One of the implications of my post on fan sports coverage is that I’m not too enamored with most national personalities. So it was refreshing to see Buster Olney’s article on ESPN.com this morning (the relevant part is free). I was just going to set this as an aside, but there are some relevant passages I’d like to quote. A lot of it you read on RAB last week.
So the Yankees, in the end, were patient and got Sabathia, and the pundits who are saying that the team has blown up its plan for player development are simply not paying attention. In fact, the signings of Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are absolutely in keeping with the refocus on the farm system.
Because the Yankees waited to pursue Sabathia, rather than deal for Santana, they still have Hughes and Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson and all the players mentioned in the Santana talks, and as the pitching talent pool has increased at the major league level, there is now more time for those youngsters to develop. It’s actually been more than a decade since the Yankees have had as much minor league talent stacked up as they do now.
Yes, they will sacrifice draft picks, in landing Sabathia and Burnett. But keep in mind that the Yankees will have picks in the first and second round of the draft in 2009 because of players unsigned in 2008; it’s not as if they are being shut down.
Olney goes on to list the Yankees projected rotation, noting how it is considerably younger than that of past teams. Except last year, of course. This one, though seems a bit more balanced overall.
So here’s what the Yankees have done so far this off-season:
1. Added the two top pitchers on the free agent market.
2. Retained all of their relevant prospects.
3. Kept payroll at worst to the 2008 level, probably shaving a bit.
Sounds like a good deal to me.
After Joe e-mailed me the news of the A.J. Burnett signing, I forwarded the confirmation along to my dad, and he and I had a brief e-mail exchange about it.
Dad: Well, it’s hard to know what to say. Don’t you see the sickness of the system?
Me: Yes I do. I hope the Yanks ask for some more tax-free stadium bonds too.
Dad: They don’t make it easy to be a pure fan.
Now, of course, that exchange is dominating by a bit of hyperbole. The Yankees are in reality spending money they have coming off the books, and the stadium construction, which somehow allows them to deduct from their revenue-sharing payments, is actually helping them afford these free agents. (In a poorly-constructed screed, FoxSports.com’s Mark Kriegel attempts to explain the Yanks’ economic position here.)
But my dad isn’t the only one unamused with and rather skeptical of the Yankees right now. Cliff Corcoran at the Banter utterly hates this deal (and later explained why.) Jay Jaffe isn’t a fan of this signing either. Even the Marlins’ team president David Samson had some choice words for the Yanks.
I’ll admit it. It’s hard to root for a team that’s simply trying to overwhelm everyone else by throwing money at a baseball problem, and if the Yanks do indeed sign a Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira or Adam Dunn to shore up the offense, this will truly be a team of highly-paid (and some may say overly-paid) mercenaries set to debut a ballpark that was built more as a major of revenue than as a true necessity.
But as my dad and I were later saying on the phone to each other, the Yanks aren’t doing anything against the rules. They’re overpaying for the best free agents because they can and because the system allows them to. So they’re willing to spend nearly $250 million on pitchers in a time of a deep recession. So they’re willing to jack up their payroll to astronomical heights. Baseball allows it; what should stop them?
Of course, I’ll root for the Yanks with way more emotion than any rational person would. I’ll continue to take it personally when they lose and continue to be more frustrated with their opponents than the players are. That’s just the nature of fandom. But at the same time, I can’t help but think that a system where the Yanks can toss money at problems may not be the best for the game and may very well be broken. I’m just glad I’m not the person in charge of fixing it.
So far, we’ve seen a lot of takes on the apparent three-year opt-out the Yanks are going to include in CC Sabathia’s rather large contract. While some people like it and others don’t, I think Ken Davidoff’s take earlier this afternoon is the most pragmatic. He writes:
As long as CC is healthy in three years, he’ll be gone, you’ve got to figure. By that point, Barry Zito will have just two years remaining on his seven-year, $126-million deal with the Giants, so San Francisco should be more open to bringing him aboard.
At least with the opt-out, the whole thing is a little more honest. The Yankees and Sabathia are going to use each other – the Yankees because their homegrown guys aren’t ready yet, and Sabathia because the Giants aren’t ready yet for him. It’s a marriage of convenience.
If CC, at age 31, opts out of a guaranteed $92 million because he thinks he can land more, well then fine. As more than a few writers have noted, if he opts out, it’s because he has pitched well enough to land another big contract just as he’s entering his declining years. If the Giants or Dodgers want to pay him for that, then okay. If he doesn’t opt out because loves New York, then okay. And if he doesn’t opt out because he’s hurt, then not so okay.
Right now, it’s a marriage of convenience. By the time this becomes an issue after the 2011 season, we’ll know what we have in Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and a whole host of young arms. Only then will we know if the Yanks gambled properly, but my guess is that they did.
We’ve harped on many themes throughout the annals of RAB, but perhaps none more consistently than patience. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and let your emotions guide you to a thought. What’s easy, though, isn’t always right. Just because we prefer instant gratification doesn’t mean it’s the best result.
Patience, in this instance, has won the day. It started last off-season with the Santana non-deal. The Yankees exercised patience in two ways there. First, they decided to hold onto Phil Hughes, knowing he would not be nearly as good as Santana in 2008, and probably wouldn’t surpass him, even in the best case scenario, until Santana’s entered his decline. Yet they recognized Hughes as young, cheap, controllable talent. Holding onto him not only gave them a good young pitcher, but meant they could allocate resources elsewhere.
They also exercised patience in waiting for a comparable option for a better price. WIth CC Sabathia headed for free agency, and with little to no shot of the Indians locking him, the Yanks knew that they could get him while sacrificing just a first round pick. There were no guarantees there, of course, but the Yankees apparently deemed it a worthy gamble. If you’re going to disagree with their strategy, I think that’s the issue.
Finally, the Yankees were patient with CC during this slow opening to the off-season. People started to panic when he didn’t immediately respond to the Yanks’ offer. As time dragged on, the speculation started to ramp up. CC wants to play on the West Coast. He’ll take a discount to play for the Giants. Many New York media personalities screamed that the team should forget him, that he’s playing them for fools. Yet the Yankees exercised patience.
Now they still have Hughes, Kennedy, and the other guys they’d have given up for Santana. They have a comparable pitcher in Sabathia. The contract might seem a bit longer, and there is that debatable opt-out clause, but I think you’ll see similar outputs from the southpaws in 2009. At least, the Yankees are banking on it.
I hope this means that Yankees fans will now exercise some patience when thinking about and pontificating on baseball issues. Thinks don’t happen with a snap of the fingers. They take time to develop. This applies to trades, free agency signings, and prospect development. In other words, don’t write Ian Kennedy off because he pitched poorly in 2008 (as an example). He just might need a bit more time to fully bake.
In the end, this is just a really long way of saying: “WHY THE FUCK IS THIS BURRITO TAKING SO LONG TO COOK IN THIS MICROWAVE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” Once it’s done, it might be the greatest microwaved burrito you’ve ever eaten.
Update 10:40 a.m. by Joe: Baseball’s resident economist, JC Bradbury, likes the deal. He values Sabathia at $26 million per year over the next seven.
Update 9:17 a.m. by Joe: ESPN reports that the deal is for 7 years and $160 million. That takes the AAV down a bit. It’s a helluva long commitment, but the Yanks knew that they’d have to go above and beyond for CC.
I also want to note that this is complete bullshit. Mike and I are in Vegas. Couldn’t they at least break this on Vegas time? It’s six in the goddamn morning! And this thing broke what, an hour ago?
Update 8:32 a.m.: Early reports this morning featured a New York Post story saying the deal is all but done between Sabathia and the Yanks. ESPN.com has now seemingly confirmed this independently. According to the Worldwide Leader:
The New York Yankees were “very close” to a preliminary agreement with CC Sabathia on Wednesday morning, following an in-person meeting between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Sabathia in California, a baseball source with knowledge of the deal told ESPN.com.
While a deal is not done, the source said there are “zero major road blocks” that would prevent the Yankees from reaching agreement with the Yankees.
“He’s now excited about becoming a Yankee,” said one source.
I’m off to somehow take a final despite this excitement. Don’t burn down the place while Joe and Mike sleep in Vegas. We’ll have more as soon as we know more.
Update 8:39 a.m.: Jon Heyman has word of the signing as well.