To make matters worse, for the second straight year one of the players the Yankees gave up is having a fantastic season in their new home. Last year it was Ian Kennedy emerging as a Cy Young candidate in Arizona, this year it’s Austin Jackson having an elite season at the plate in Detroit. Jackson is hitting a whopping .322/.407/.515 for the Tigers while continuing to play an above average centerfield. That batting line translates to a wRC+ of 152, and Jackson is outperforming in just about every offensive category other than home runs, RBI, and runs, but A-Jax also spent time on the disabled list this season.
Be that as it may, I’m not really interested in using hindsight to evaluate the decisions made back in 2009. Jackson has turned into a very nice player for Detroit, but he’s also clearly blown away the projections most prospect watchers had in mind for him. Not only has he continued to thumb his nose at the luck dragon (.402 BABIP) he’s developed power and patience to an extent that he never really did while he was a Yankee farmhand. In fact, Jackson has a 12.2% walk rate and .193 ISO so far this season, both of which are quite good in their own right, but look even better when you compare them to the 7.2% and .105 marks he recorded in 2009 for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, respectively.
On the other hand, as William Juliano observed yesterday, the new CBA and the Yankees’ resulting future budget plans do give us cause to re-think the implications of the trade. While Granderson has been more than good enough to make the Yankees shake off the success Kennedy and Jackson have had over the past few seasons, his current contract ends after the 2013 season, just before the Yankees must get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, per a directive from ownership. With Nick Swisher’s contract expiring after this season, the Yankees currently have two holes in the outfield, and the only current starting pitchers on their major league team who remain under control for 2014 are C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and David Phelps. Considering that, I think general manager Brian Cashman would feel much better about the team’s future if Jackson and Kennedy were both in the fold right now.
This is my biggest problem with the baseball implications of the austerity budget plans. The question isn’t so much whether or not the team can strive to get payroll down in the long run, or whether the Yankees can win with a $189 million payroll, it’s whether they can win in 2014 with a hard spending limit in place while dealing with the constraints placed on them by existing commitments. It’s also that so many major recent decisions have been made under the assumption of a much higher future payroll window. The Alex Rodriguez contract gets the most attention among these consequential spending decisions, but trading away Jackson and Kennedy could be the move that ultimately hurts the Yankees the most if Hal Steinbrenner’s desire to increase profits impedes the Yankees’ ability to plug the holes in their current roster once 2014 rolls around.