Perusing Cot’s, the only current contractual obligations past 2013 are for CC, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. AJ Burnett’s deal concludes in 2013. Derek Jeter has a modest player option in 2014 for $8M (and by “modest”, it could mean “expensive” in his age 40 year). In all likelihood, Robinson Cano will have signed an extension (or a new deal since the Yanks don’t normally extend players who are not free agents; something we should discuss another time). Curtis Granderson has a team option for $13M in 2013, so if he’s still doing what we think he can do, he will surely be under wraps for some time to come. Aside from those guys, there’s no telling who will still be with this team and what they might cost. Guys like Phil Hughes will no longer be arbitration eligible and therefore likely a heck of a lot more costly, but Jesus Montero, if he’s not a Seattle Mariner by then, will still be arb eligible.
So while there aren’t many long term deals to really sweat right now, the three that are currently on the books look to be seriously problematic in 2014 and beyond. The group of Yankee fans who envision great things from ARod and Teixeira four years from now is a small party. There will be memorable home run records to be broken and great defense to be played, but their offensive production will no longer be at the levels it has been the last few years and more than likely not commesurate with their compensation levels. Trends can be changed but, as of now, we’re all a bit concerned about the trajectory of these two. Add in CC and the natural concerns about workload and injury, and you now have approximately ~$70M locked up before any other considerations are taken.
Seventy million dollars. Three players. That might not seem all that much now for the Yankees and, given inflation, it might seem even less down the road, but to tie up approximately one-third of your on-field resources budget in just three players is a major red flag for me. Asset/resource allocation is an issue for every team, regardless of payroll. To hamstring your team with a few, large, unmovable, unproductive (or underproductive) players is a major risk.
Let’s remember what Joe Posnanski had to say, just about a year ago:
Then … there are some things that ALWAYS seems preposterously expensive no matter how many times you see the price. These I have decided to call: Texpensives. Yes, it’s my latest word. A texpensive (noun) means something (person, place, thing) that seems bizarrely, even comically, overpriced. [...]
The word origin is pretty easy to explain. “Expensive” is obvious. The “Tex” part of it, can refer to state of Texas, where the state takes great pride in making everything absurdly large. But the real inspiration is Mark Teixeira. [...]
Is Mark Teixeira the third-best player in baseball? No. Is he the best first baseman in baseball. No. That’s Albert Pujols. Is he second best? Third best? Fourth best? Maybe. But maybe not. After a while you look at the other best first basemen — and you realize a lot of them can hit about as well as Teixeira.
Yeah, the Yanks are getting* Texpensive and age won’t help. Father Time is a kick in the groin.
*should I have said: “have gotten Texpensive“, using my Posterisk.
Who knows what the Yanks payroll ceiling will be in 2015? It escalated from $107M in 2000 to $207M in 2011, per Cot’s. Of course, once the Yanks stopped winning four World Series in five years, their payroll hit the accelerator. If you prefer to look more closely to the current year’s payroll, the team’s payroll four years ago was roughly the same as it was this year. Perhaps you want to make the case that in four years from now, their payroll will be only marginally higher than it is now. And if it is, you still have one-third of the available resources locked up in what might be two vastly declined positional players and one very large starter.
All that said, this organization has the ability that none other have: the ability to choke down contractual mistakes and not have it impact their on-field product. Maybe ARod or Teix craters in the next few years. The team can/will simply suck up the sunk costs and move on. That’s why keeping the DH role clear for these guys (and Jeter) is so terribly important and problematic. If one-third is spoken for, two-thirds, or roughly $140M can be spent on the other 22 guys on the roster. You can buy a lot of talent for $140M. Most teams in the game today do this with far less than this amount. There’s no reason the Yanks can’t, either, so long as they continue to develop players in the minors.
So without completely running off the rails (too late for that?) about long term contractual obligations for this financial powerhouse, let me go back and check what I said back in 2008, just for kicks, just after the CC deal was signed:
…if CC performs SO well that he wants to opt out of the remaining four years, that’d be great. Great that the Yanks got three great years. Great that they could be out of the balance of the deal which is where the risk lies…
And a follow-up posted two days later:
…I’ll take three kickass years from CC and then worry about replacing him, and not worrying about the last few years…
Back in 2008, there were a bunch of pitchers who I could imagine coming through the free agent merry-go-round, thereby giving the Yanks a chance to reload and replace rather than panic. Except that is no longer the case. Thanks to the Yanks excessive spending, the revenue sharing and luxury tax bills reaped by other teams has taken a number of potential aces off the possible free agent menu. Guys like Jered Weaver, for example. Or losing guys to injury like Brandon Webb. Now, looking at the 2012 free agent starting pitching availables, that view isn’t so rosy as it was in 2008.
If CC does opt out and leaves, the ability to backfill could already be gone, especially if the best available, C.J. Wilson, has already signed. Yu Darvish might be a possibility, whether CC opts out or not. Whether or not CC leaves, Darvish might be necessary anyway (at least to manage outsized expectations of ownership).
Like it or not, Sabathia is a must-have for the Yankees and he knows this. He deserves a deal in line with what Cliff Lee got last year which represents an increase in AAV from his current deal. Lee is going to earn, on average, $24M/year. CC earns $23M/year (2011-15). If the team gives CC a six year deal at $24M per, that’s $144M. The extra $1M per year is de minimis in the grand scheme of all things Yankee. The extra year simply increases the risk of having dead money on the roster.
What really scares me is if the team buckles and goes seven years at $24M per which works out to $168M. True, this is not much more than his $161M deal he signed in 2008, except that he will begin the last year of that contract in his age 38 season rather than his age 35 season. That’s a huge risk. Ginormous.
Can the Yanks absorb that if it doesn’t work out? Probably. Does that mean they should do it? Six years, fine. Seven scares me.
No matter what, I fully expect the team to do whatever it takes to keep the big man in pinstripes. The Yanks ability to not let some contracts seem too Texpensive cannot be understated. That doesn’t mean we can’t worry about it. We will just have to pray that CC can continue to stay healthy and pitch his 200 plus innings of ace-quality ball.