andrus? really? I should’ve taken him in my Fantasy draft..Seriously, we need to get this done. It probably won’t happen until after the season, but we need to get it done!

    A new reality indeed! (Star Wars Episode VII : A New Reality)

    (Did I mention we need to get this done?)

    • jjyank

      I did take Andrus in my fantasy draft. Hope he kills it this year (against every team other than the Yanks).

      • trr

        OK by me!
        I got Cadrubal late, he was the last position player I took

      • MannyGeee

        Hope he signs that extension and turns into Alex Rios by June of THIS YEAR…. If for no other reason to blow up your fantasy team!

  • Alex

    He’s going to be 31 at the start of next season. No thank you. The Yankees have been down this rode already and I’d prefer to not have to see them go down this road again. Let him sign with the Dodgers. They need at least 2 of their top young prospects to become top 5 at their position and another 2 turn into solid starters over the next couple of years or they will be in a lot of trouble, regardless of what happens w/ Cano.

    • LarryM Fl

      Good point. One player does not make a championship team.

  • Scott Steiner

    Robbie Cano is the big man on the Yankees right now. With Scott Boras as his agent, he isn’t gonna lay down for nobody.

    See where all my freaks are horizontal, they understand size, they appreciate home runs and talent does matter and they know that they don’t have to wait for the Earth to rotate on a 47 degree axis so the stars can touch the sky and create an equinox so they see the big dipper. No no no, all they gotta do is call Robbie Cano, cause he’s the man with the big dipper and satisfaction’s coming when he goes behind to do the bump n’ grind and it’s only a matter of time before they call him the big bad booty daddy!

    So Yankees, realize this. Robbie only care about two things in this world: his freaks and his peaks and Scott Boras will beat your ass down this offseason, he’s gonna whisper in your ear, ‘Size does matter, bitch!’”

    • jsbrendog

      my god i admire the dedication haha

      • Scott Steiner

        In all seriousness, Cano has them eating out of the palm of his hands.

    • JMK

      Really bizarre post. I have no idea what you’re talking about, but thanks for sharing.

  • Yogiism

    Good post, Joe.

    One thought that hasn’t been mentioned just yet (maybe it has) is that the Andrus extension/signing might help the Yanks a little. While there are few comparisons to the position and level of talent and age, there is something to be said about inventory. Meaning: Kinsler is a legit 2nd baseman. He still has 4-5 years under contract and while the Rangers can move him to another position, you have to wonder if there is a premium for him to remain at 2nd, but via a trade. Plus Kinsler may not adapt well to another position (1st or OF) or may request a trade. Who knows, but it’s apparent he’ll be the odd man out within a year. I can’t see the Rangers trading Profar at this point, unless of course, the Rays make Price available for a trade, which then Profar would be #1 as part of a trade (I’ve thought about this swap for a while and I’m betting this becomes much more real this season, that is, if the Rangers want to acquire Price and if he is even available, which all signs point to that being the case soon). With Cano’s free agency looming, you have to wonder if teams will now pitch the Rangers on various trades for Kinsler? While Cano is the better player, he’s going to cost a hell of a lot more in time and dollars.

    Maybe I’m off on this, but I see the Andrus extension as a positive for the Yanks. Anytime you can add possible stock to the market place, which they effectively did by extending Andrus and making Kinsler’s role a little less uncertain, this is good for some other teams, such as the Yanks in this case.

    I don’t know. Talking out my arse again…

    • mike

      kinda…maybe…but the reality is there is worse stock on the market today (from the Yanks perspective) than yesterday, and with a new valuation/floor set, it also raises the stock a Kinsler can fetch in a trade.

      the only time the stock would benefit the Yanks would be if there is only one place the player would/could go…in this case, with Profar, his star is still bright.

      My only question is why lock up Andrus now…there didnt appear to be a rush, and there is no way Texas would trade Profar/Kinsler this early in the season because their return would be far less than they could get later…

      • Yogiism

        I hear you and I’m not offering that the market for Cano has changed dramatically with the Andrus extension, but I just see it for what it is, that Kinsler is now far more expendable and that creates inventory in the market, where, as you stated, any hardly existed. Kinsler is younger and signed to a better contract, although he is not the player of Cano. We’ll see how this plays out.

        To answer your question about why you lock up Andrus now: My only thought is that there might be some discussion internally about David Price. I know that sounds pretty crazy, but I think its pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point that the Rays have no choice, but to trade him and by waiting, it just hurts his trade value. We’ve go to keep in mind that many people that work in these baseball front offices are very intelligent and look far ahead. Perhaps there could be a feeling that if the Rays have a rough first few months of the season that they make Price available at the trade deadline and while Profar is the #1 prospect in the game, you have to wonder if the Rangers are thinking of using him as a trade chip (only for Price). And if not, they plug him at 2nd and move Kinsler. It’s enviable position for the Rangers, but I really don’t think I’m that far off with the Profar + 1 for Price thing. Remember, the Rangers could really use another pitcher and this has been something that they’ve put a lot of focus on in recent weeks. Could David Price be wearing a Rangers uniform in July? I wouldn’t bet against it.

  • LarryM Fl

    I’m sorry but no more than 7 years. It will have to be 25 million per. So 175 million is not enough. Robbie don’t let the door hit you in the a$$.

  • Evan

    It appears the Yankees have not made the realization that they are not the only big-guns around who can afford these 6 figure plus contracts. They need to start making smarter moves earlier to maximize assets. Hughes is another great example if you aren’t going to extend the guy and have him for his prime 27-31 years, then make that determination early and trade him while he has value. By not renegotiating with Cano after 2011, they what saved 16 million over 2012 and 2013 but it will cost them more in the long run. I mean a 8 year deal at $20-$22 million per for his 28-36 years would have been a fair deal and kept him in his prime. Now they have to give him the same contract for his 31-39 years plus probably more because he has proved himself more.

    • Evan

      This is how the Yankees should be using there financial advantage in a more intelligent way. Lock-up players for there prime years early. If one gets injured or under-performs they can bring in a adequate replacement (like Youk for Arod in a sense). Instead they wait too long and pay a premium for too many years.

    • Yogiism

      “They need to start making smarter moves earlier to maximize assets.”

      Agreed, but in fairness, much of what is happening in baseball is happening at an excellerated rate. Like in the last 2-3 years, teams have widened their margins with new TV deals and there is shockingly, far more money available for players. That said, the Yanks have made some really good decisions in this period. Many of their issues are from the past and frankly, outside of Arod, none of the Yanks contracts I would argue with. Sure we can sit and debate about Teixeria all day, but at the time, it was a solid baseball signing. Will it be an over pay in the long run? Sure, probably. Arod, however, never made sense as the NYTimes highlighted over the weekend. We can hammer on the Yanks about “smarter” moves, but they have been very wise with their signings, etc. It’s just Arod period. You have nearly $30mm annually going to a single player. As for Cano; I’m betting no more than 6 years with a 7th year option is offered by the Yanks and despite all our beliefs that the Dodgers will go all out, I actually disagree. They must address Kershaw first and at some point, some financial sensibility will need to kick in. While they can be players for Cano, I wouldn’t immediately qualify them as a threat to the Yanks. The Cubs are a greater concern to me actually. Don’t know why, but it’s a gut feeling.

  • Rick

    Enjoyed the post but one quibble. I’m tired of hearing about the Yankees poor draft position. That implies that the majority of major league caliber players are taken before the Yankees pick. The Yankees have not utilized their first round pick well and other teams drafting behind them or in the second round before they pick again still seem to find talent that the Yanks have missed. While true the highest caliber players (per their pre-draft rankings)are usually gone before the Yankees pick because of their draft position, there is still a large pool of talent that they seem to be missing on. While too lazy to look up who was drafted after Culver, Bichette, etc. I am sure there are some notable names who are either top prospects now or already playing in the big leagues.

    • Evan

      I agree on the draft picks but to be fair I would have to look through all the other teams and see how they are hitting on their top picks. You can just look and say well so and so got drafted after and is doing well because presumably 30+ other teams missed on that guy too. That said the Yanks should be in a good place with these next two drafts. They do well finding useful pieces in later rounds but need to do better of top end talent in the early rounds. They have what 3 picks in the top 33 this year and you would think Hughes, Granderson, Cano, Kuroda, maybe Youk if he has a good season could all be in line for qualifying offers. So if as expected some of those guys leave you would think the Yanks should have 3+ top picks next draft as well. No excuse for not having a top farm system with that many early picks especially as the current crop of Sanchez, Williams, Heathcott, Campos, etc., should all me knocking on the door at that point.

      • Rick

        Agreed. As you mentioned, certainly have to look up whether other teams are hitting on their picks. It just appears from casually following prospect lists/drafts that we happen to miss on our first round pick more often than other teams. Could obviously be wrong on that.

  • Barry

    Let him walk. I’d rather that then another albatross. He’s had two elite seasons, and a bunch of allstar quality seasons. You can’t give him an A-Rod-esque contract when he’s never been as good as A-Rod was. If he was 27, I’d consider it. He is; however, going to be leaving his prime years sooner rather than later.

    #unpopularopinion

    • Rick

      I’m not sure it’s that unpopular. I think most of us would agree with you. Not sure anyone is against signing Robbie, but we all would like to see the Yanks do it at a price that is reasonable. Whatever relative number that may be.

  • trr

    look, we’d all love to get him at a “reasonable” contract, but that ain’t happenin’. Consider the team makeup without him next year. Hell,
    what if we didn’t have him this year? I don’t think next year’s team is going to be so radically different

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      What if we didn’t have him this year?

      It would be a dogfight for 3rd place if we didn’t have him this year.

  • Cool Lester Smooth

    I’m still pretty firmly in the “Fuck it, it’s Robbie” camp. All the “2B decline quickly” fears are overblown, because the examples given have nothing to do with Robbie Cano in terms of method or physical build.

    As long as he doesn’t end up with a degenerative knee condition like Chase Utley, I think he’ll be just fine.

    • Barry

      Most all players begin rapid decline around their age 34 season. Regardless of position.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        But the Yankees are the Yankees because they don’t let homegrown superstars leave. I don’t care about the money, Robbie’s ours and the rest of the league can’t have him.

  • pc

    if things aren’t resolved by the trade deadline i would trade cano to a contender and get what i could in return which should be substantial, the yanks need upgrades all over the field and if done correctly should speed up the process significantly, they need to wrap up their stars earlier like the rays do, i mean we’ve won one ws in what 12 years.
    ps – send hank to the minors.

    • jsbrendog

      any team in baseball would take 1 ws every 12-15 yrs.

    • CS Yankee

      What have the minors done to you to deserve this disrespect?

  • JMK

    Excellent post, Joe. The reality is the Yankees are doing themselves a major disservice with this policy. When free agency was still the primary means to get very good to great players and money was flowing like salmon of the Capistrano, sure, it made some sense.

    When few impact players even make it to free agency in their prime years and the team is potentially stepping over dollars to pick up pennies ($189 million plan), the Yankees needs to build up its farm system in a significant way and also make shrewd calculations on contracts. That means a one-size-fits-all approach cannot and will not work.

    This didn’t exactly sneak up on them though. This trend really started with Longoria, Braun, Tulowitzki, etc. a number of years ago.

  • Adam

    They cannot afford to let Cano walk under any circumstances. They’re basically gonna be forced to give him a blank check. Who the hell else is on this team that can carry the lineup or is even as marketable right now on the team. If they miss the playoffs and were to let Robbie walk, good luck filling that ballpark next year because nobody is going to pay to see a broken down Jeter and a bunch of scrubs filling out a $189 million payroll.

  • Mike HC

    Very nice article. I definitely think the landscape has changed for good, but lets see what happens in a few years when some of these contracts become anchors for their team. As we all know with the Yanks, you just can’t spend huge money one off season and then never expect to have to spend huge again. These huge contracts are usually all good in the first year or two, and then shit happens.

  • hogsmog

    I expect to see the market adjust by giving more money for fewer years. I think the last decade has taught us that signing someone until they’re 40 is just a losing strategy; it worked in the steroid era but no longer. Combined with the fact that TV deals have injected a lot of new money into the system, this seems to me the most likely equilibrium- I don’t see “more players than ever taking extensions” as sustainable; markets will always be better for all participants with more people playing.

  • Hardy

    There might not be that many superstars available. However, it is still possible to build a strong team via free agency. The following team consists of 2013 free agents and should be a strong contender for the playoffs:

    Lineup

    CF Michael Bourn
    LF B.J. Upton
    RF Josh Hamilton
    DH David Ortiz
    1B Nick Swisher
    3B Kevin Youkilis
    SS Stephen Drew
    2B Marco Scutaro
    C Russell Martin

    Bench

    IF Eric Chavez
    C A.J. Pierzynski
    OF Angel Pagan
    IF Jeff Keppinger

    Rotation

    Zack Greinke
    Anibal Sanchez
    Edwin Jackson
    Hiroki Kuroda
    Kyle Lohse

    Bullpen

    Mariano Rivera
    Rafael Soriano
    Jason Grilli
    Koji Uehara
    Ryan Madson
    Joakim Soria
    Mike Adams

    • OldYanksFan

      And how much would that team cost?
      CF Michael Bourn -$12m
      LF B.J. Upton – $15m
      RF Josh Hamilton – $26.5m
      DH David Ortiz – $13m
      1B Nick Swisher – $14m
      3B Kevin Youkilis – $13m
      SS Stephen Drew – $9.5m
      2B Marco Scutaro – $6.5m
      C Russell Martin – $8.5m
      ————————-
      —————— $118m

      Zack Greinke – $26m
      Anibal Sanchez – $18m
      Edwin Jackson – $13m
      Hiroki Kuroda – $15m
      Kyle Lohse – $11m
      —————– $83m

      Between Taxes and the other 11 players, you have a $220m+ team.
      It can be done, but it ain’t cheap.

  • toad

    Good analysis.

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