Sitting on the sidelines

The Blue Jays pull off a killer deal with the Marlins. The Blue Jays sign Melky Cabrera. The Tigers sign Torii Hunter. Hiroki Kuroda wants to play in southern California. Russell Martin is highly sought after. And the Yankees…the Yankees…have not done anything yet. And when they do, it will be for bit parts for one season. Those bit parts will have an average age of 37 years old or something. Welcome to the new reality.

And it is not really a new reality. Last off season brought some excitement as the Montero – Pineda trade occurred and the team signed Kuroda on the same day. But for the rest of the off season, big tickets like Prince Fielder and others went elsewhere. The Yankees signed Raul Ibanez and that worked out pretty well. Heck, it bought them a win in a post season series. But overall, “austerity” is the word of the day. Every Yankee fan knows all about the dreaded 2014 payroll limitation. The number has become as familiar as 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Perhaps we have a new favorite children’s rhyme: “189 is the number set by Lev and Stein.”

The Yankees are still the most hated team in baseball. And it’s not like they are poor or something. They have the A-Rods and Teixeiras and the Sabathias. All those expensive pieces still put them ahead of most teams. But the new reality means that the team can only get better with youth or by adding aging pieces of caulking around the leaky windows. Meanwhile, the Tigers and Dodgers are the new big spenders. They are the new Yankees. The New York version is just the old Yankees.

Perhaps it is all some conspiracy as one blog succinctly suggested.  It does have the feel of a business streamlining itself for a sale. Those that have been in the corporate world have seen this sort of thing before. If the Dodgers can command two billion dollars, what could the biggest sports brand in the world bring? The old man is dead and this brand may never be worth more than it is now.

Or perhaps things will return to normal in 2015 once the baby Steinbrenners can beat the system in 2014. But in the meantime, it feels strange to sit here on the sidelines and watch all the machinations of the off season happen with one big team strangely missing.

And how far will it go? We have already said goodbye to Nick Swisher. We will have to watch to see if Robinson Cano will hit the open market. The money saved for Curtis Granderson might be employed in another direction, but that is about as much wiggle room as this team is looking to get. Hunter was a non-sign because the Yankees could not offer him a second season. Kuroda fits the one year model and was doable. But he may choose elsewhere. Then what? Martin will want more than one year and who could blame him?

The austerity bit means that the Yankees cannot make a big score that can instantly improve the team for years like Sabathia did. But on the other hand, it prevents the duds like A.J. Burnett from happening. So it has its good and its bad points. It’s just weird, though, isn’t it? An off season without the Yankees bidding all over the field is like the Macy’s Day Parade without Santa Claus at the end.

The situations makes for a restless fan base and less appearances for the Yankees on the back page of the newspaper. Perhaps it will mean the end of those automatic post season events the team has experienced since 1996. Will the brand be the brand if it finishes in second or third place? Would that matter to those who rule the team? It matters to the fans that have been the golden goose for the baby Steinbrenners for years. How far can that golden goose be pushed? This austerity program appears ready to see how far that push can go.

Meanwhile, we Yankees baseball writers look forward to reporting the benefits of the next elderly signer. We can hardly wait.

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

8 thoughts on “Sitting on the sidelines

  1. uyf1950

    The Yankees basically sat on the sidelines last off season. In spite of the Rangers, Angels and Marlins spending big time and the Red Sox imploding the Yankees season didn't turn out to bad. Sure they didn't go all the way but they were 1 of only 4 MLB teams left standing. Not bad for standing on the sidelines the last 3 years including potentially this off season.

    • williamjtasker

      Point taken. 2012 did go rather well (understatement) and all the bit parts they picked up seemed to work out really well. But two points there. First, It's not always that easy to find the right bit parts and a bit of luck was involved. Secondly, those kinds of players can just as easily turn into dust bunnies in any given season and not help your club at all.

  2. Matt

    do you see the Yankees going after Jonny Gomes at all? Pretty good with the bat and almost no one can be worse than swisher in the outfield

    • williamjtasker

      He would fit the short term model. But as of now, no rumors of the team pursuing Gomes have been out there.

  3. jay_robertson

    Shoot – its all luck. We all know that. Swish WAS a dust bunny when we got him – the Sox traded him for a box of rocks. THAT one worked out.

    Granderson – for a while looked like a good trade. Heck – AJ was a good trade – for the team that got him from the Yankees. Since blowing money on expensive and under-producing free agents has only given us one title in the last decade, we might as well try something else. Like – being smarter.

    That said, I also understand. The Yankees are like a rich kid who doesn't get any presents on Christmas. Not that he NEEDS that many – he still has all those from previous years – but dang – it sure would be nice to get MORE.

    • williamjtasker

      Very entertaining comment as always, Jay. Points taken.

  4. Jeff Arthur

    Not too late to beat $178!

  5. Jeff Arthur

    By that, I mean why not stay under $178 this year? Why prolong the agony? May as well do it this year, when Jeter and Cano and Granderson are still in the fold, then be free to spend in '14 if you want them back. And really, the free agent class this year is thinner than a Twilight plot. If you're only offering one year, you're only getting ghosts. Add up the aav's and the player pool, plus arbitration and minimum salaries, and you still have what – $20 million? That's about $15 million more than most teams are planning to bump. And with what you can buy for $20 million, the '13 roster doesn't look a whole lot different than the '12 roster that WON the division.

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