Despite already having the best record in baseball and a budget (albeit flexible) at its limit, the Yankees owned the trade deadline in a way that would make George Steinbrenner proud. They got big names in Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood because they were willing to take on salary and not let money get in the way of improving the team. They also did this without sacrificing any major pieces for their future. There was no trading Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, just signing the checks that other franchises were unwilling to write.
In fact, the Red Sox were in on Wood as well, but wouldn’t take on as much salary. The Sox wouldn’t take on the $1.5 million the Yankees were willing to pay to get Wood (Beware, that link is for John Tomase who’s not the most credible of writers). So the Red Sox, who by inquiring on Wood think they are still in the race (and they are) let a few hundred thousand dollars get in the way of obtaining him. Much like the Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira pursuits, the Red Sox had their chance and came up short when it came time to open the wallet (I guess they should have sold a few more memberships to Red Sox Nation). Can you imagine how thrilled George would be to know this?
While the Astros did pick up a significant portion of Berkman’s salary, the Yankees still needed to commit to paying Berkman, having a down year, $3.1 million for 2 months of regular season work plus hopefully the playoffs. Considering they have already committed $5.5 million to the DH position in Nick Johnson and we’re in a recession, this was not a tiny pill to swallow. While upgrading the DH position in a big way was more of a want than a need, they saw an opportunity to strike with the biggest cost being money. Again they went for it, and again, the Boss would be proud.
There were concerns after Steinbrenner’s passing that Hal would run the team more as a business and less as a fan leading the Yankees to cut back on spending going forward. So far so good however, as the decision makers decided the increased payroll was worth the increased chances of winning it all. Did the Yankees, as constructed on July 29th, have a chance to win the World Series? Of course they did. Do the Yankees, on August 1st have a better chance of winning the World Series? Of course they do. Not only did the Yankees step up to the plate and take their shot, but for the most part their main competitors didn’t as the Red Sox and Rays didn’t wow anyone with their deadline moves. Give credit to the guys signing the checks this year and know that what they pulled off the past few days would make the old man proud.