The New York Yankees have behaved very differently in the past few offseasons than they have at any point in recent memory. Their transactions have been aimed at acquiring young players who have many years under team control and should theoretically have their best seasons ahead of them. They have not been in the conversation for any big money players despite there being some very good ones available this winter. They're not even in on small money guys either. Clearly, the Yankees aren't a championship caliber team at the moment, with questions everywhere, and they're not aggressively trying to fill those holes. The only conclusion that leads us to is that the Yankees are trying to rebuild and winning is not a priority right now. The Justin Wilson for Luis Cessa and Chad Green trade perfectly exemplifies exactly what the Yankees are doing right now. When Brian Cashman tells you the team is trading a quality reliever because he is going to make some money soon, that tells you all you need to know.
"Wilson is an arbitration-eligible player with three years of control who is entering the money making years," said Cashman. "I get two starters that when their service clock starts are going to have upwards of 12 years of control between them in an area of need for us."
Wilson was a big part of the Yankees' bullpen strength last year. Maybe Jacob Lindgren and James Pazos can do just as well, but there is no guarantee for sure. The Yankees were short on innings last year and they've already traded away two pitchers who gave them quality innings.
It's hard to believe they traded Wilson over a few million dollars, but that's what Cashman says. The Yankees are under-spending on payroll, as pointed out here by E.J. The Yankees' old business model gave them a chance to win every single season. It didn't guarantee them a championship, but it guaranteed a legit championship shot, which is more than the team can say now. Despite the mainstream media narrative of the changing rules making that model obsolete, it would still work the same if the Yankees spent what the Dodgers are, which they can easily do and go beyond.
The next two offseasons are when a ton of money is coming off the books, but the free agent classes the next two offseasons are pretty dreadful. That's why the Yankees should have been much more aggressive this offseason. Who are they going to really want from the next 2 classes? Maybe Stephen Strasburg next winter? What will the payroll look like then with players coming off the books and nobody to spend the money on?
It seems crazy, but maybe the Yankees aren't looking to seriously contend until the year 2019. The 2018 MLB free agent class has the potential to be the greatest ever by a long shot. Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Fernandez, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw (opt-out), David Price (opt-out), Josh Donaldson, Adam Jones, A.J. Pollock, Michael Brantley and Brian Dozier are the names scheduled to be available. Some of these players will sign extensions, but even if just half of them are left over it's an amazing class. Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka (if he does not opt-out) would be the only players under contract for over $20 million by that offseason.
The Yankees expect players like Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorious, Starlin Castro, and any other young players they acquire before that year to be blossoming by that point. If you combine them with a few of those guys, you could have the makings of a championship contender for years to come.
The big problem with that plan is the losing for the next three years. However, that's the price of going for the Royals model over the old Yankees model that made them successful for almost two decades. The Royals lost for 20 years, which is what people fail to realize in their grand plan. Going for a full rebuild instead of trying to remain competitive enough for a wild card chance would serve the Yankees better, but they do not think the fans could handle that. In reality, they should be more accepting of that than just trying to stay mediocre. Of course, none of this would be an issue if the Yankees were still what the Yankees used to be about.