The organization is on a roll with these long term deals, and there could be more to come. Friend of the blog, Brandon C, explains why the negative stance against this type of investment is a misconception. You can follow Brandon at @nyybrandonc.
With word of the Yankees having signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven year deal, and the probable signing of Robinson Cano to at least a seven year deal, many fans have flocked to the internet expressing anger about the Yankees willingness to overpay free agents in years in order to get them to sign with the Yankees.
Currently, the Yankees have Ichiro, (39) Derek Jeter, (39) Alfonso Soriano, (37) and potentially Alex Rodriguez (37) signed for the 2014 season, while Yankees fans mostly only want Soriano on the roster out of those four players. Last season many spoke about the Yankees being “too old” as a reason for their lack of success, but the additions to the players previously named include Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda, who were arguably three of the best players on the team in 2013.
Looking back at the 2009 Championship season, the Yankees had just rid themselves of the aging Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi, yet still had Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada on the roster, both of which were considered “old” in baseball terms, at ages 39 and 37, respectively. Both Mussina and Giambi’s contracts would likely be labeled as too long today, so let’s take a look at their 2008 seasons. Jason Giambi hit .247/.373/.502 with 32 home runs and 96 RBI in 145 games played, while Mike Mussina became the oldest player to ever win twenty games. Not exactly bad for old guys, huh?
Still, that’s only two seasons worth of examples. The Yankees were unable to win the World Series from 2001-2008, so surely long term commitments must have hurt them a lot then, right? Wrong. The oldest player on the 2007 Yankees was Roger Clemens at age 44, and he was on a one year deal. Mike Mussina struggled for the Yankees, but he showed in 2008 that he was not done because of aging. In 2006 players like Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield struggled for the Yankees, but they were also not signed to long term deals. Johnson and Sheffield were both big name acquisitions that were signed past their prime, something the 2000s Yankees often failed to recognize.
The research continues to show that throughout the 2000s, the Yankees problem was not that they signed players to long term contracts, it was that the Yankees signed past their prime players to two-four year deals, overpaying them as well. The Yankees certainly made a huge mistake in Alex Rodriguez’ contract, but one failed deal cannot blind you into believing that all long term deals are failures. The Yankees had multiple long term deals work out in their favor, including Jason Giambi’s contract, Mike Mussina’s contract, and even Derek Jeter’s contract was a success, as despite being a slight overpay it did not hurt the Yankees to the point where they could not afford other players.
Something key to remember as a Yankees fan is that the Yankees can afford to give players large contracts over long periods of time, even with their plans to spend less. If you consider Jacoby Ellsbury a Johnny Damon type of player, you might like to know that Damon did not start struggling until his age 37 season, which would be Ellsbury’s last year of his contract. If the Yankees can sign a player that will help their team for six seasons, while only having to deal with one year of struggles and strongly overpaying, they would be a fool not to take it with the amount of money they have. The Yankees have the ability and the resources to sign players to long term deals and take the risks that are associated with them, something that cannot be said for the majority of MLB teams. If it takes an extra year to sign an All-Star caliber player to help bring the team to the playoffs, I, for one, fully support the Yankees offering that year and getting the player 99% of the time.