As our own Brien Jackson has been hammering away at us, the New York Yankees are now budget-conscious. While it is difficult for us to wrap our heads around this new concept, the evidence has been right in front of us all off season. The Yankees passed on all the big-ticket free agents and even dumped A.J. Burnett to save ten million dollars and filled the remainder of the roster with low cost options. The reason, of course, is the new collective bargaining agreement signed during the winter between Major League Baseball its players. The new labor agreement puts serious penalties on spending over a certain limit. While we can all speculate how George Steinbrenner would have handled such penalties, but George is gone and his sons are cut from a slightly different cloth of fiscal thinking.
In 2013, Robinson Cano is going to want to collect what he is worth to the Yankees. That will be a priority. Brett Gardner will make considerably more money even if he has a similar season to last year. If the Yankees pick up Curtis Granderson‘s option in 2013, he jumps up to $13 million. Sure, if Mariano Rivera retires [[[shiver]]] and Hiroki Kuroda is no longer on the books, that’s $25 million off the current payroll. But the current payroll is also $14 million over budget. Something has to give and unfortunately that means guys like Nick Swisher and Russell Martin will become too expensive if their free market price becomes in the $13 to $15 million range per season. The Yankees have enjoyed the benefit of Nick Swisher’s prime baseball years at a discount price. They are not going to pay him a premium price for his post prime baseball seasons. Even if the Yankees could pick only one between Swisher and Martin, Martin would be the better option because of his position.
There is also precedent for allowing Nick Swisher to walk. Three year ago, the Yankees allowed Bobby Abreu to walk and traded for Swisher. That worked out better than the Yankees could have hoped. While there will be slim pickings among free agent outfielders next season (see here for a list), the Yankees would look for a trade to replace Swisher. Sure, they may not get as fortunate this time. But with the current fiscal reality, that is a gamble they will have to take. Looking at Brien’s top prospect list, it seems unlikely that an internal options would be ready for 2013.
Nick Swisher has been a blast and fans have really enjoyed his tenure as a Yankee. He brings fun to a sometimes staid and stoic organization. He has also produced on the field with improved defense and solid offensive output. But his Yankee days are numbered. Enjoy him this season as it will most likely be his last in pinstripes.