Fangraphs: Value Of A Win To The Yankees

Dave Cameron makes an interesting point about the value of a win to the Yankees, in the context of the Yankees going cheap in LF:

A while ago, we talked about the marginal value of a win, and how it differs from team to team, changing the calculation on what a team should pay for a given player given what they already have on the roster. The wins that have the largest impact on playoff odds are in the upper-80s, so if you’re a slightly better than .500 club, adding another additional win or two can have a pretty dramatic impact on your chances of playing in October……

The Yankees have made a bunch of good moves this winter, adding Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, and Javier Vazquez to a roster that was the best in baseball a year ago. Their true talent level, as currently constructed, is probably that of a 100 win team. The Yankees are going to be very good in 2010…..

The marginal value of the 101st, 102nd, and 103rd win in terms of playoff odds is really quite small. And that’s approximately the upgrade that Holliday would represent over the current production that Gardner offers in left field……

It’s a rational decision made by smart people who understand just how good their roster currently is. In the past, New York has pursued every big ticket free agent on the market because they represented a real, tangible improvement in their quest to bring home another championship. Given how well Brian Cashman has put together this roster, though, a big ticket left fielder is superfluous. He’s right to keep his money locked up. They just don’t need another good player.

To distill Cameron’s point further, he is basically noting that the Yankees are already a strong, playoff caliber club, such that adding another high priced player at this point would not provide value commensurate to the contract that they would need to dole out. If Johnny Damon or Matt Holliday move the Yankees from 96 to 100 wins, have they really added much value?

While I do agree with Cameron on his larger idea, I do think there are two points that he is missing. Firstly, a team with the resources of the Yankees may be inclined to make a move that represents diminishing returns just to insure themselves against major injuries and regressions in performance. Adding a bigger bat in left is likely unnecessary, but on the off chance that a large number of players get hurt, it may make the difference between making the playoffs and staying at home.

More importantly, the goal for the Yankees is to win a championship, not just make the postseason. As such, a player who may represent diminishing marginal utility in the regular season can be the difference between winning and losing a postseason series. Matt Holliday may not drastically change the odds of the Yankees making the playoffs, but the addition of a 6 win player could increase their chances of winning an individual postseason series. As such, it may make sense for the Yankees to bite the bullet on a contract whose cost will not match regular season value, in order to improve their postseason chances.