It's been over 24 hours since the news of the Red Sox signing prized Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada broke, and as I mentioned earlier I'm still struggling to make sense of it from a Yankee perspective. This felt like it should have been a slam dunk. This was going to be the big cherry on top of the international spending sundae, the big signing that got the Yankees back in the game of landing top-tier Cuban talent. That's a game the team has been hesitant to play since signing Jose Contreras, and the call for them to re-engage has grown incredibly loud as we've watched good player after good player sign with other teams over the past few years. Once again the player in question did not sign with the Yankees, and this instance more than any other has generated a ton of negative reaction from the Yankee fanbase. How could they lose out to the Red Sox? How could they fail to make the biggest offer? Why would they spend so much time scouting Moncada only to get outbid? Why are they willing to spend on guys like Capuano and Chris Young for marginal money and then not willing to spend a similar amount to land Moncada? What does this say about the Steinbrenners' plans for the team? Why don't they just sell to someone who is willing to spend?
There are varying levels of legitimacy to all those points, the least of which I think is the idea that not signing Moncada is a "failure." For all the hype surrounding him and all the talk about what kind of player he could be down the road, Moncada is still just a 19-year-old prospect who's probably years away from making an impact at the Major League level. He was a lottery ticket just like any other international free agent. The Yankees did their homework on him and were prepared to spend $50 million to sign him. That's more than a lot of other team were willing to spend, it just so happened that another team was willing to spend more. That that happened does not make what the Yankees did in their pursuit of Moncada a "failure."
The bigger problem that this outcome speaks to, more important than how much money the Steinbrenners are willing and able to spend, is the continued disconnect between the baseball and financial sides of the front office, and the lack of clear, consistent plan in building and running this organization as a successful baseball team. After scouting Moncada heavily, holding 3 private workouts for him, and bringing Hank out for his own personal look, when the story broke that the Yanks didn't get him yesterday, the excuse engine fired up almost immediately. Cash said the team loved him but it came down to dollars and cents. Hal said something similar but alluded to other "higher ups" in the organization who didn't want to make the financial commitment.
What other higher ups are there who can pull rank on the owner? And what thought process are they using to determine that $50-60 mil for Moncada is not wise but $45 mil for Carlos Beltran is? That's the scary part of this. Once again the Yankees are seemingly caught in the middle of trying to be financially responsible and competitive, and once again they don't seem to be on the same page at the highest levels of organizational decision making when it comes to developing and executing a plan.
Two offseasons ago they were all about trying to cut payroll to get under the luxury tax, but they still spent significant money on older players that didn't help their W-L record or their bottom line. Last offseason they went back to spending big but didn't focus on building a strong complete team and spent some money unwisely. This offseason was all about getting younger and more flexible, which they've done, but then they were unwilling to commit to spending big on Moncada after already spending a ton on the rest of the international free agent market.
So the question becomes what is the real plan here? Is there even a plan? Are the Yankees trying to contend or are they trying to rebuild? Are they willing to spend or aren't they? Do they want to cut payroll or don't they? The focus seems to change daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally, and that constant change and starting and stopping on one path or another perfectly explains why they've wallowed in this no man's land of mediocrity for the last 2 seasons.
I hypothesized on Twitter last night that maybe this whole Moncada thing was a false flag operation, the FO playing along with the idea that they were all in on Moncada in an attempt to drive his price up. But that wouldn't make any sense either. What do the Yankees stand to gain by not spending more money on Moncada and letting another team pay for him? It's not like that resets their spending limits.
The whole thing just doesn't add up for me and I don't think it ever will. The idea that the baseball portion of the front office can be all in on Moncada and the financial portion not be is disconcerting and symbolic of these last few years of middle ground on-field performance. The Yankees made a big to-do about "going wild" on the international FA market this year, but when it came time to really put their money where their mouth was they didn't do it. They were willing to go wild, just not THAT wild. They want to get younger, but only at a certain price. They want to maintain a "championship-caliber" team, but only some of the time. It's maddening. This is a front office that collectively can't make up its mind on what path it wants to take for its baseball team and that doesn't inspire confidence going forward.