First off, let’s assume that the Yankees’ 18th overall pick remains at 18, although it can’t go anywhere but up at this point. Let’s also assume that the Yankees offer Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda qualifying offers. Finally, the team plans to spend just $189 million towards their 2014 budget this offseason, and while it sounds like they won’t be able to do much, the team could have just under $100 million (after arbitration, player benefits, options) to spend if Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the whole year.
But the organization has a lot to do, and $100 million can deplete rather quickly. A Cano extension will probably take up a quarter of that money alone, and then there’s just $75 million to spend on obtaining a real catcher, a third baseman, a backup short stop, a left-handed designated hitter or outfielder, replacements for Phil Hughes, Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte, as well as replacements in the bullpen for Mariano Rivera and Boone Logan. It’s going to be a busy offseason.
There are obviously plenty of needs, there’s some money to spend, and the free agent market should be much stronger than last year, but are the Yankees in the position to sign a big name free agent and give up that 18th overall draft pick? The Yankees are in a rebuilding process. They’re coming off a season where they kept three first round draft picks, they traded away just one prospect in Corey Black, they’ve hired a new pitching coordinator in Gil Patterson, and it looks like they’re putting an emphasis on further development. We already know that the team plans to use a budget in 2014, so it looks like this type of competitive rebuilding phase will continue.
So if the Yankees are looking to compete and rebuild at the same time, do you yet again avoid players that cost you draft picks? The team could certainly use more power in the outfield, they could use a real catcher, and some established starting pitchers. Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran make perfect sense for the team, but chances are that they’ll both receive qualifying offers, they’ll both cost a team draft picks. Are they worth it?
While the Yankees are maximizing their depth in the minors and trying to compete at the same time, sacrificing a draft pick is a difficult dilemma to deal with. In the fall of 2008, the Yankees were willing to give up every and any draft pick they had, in order to acquire A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira. You could look at the 2009 World Series victory and use that as an example of why draft picks are too heavily valued. But in 2008, the team was more established than it is now, their farm system had already produced a number of high-potential players, they had more money to spend per position, and the free agent market was much more impressive.
But looking at this free agent market, there should be a number of players that can help without costing draft picks. We’ve already highlighted Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu here, two international free agents that look to have huge immediate potential. Meanwhile, there are a couple of establish players like Matt Garza who will not be eligible for a qualifying offer due to a mid-season trade. Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Scott Kazmir all have top of the rotation upside, but may avoid qualifying offers due to their recent volatility.
The way the Yankees have operated over the last few years, I don’t see them giving up any draft picks this winter. There’s so much mid-level depth in this free agent market that I believe they’ll even let Granderson and Kuroda walk for their compensation picks. It’s not something we’re used to as Yankee fans, but it’s hard to argue with the results. It’s a good time to rebuild, and the Yankees showed that in 2013 by both competing and adding an immense amount of depth to their organization. This philosophy will continue for now, but I also worry that they could be on the verge of losing that Yankee factor that led them to the 2009 World Series. That spending bug, that reckless disregard for the future, that win-now attitude looks to be in jeopardy, and perhaps that’s for the best.