Hal walks back austerity budget plans. Sort of.

MLB’s owners are meeting in Arizona this week, and yesterday Yankees’ general partner Hal Steinbrenner took a moment to speak with reporters. Of course, the biggest ownership focused story in Yankeedom is the team’s mandate to get below the luxury tax threshold before next season and, for the first time as far as I can tell, the Yankees’ owner acknowledged that the plan is negotiable, and a secondary goal to fielding a winning team. “All I can continue to tell everyone is our commitment to the fans is never going to change. We will always field a championship-caliber team,” Steinbrenner told The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post yesterday. “Is our goal [a $189 million payroll] next year? Yes. But [we’ll go that low] only if I’m convinced if the team I see, that we’ve put together, is a championship-caliber team.”

Of course, it’s certainly not clear that Steinbrenner’s view of a “championship caliber team” will be the same as that of Yankee fans, so this could certainly be a PR smokescreen to mollify the fans and media as the worm begins to turn on ownership amidst a very quiet offseason in which the team’s biggest move has been letting Nick Swisher skip town in order to save money. And Steinbrenner’s view of how the team can win and drastically cut payroll at the same time doesn’t exactly inspire confidence:

“The young players that have stepped up are going to have to continue to do so,” Steinbrenner said, “and some of the ones that haven’t yet are going to have to.”

He mentioned pitcher David Phelps as an example of the former group and pitchers Manny Banuelos and Michael Pineda, both of whom experienced disastrous 2012 campaigns, as part of the latter group.

Or, in other words, for Steinbrenner’s plan to work, a fifth starter/swingman and two young pitchers coming off of Tommy John and shoulder surgery respectively will have to make serious contributions to the 2014 team. And Banuelous will apparently have to do that after missing almost two entire seasons, and with all of 58.1 career innings logged at Triple-A. That’s totally realistic, right?

To be fair, I will say that Hal is mostly correct in his analysis of this offseason so far. “I’m surprised to hear that there’s anger, if you see what we’ve done this offseason,” he said. “We’ve signed three or four of the top free agents that were on the market, because we’re going to continue to field a championship-caliber team.” He’s exaggerating, certainly, but re-signing Kiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, plus moving quickly to add Kevin Youkilis after news of Alex Rodriguez‘s impending hip surgery broke, are certainly important moves that will have a big impact on the 2013 team, and an unusually thin free agent market didn’t provide any clearly better alternatives. Then again, Hal did conveniently forget the part where they let one of their best hitters head to Cleveland without even a token effort at keeping him, didn’t he?

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

15 thoughts on “Hal walks back austerity budget plans. Sort of.

  1. I won't *like* Hal either way, but I had more respect for him when he was just telling the truth and saying… "hey, we're running a business here"

    At least you knew where he stood, I have a feeling we're in for 2 years of disingenuous talk

      • true…

        maybe he's a bit stung by the negative feedback and the calls for him to sell the team, as a regular working stiff it's hard to put myself in the shoes of someone born into royalty.. but i've gotta imagine he cares a lil, we can hope anyways

  2. . Then again, Hal did conveniently forget the part where they let one of their best hitters head to Cleveland without even a token effort at keeping him, didn’t he?

    …it's a good point, but to be fair I think in regards to Swisher the Yankees can *rightfully* say, "we got what we wanted from him, prime years at a good price… no reason to pay him big bucks as he moves past his 30th birthday especially since he was overmatched in the postseason even in his prime".. toss in the fact that he had the nerve to whine about the fans holding him accountable after 4 years of subpar October play and it was time to move on…. Swisher will be missed though

  3. I still think he is going to get under 189. Yanks may not be great this year but as long as the pitching holds up (no extended DL stints) they will be in the hunt. Honestly, can you name another team in the AL with a better number 2 than Kuroda–who finished the season 4th in the AL in Innings and 8th in ERA. Hughes is better than any teams 4th pitcher. Andy is a wild card this year. That being said, 2014 looks to be a bad year unless Pineda comes back strong. I think Hal is willing to take that and scoop up a lot of talent in 2015 when guys like Verlander will be on the market (and no the Tigers won't be able to afford him).

    • If you made me bet right now, I'd put my money on none of those top four free agents (Verlander, Kershaw, Felix, and Andrus) actually hitting the open market. All of those teams can afford them, and the Rangers would likely deal Andrus to a team that would extend him before just letting him walk away.

      • I don't know that Felix will be willing to spend the rest of his career on a garbage team. The guy has already made his money, so its not like he needs to sign a long term extension for financial security. I'd bet he wants a shot at a ring.

  4. While I understand the angst that Yankee fans are going through, it’s long overdue that the Yankees start operating in the manner Hal is demanding. There should be a pipeline of young players coming through the system and when players like Nick Swisher (and Curtis Granderson) have their contracts come due at the ages they’ll be at, you let them go and replace them with younger, cheaper talent. Most Yankee fans loved Swisher and I’m sure most fans appreciate Curtis Granderson, but eventually the time comes when the cord has to be cut. The real issue here is the lack of talent at the upper levels of the system. Plenty of promising talent down in A and AA, but no position players that are seen as immediate, bonafide contributors. And they haven’t exactly been lucky, either (see Pineda and Banuelos).

    • This is great, in theory, but you should probably actually have that pipeline before you go letting in-prime big leaguers walk away. And that's to say nothing of the sheer irrationality of cutting your costs a) without consideration for the impact of past liabilities still on the books and b) while the rest of the league is *increasing* their payroll spending.

      Or, more succinctly, it would be great if that was actually Hal's plan, but it's not, and this is all about increasing the team's profit margin.

    • I believe in your view – the Yankees would be a more interesting and fan friendly team

  5. 'it’s certainly not clear that Steinbrenner’s view of a “championship caliber team” will be the same as that of Yankee fans'

    It’s certainly not clear that Steinbrenner’s view of a “championship caliber team” will be ANY BETTER THAN that of JEFFREY LORIA!

  6. Well, I kind of have to agree with what Steinbrenner said in this Jan. 10 clip from a New York Daily News article:

    “How many World Series-winning teams the last 10 years had a payroll over 189? One,” Steinbrenner
    said, referring to the 2009 Yankees. “I believe that you don’t have to have a $220 million payroll to win
    a world championship, and you shouldn’t have to. . . . I’m a big believer in that.”

  7. I am fine with letting older players move on and replacing them with younger, cheaper alternatives. Among other things, I think that will make teh Yankees a more interesting team to watch.

    But Steinbrenner is in for a rude awakening if he thinks he can sell tickets to Yankee Stadium when the team is in 3rd or 4th place. That's not going to happen. Staying under $189 will reduce Hal's expenses but put a mediocre team on teh field and see what that does to income.

    There are a lot of fair weather Yankee fans, and if the team is not winning they will spend their entertainment dollars elsewhere.

    • here's the problem, which older players are we letting go?

      Rivera is going to retire but the yankees aren't getting rid of jeter as long as he's hitting and they CANT get rid of arod, so they're stuck