Happy New Year! As Brad just noted, the Yankees' offseason moves have youngered an old team – but they've also made it a cheaper team. Yes, they're still old and expensive, but the difference is striking. Brad tallied the age differences, so I'll tally key money changes here (all numbers are for one year's salary) -- which is somewhat fuzzy math, but bear with me, because there's a point I want to make:
- Losing Kuroda while resigning Capuano for a $2.75m raise → saved $13.25m
- Losing McCarthy, dumping Kelley, and dumping Thorton late last year, then replacing them with a slew of $500K-$1m guys (Mitchell, Rogers, Miller, Whitley, German) → saved about $7.5m
- Losing Jeter and getting Gregorious → saved about $11m (depending on Didi’s likely $1m-ish for 2015)
- Losing Ichiro, using a full year of Young instead → saved $4m
- Losing Prado and getting Jones (ignoring Phelps/Eovaldi, a monetary wash) → saved $6m
- Dumping Roberts late last year, replacing him with Refsnyder/Pirela this year → saved $4.5m
- Replacing Cervelli with Murphy → saved about $1m
- Passing up Robertson for Miller → added $3.8m (over D-Rob’s $5.2m in 2014, but they saved $2.5m in a sense, by picking Miller at $9m over over D-Rob at $11.5m)
- Keeping Headley → added $2.5m (the raise from his 2014 salary)
- Getting (stuck with) A-Rod back on the books → added $18m (he’s getting $21m, but BBREF shows he actually got paid almost $3m last year)
- Total: saved $47.25m; added $24.3m → net savings of about $23m
I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of other $1-2m differences, like the part-year 2014 salaries of Drew, Johnson, and Thorton, as well as possible modest raises embedded in some long-term contracts.
But the point remains: If you’re Cashman lobbying at the Steinbrenner family Christmas/New Year's bash for money to sign Max Scherzer or James Shields, can’t you squint and see an argument he just set up?
O mighty Steinbrenners, my offerings to you include over $20 million. I passed up a bunch of folks like the several $2-$6m medicrities we had a slew of last year -- Roberts, Johnson, Kelley, Thorton, Ichiro, Cervelli. I replaced them with cheaper role players of probably similar talent -- all the $500K-$1m righty relievers, Young, Refsnyder, Pirela, Murphy. We also lost or let go of two starters who would combine for $27m, Kuroda and McCarthy, replacing them two who combine for $6m, Capuano and Eovaldi. Now, let's talk about what I'd like to spend that roughly $23m in savings on….
The pattern is pretty clear: Cashman made many moves that each save $1-6 million on the back end of the roster: mid-back rotation starters (Capuano & Eovaldi); benchers (Young, Pirela, & Murphy); middle relievers (too many to list); and youngsters who may or may not be able to hold down a regular job (Refsnyder & Pierla). That's smart on its own; for back-end talent, why spend millions on guys in their 30s, just to avoid giving shots to cheaper guys in their 20s? But also, in the aggregate, Cashman just nearly saved the cost of Scherzer or Shields, based on the Fangraphs estimates that they'll cost $25m/7yrs or $20m/4yrs, respectively. Those estimates strike me as a bit low, but the even if they cost $30m and $25m, the point remains: Cashman saved 80-90% of their cost with a series of nickel-and-dime back-end moves. Like Senator Dirksen said: a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.
I'm not in the prediction business, so I'm not insisting this really is the Cashbrenner plan. Maybe Hal's view is, "uhh, Brian, thanks for saving that $20m, but we spent that on Headley and 2014's half-years of McCarthy and Prado, which didn't get us to the postseason like you said...." Or maybe it's, "uhh, Brian, thanks for saving $20m for 2015, but that doesn't nearly finance $100-180m over 4-7 years..." When it comes to predictions, it's like the saying goes: those who know don't tell; those who tell don't know.
But with Cashman clearly spending a ton of time on the roster back-end to save over $20m, don't you think he'd at least ask the 'brenners for permission to use those savings on a top-line starter, to firm up what remains a shallow rotation on a not-quite-clearly contending team? And say what you want about the Steinbrenners, but they're willing to spend; couldn't you see the answer being, "ok"? And sure, a 7-year deal for Scherzer (age 30) or 4-year deal for Shields (age 33) could look similarly bad by their year 36-37 seasons, but won't the Yankees' odds for 2015 and 2016, at least, look better with one of the S's replacing Capuano in the rotation? So my New Year's resolution is hoping my wishful-thinking conspiracy theory is right. That's a good resolution, right?