At this point in the year, public interest in upcoming free agents is a delicate topic. Once players become free agents after the World Series, all teams gain the right to talk about interest and strategies with these free agents, but contract negotiations cannot occur until the 5-day “Quiet Period” ends in November. Yet, we’ve already heard a number of players linked to the Yankees. None of them have come directly from a member of the front office, but the majority of these unnamed sources seem to have quite a bit of knowledge on the inner workings of the 2013-2014 offseason plan.
In Andrew Marchand’s piece from last week, he has the Yankees going on a $300 million shopping spree by signing Robinson Cano and Masahiro Tanaka, as well as targeting Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. Other names that have since popped up on the Yankees’ radar are Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, Jhonny Peralta, and Stephen Drew. Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda could be back. Most recently, the Bombers have been linked to the outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
It was always going to be a busy offseason for the Yankees, a team with a ton of money to spend and yet plenty of positions to fill. What’s surprising is that the majority of the players linked to the team would cost the Yankees in draft picks or draft pick compensation. The team look to be in some sort of state between rebuilding and competing, and this year they managed to collect 3 first round draft picks without losing any major prospects and collecting 85 wins. You would expect more of the same from the 2014 club, which looks to slash around $40 million in payroll from the 2013 budget.
But as Marchand’s article on the $300 million spending spree points out, the organization is in the position to spend on some big name free agents. Especially with Alex Rodriguez facing a potential 2014 suspension, the team could add nearly $100 million of annual salaries to the 2014 payroll. The problem is, the team likely won’t know the duration of Rodriguez’ suspension until mid-December due to the ongoing arbitration process.
Which leads me back to why the team would leak any sort of information on who they’re interested in. The Yankees are usually noted as big spenders, and even if they’re not heavily involved with a certain free agent, they have the reputation to bid up other rival teams and help players obtain bigger contracts. But over the last few years, the team has done very little with big name free agents. Rafael Soriano has been the biggest name since the 2008-2009 offseason, and thus the Yankees have lost some of that authority. With all this talk about the Yankees spending this offseason, connecting themselves to just about every free agent out there, they’re sending out a signal that they’re back, they have money to spend, but free agents will have to wait.
Again, the team won’t know how much of Rodriguez’ $27.5 million AAV will come off the books until mid-December. They likely won’t engage their offseason plan until they know exactly how much they can spend this winter. If a player or agent can get the Yankees involved in bidding, free agents are aware that they’ll receive more money and/or longer contracts, so they’ll likely wait until that mid-December Rodriguez decision comes down, thus delaying the offseason for everyone.
So while it seems like there’s a lot of talk about spending big, it’s more than likely the organization’s attempt at delaying some targets from signing too early. I don’t doubt that the team could invest $300 million this offseason, but there’s a reason why they’re publicly stating it, and there’s a reason why we know who these players are.