Hal: “I didn’t want to give those kids up” at the trade deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two weeks ago the Yankees did relatively little at the trade deadline, acquiring Dustin Ackley in a minor trade with the Mariners and that’s all. The team was connected to almost every available pitcher but nothing came together, mostly because the Yankees were reportedly unwilling to deal their top prospects. That strategy is both understandable and very debatable.

At the owners meetings in Chicago this week, Hal Steinbrenner told Paul Hagen it was essentially his idea to make those top prospects off limits, mentioning several by name. Here’s what Hal said:

“I really don’t think we had the type of glaring need that you would address by giving up one of your top Triple-A prospects,” the managing general partner said Wednesday during the quarterly Owners Meetings. “I just wasn’t going to do it, especially not for a loaner, a guy you’re only going to have for three months or so.”

“Again, I didn’t want to give those kids up,” Steinbrenner said. “We’ve been looking at them for two, three years now. They’ve progressed perfectly, and they’re all sitting there at [Triple-A] Scranton/[Wilkes-Barre]. Any one of them could contribute now if need be. We’ve already seen that in Luis Severino the last two starts. Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. Rob Refsnyder is there. James Pazos, some of the pitchers you’ve seen. Gary Sanchez is having a good year. So we’ve got some talent in Scranton, and we’re not going to give it up.”

Bird was called up earlier today, in case you missed it. He’ll serve as a backup at first base and DH for the time being. There’s really no way to get him in the lineup without sitting Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira, so we’ll see how he’s used going forward.

Many of the team’s top prospects are in Triple-A right now — or in MLB, in the case of Bird and Severino — and those are the most valuable prospects because they’re so close to helping. It made sense to hang onto them … and I also think it made sense to move some of them (not all!) for help at the deadline. The Yankees had obvious needs (pitching, second base) and they were in first place after not going to the postseason the last two years. Would have been cool to get some upgrades.

Anyway, Hal and Brian Cashman and pretty much everyone in the organization said this past offseason the Yankees will rely more on younger players going forward, and it wasn’t just talk. They’ve walked the walk this year by calling up Bird, Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and a bunch of others throughout the summer. It’s fun! As long as it doesn’t hurt the team’s chances of playing in October, of course.

Hal on Jeter rejoining the Yankees in some capacity: “He will … I have no doubt”

Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)
Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)

Aside from the occasional photo globetrotting with his girlfriend, Derek Jeter has managed to keep a low profile since retiring last season. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Jeter perfected the art of keeping a low profile despite being a megastar in New York.

During a recent interview, Hal Steinbrenner told Marc Topkin he expects Jeter to one day rejoin the Yankees in some capacity. Not as a player, of course, but in some sort of ex-player role. Whatever it is Reggie Jackson does, for example. Here’s what Hal told Topkin:

“He will be (involved in some capacity), I have no doubt,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “He lives here in Tampa. . . . I think he’s just trying to relax for a year. God knows he earned it. It’s a good relationship and I have no doubt he’ll be involved in whatever way he wants to be involved.”

We all know Jeter wants to own a team one day — “That’s the next goal, buddy. Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” he said to reporters last summer — and hey, who can blame him? We all not so secretly want to own a team one day. It’s good work if you can get it.

Could the Yankees let Derek buy a piece of team? I suppose, but who really knows. Hal simply said Jeter would “be a great owner, no doubt about it,” when asked. Either way, I’m certain Jeter has a job waiting for him with the Yankees whenever he’s ready to get back into baseball. It benefits both sides to keep the relationship going.

Hal Steinbrenner confirms Yankees will try to get under luxury tax threshold in two years

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, Hal Steinbrenner has confirmed the Yankees will try to get under the luxury tax threshold in two years or so. The team tried and failed to get under the $189M threshold last year. If you’ve been paying attention at all the last few years, this should be no surprise. Hal is very focused on the bottom line.

Here’s what Steinbrenner told Bill Madden:

“I found (being called cheap) very interesting,” he said, smiling, “given that we offered $25 million (for Moncada) and spent substantially in the international market (a reported $26.82 million in bonuses and penalties for greatly exceeding their bonus allotment). I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”

Hal has really worn out that “you shouldn’t need $200M to win a World Series” line in recent years. I guess no one has told him there have only been 12 individual teams with a $200M+ payroll in baseball history, with nine going to the postseason and one winning the World Series (2009 Yankees). One out of 12 is a helluva lot better than whatever the odds have been for all the non-$200M payroll teams in history, but I digress.

Anyway, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2016 season and I expect the luxury tax threshold to be raised at that time. It has to go up. The league’s revenues are through the roof and a dozen teams will open this season with a payroll at or above $120M (six will be at or above $160M). With salaries and revenue only going up, a $189M luxury tax threshold doesn’t make sense anymore. It did when the current CBA was ratified in 2012, but come 2016 it should be at $200M at the very least, if not $210M.

Unlike the last time the Yankees tried to get under the luxury tax, they do have a lot of expensive contracts coming off the books soon. Mark Teixeira ($22.5M luxury tax hit) and Carlos Beltran ($15M) will be gone after 2016, maybe CC Sabathia ($24.4M) too. Alex Rodriguez ($27.5M) and Sabathia will definitely be off the books after 2017. Between shedding those big contracts and the inevitable raising of the luxury tax threshold, the Yankees will have a much better chance of getting under the tax threshold in two (or three) years than they did last year.

I totally understand why Hal wants to get under the luxury tax threshold — luxury tax is basically wasted money and no one likes throwing money away — and it’s his team, so he’s free to do whatever he wants. That said, the Yankees have a distinct advantage over the rest of the league because of their market, and focusing on getting under the luxury tax threshold is essentially tossing that advantage aside and leveling the playing field. The other 29 teams should send Hal a nice thank you note for that.

Whether you like it or not, the Yankees are going to try to get under the luxury tax threshold in the near future. My advice to Hal: stop talking about it. The media is going to ask, I know, but just say you’ve discussed it already and move on. Believe it or not, the fans don’t want to hear the owner talking about reducing payroll in the future, especially coming off back-to-back postseason-less years and with the team hardly a lock for October this year. So Hal, please just keep it to yourself the next few years. You’re the only one in favor of this.

Hal Speaks: Farm System, Offseason, Coaches

Hal Steinbrenner appeared on Michael Kay’s radio show yesterday and, among other things, he apologized to Yankees fans for the team’s second straight postseason-less year. “I apologize. We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves, and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1st, but it didn’t work out,” he said. The full interview is above, but if you don’t want to sit through all 20 minutes of it, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • On incorporating young players going forward: “There’s no doubt, young players, player development, that’s going to play a big part, because you’re correct, it’s hard to just play in the free agent market and bring a bunch of veterans on board because you’ve got a lot of parity in the league now … We’ve had our struggles in player development and the minor leagues.”
  • On the upcoming offseason: “I’ve been a little trade averse as far as getting rid of younger kids as you saw last year, but we’re going to have to analyze. We know we need a shortstop, of course. I think with (Ivan) Nova coming back probably not until May, I think we need a starting pitcher. And then we’re going to have to go from there. As we do, every offseason, we’re going to look at everybody.”
  • On the $189M luxury tax threshold: “The decision to go over 189 was for one player and that was (Masahiro) Tanaka, and I have no regrets about that because he’s going to be everything that we saw in the first three months of the season. He’s going to be great.” Steinbrenner indicated the team will try to get under the luxury tax threshold again sometime in the future. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season and the threshold will probably go up then.
  • On the coaching staff: “The hitting coach is responsible for the hitters, the pitching coach is responsible for the pitchers, and we’ve got an infield coach responsible for defense and fielding. That comes with any position in life. You are liable for what goes on. We have not made any decisions yet as to what we’re going to do with any of the coaches. That will be the first step to look at the manager and the coaches as we do every single year.”
  • On making decisions and changes: “I don’t have an answer to that because I don’t make rash decisions. I want to talk to all my people, including having long discussions with (Brian Cashman) and his people and really get into, could anything have been different or did these guys just have a down year, these three or four guys? But, rest assured, we’re going to get to the bottom of it. And if I do deem that somebody is liable, or if I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act.”
  • On Alex Rodriguez and the possibility of releasing him: “I’m not a lawyer, so (I’m won’t) get into what can be done to a contract or not. But like I said, when he’s healthy, he’s an asset. We need those kind of assets. We need the hitting … If he’s healthy, he’s going to be an asset to the team, and I would never not want that.”
  • Steinbrenner also said they are planning extensive interviews to replace VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman, who is retiring this winter. Newman has run the farm system for more than a decade now.

Since we’re on subject, also make sure check out Joel Sherman’s recent sit down with Hal as well. He discussed some of the same stuff as in the radio interview plus some other topics as well.

Hal on Cashman: “Let me get to October …. and we’ll go from there”

Via Ken Davidoff: Hal Steinbrenner was non-committal yesterday when asked about retaining Brian Cashman after the season. “We’re so busy right now, trying to figure out who’s going to be playing in any given game, much less that,” said Hal. “We’ll be talking about that soon enough. But you know me. We’ve got enough things to worry about during the season. That’s where our focus needs to be. Let me get to October — hopefully the end of October, beginning of November — and we’ll go from there.”

Cashman’s contract expires after the season and historically the Yankees have let his deals play all the way out before re-signing him. I agree with Davidoff that Hal’s comments were more about the owner having a lot on his plate at the moment — including picking a new commissioner — than a non-endorsement of Cashman. I do think the Yankees need to get serious about changing their team-building strategies because paying premium dollars for (the decline years of) free agents and having a top-heavy roster flat out doesn’t work anymore. They need more from the farm system and have to do a better job of avoiding bad players. No more Brian Robertses or Zelous Wheelers, guys like that. That has to start this offseason or else the franchise will make no progress towards returning to contention.

Hal discusses A-Rod for first time since suspension

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

It has been four pretty chaotic days since Alex Rodriguez‘s record 162-game suspension was announced. Alex is suing pretty much everyone and doing his best to burn every last bridge. It’s exhausting to follow, really.

Aside from a generic statement issued following the announcement of the suspension, the Yankees have not publicly discussed the matter. At least not until Wednesday. At the quarterly owners’ meetings in Arizona, Hal Steinbrenner commented on A-Rod and his status with the team following the suspension. As you might expect, he didn’t say anything too juicy. From Ken Davidoff:

“He’s a great player,” Steinbrenner said in the Yankees’ managing general partner’s first public comments since independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz reduced Rodriguez’s suspension from 211 games to 162 games. “I have not thought about 2015, nor am I going to right now. My focus has to be right now. But when he’s on and when he’s healthy, he’s obviously an asset. We’ll see what happens.”

“Those of you that know me, I’m pretty objective in my thinking. This is business. I’m just focusing on the team, a player. Is the player an asset to the club or not? That’s about as far as I look. I don’t get personal … When Alex Rodriguez is healthy and himself, I think most objective baseball people would say he could be an asset to a club.”

Hal didn’t exactly say they would welcome A-Rod back following the suspension but he didn’t completely take it off the table either. I don’t expect them to bring Rodriguez back in 2015 — I do think they’ll release him at some point, but what do I know — but there’s no reason for Steinbrenner to come out and announce their plans now. Especially not with lawsuits pending and all that. There’s nothing to gain.

One thing Hal did acknowledge was talking to MLB about a way to keep A-Rod away from the team during the Spring Training, or at least the intent to the talk to MLB. “We haven’t even talked about it,” he said. “Cross that bridge when we come to it kind of thing. We’re going to reach out to [Major League Baseball], get their advice obviously, but haven’t even addressed it.”

The whole Spring Training thing is fascinating to me. I want to see how they’ll keep him away or how the team will treat him during camp if there’s no way to stop him from showing up in Tampa. Either way, I don’t think it’ll be easy or pretty. None of this has been.

It depends upon what the meaning of the word “big” is

Keep spending, Hal. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Keep spending, Hal. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Despite a spending spree to open the off-season, the Yankees’ roster still has plenty of needs. We can expect that they’ll reach out to GMs and agents this week in an attempt to fulfill those needs and make the 2014 roster situation clearer. Nothing is guaranteed, as Brian Cashman will tell you until you’re sick of hearing it. But the Yankees clearly have motivation to make their moves and get a better grasp of where they stand.

A few of the remaining free agents make sense. Omar Infante fits as a second baseman who plays acceptable defense and can hit for about league-average numbers. Masahiro Tanaka could get posted. Even if he doesn’t the Yankees have needs in the rotation and could seek one of the free agent pitchers (about whom it appears teams are less than enthralled). However they choose to pursue additional players, it remains certain that they’re needed for a robust 2014 roster.

They might not fill out the roster with any of the remaining free agents, or at least the household names. Joel Sherman quotes a “key-decision-maker” for the Yanks: “we are certainly done with the big free agents this off-season.” So does that mean the Yankees will prioritize the trade route rather than the remaining free agents?

In a way it makes sense. Even if A-Rod‘s suspension stands, the Yankees are butting up against their $189 million payroll goal.* Letting off the gas at this point might make sense, especially considering that they’ve spent $299 million already this off-season. But on the other hand, why go gung-ho and then not finish the job? The Yankees have helped improve the club this off-season. There seems little sense in beefing up the roster, only to skimp when it comes to the complementary pieces.

*So it appears that they did spend money without regard to A-Rod. Neat.

This could be a bluff, of course. Then again, I’m not sure any team would buy a Yankees bluff at this point. Teams know that they’re going to do what’s necessary, and that could very well mean picking up another free agent. Sherman’s source did say “big free agents,” a term open to wide interpretation. Is Infante a big free agent? Is Grant Balfour? Raul Ibanez? Or are big free agents limited to guys like Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Unbaldo Jimenez? If the latter is the case, sure, the Yanks appear out on those guys.

For two years we’ve heard about Plan 189, and for at least a year we’ve bemoaned moves, or lack of moves, that push the Yankees in that direction at expense of the on-field team. The Yankees restored some faith this off-season by spending some dough to beef up the roster and create a contender for 2014. But they’re not done yet. They’ve pulled no punches to this point. Why not finish the job the way they started it?