"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Say It Ain’t So; Did Yankees Really Want Robbie Cano?

A $240 million smile. (Photo: AP)

A $240 million smile. (Photo: AP)

When Brian Cashman said “everyone is replaceable”, he wasn’t kidding. Less than 12 hours after Robinson Cano spurned the pinstripes for the “greener” pasture of Seattle, the Bronx Bombers welcomed Carlos Beltran into the fold. Easy come, easy go.

Yankee fans may have been floored by Cano’s decision to accept a 10-year, $240 million “partnership” with the Seattle Mariners, but the organization certainly wasn’t. Judging by the alacrity to replace him, it seems as if the Bronx Bombers knew what was coming. In fact, their inflexibility with Cano pretty much dictated the sequence of events. Was it a case of the Yankees prudently devising and implementing a contingency plan, or did the franchise actually prefer Plan B from the outset?

Did the Yankees really want Cano? There are 160 million reasons why that might seem like a silly question, but the organization’s posture toward Cano suggests they may have made him an offer he had to refuse. From day one of the off season, the Yankees saturated the media with statements about how much the team would not  pay Cano. By drawing a line in the sand, the organization appeared more interested in backing into an exit strategy than moving forward with productive negotiations. And, if any went on behind the scenes, no one was telling, which seems doubtful considering how public the process became.

Even before the Mariners jumped into the fray, the Yankees jeopardized their own offer to Cano by giving the same deal to Jacoby Ellsbury. Did the Yankees really think the Red Sox All Star was an equal to the homegrown Cano? It’s hard to imagine so, but even if their internal projections bucked the conventional wisdom, they had to know Cano would think otherwise. Either way, by announcing the Ellsbury deal before at least attempting an aggressive push for Cano, the Yankees were effectively sandbagging their offer. What’s more, by outbidding the Mariners for Ellsbury, the Yankees were creating a rival for Cano. In a sense, the signing of Ellsbury all but marked the end of Cano’s time in pinstripes. So, when the Mariners came calling, it’s no surprise the second baseman was eager to listen.

When you consider the $80 million difference between the two offers (which doesn’t take into account the tax advantage of playing in Washington state), it’s impossible to argue that the Yankees were competitive in the process. Ironically, Cano will likely be branded a greedy trader for taking the extra money, when it reality that exorbitant sum should be regarded as a symbol of his loyalty. After all, the Mariners would not have blown the Yankees’ offer out of the water if they didn’t have to. Seattle paid a very high price to lure Cano away from his obvious preference, and, for some reason, the Bronx Bombers made little effort to discourage him. By all accounts, Cano was willing to give the Yankees a discount, but the team didn’t seem interested in finding out exactly what it was.

Yankees’ Payroll as a Percentage of Team Revenue

Source: Cots Contracts (opening day payroll) and Forbes (estimated revenue)

Regardless of the Yankees eagerness to retain Cano, there’s still the question of whether they made the right decision to let him go. A surprising number of Yankee fans have looked past Cano’s production and legacy and instead celebrated the move as a sound financial decision. Who knew so many of the team’s followers had so much concern for Hal Steinbrenner’s profit margin? Chalk that up to the Yankees’ constant talk about cost cutting. Instead of holding the franchise up to standards of the past, fans have begun to think of the team’s payroll as a zero sum game. As a result, Beltran is being accepted as a suitable, cheaper alternative to Cano, instead of a complement, as would normally have been the case. Incredibly, the Yankees have created an environment in which payroll reductions are viewed as increases, and the team’s profit margin is viewed by some fans as being more important than its winning percentage. And yet, the Yankees’ ability to spend doesn’t justify every big contract, especially one as large as Cano’s.

Conventional wisdom now dictates that all long-term deals are bad, especially for players already on the north side of 30. In the case of the 31-year old Cano, a 10-year deal looks particularly onerous. There’s no way the All Star second baseman will come close to earning his $24 million salary in the 2020s, the argument goes, so how can a team make such a short-sighted commitment? This logic seems reasonable, but it is mitigated by three factors routinely overlooked: (1) excess return at the beginning of a contract can offset deficits at the end; (2) money has time value; and (3) player costs are subject to inflation.

Can Cano maintain his production for three more years? If so, according to fangraphs.com, he will be worth $90 million, or $18 million above is annual salary. If he has seasons similar to 2012, the surplus would rise to $33 million. There’s no guarantee the second baseman won’t begin an immediate decline, but chances are he’ll provide excess value over the first half of his contract that would offset at least some of the likely drain toward the end of the deal.

Another important consideration of any long-term deal is present value. It’s natural to look at Cano’s $24 million salary in today’s dollars, but money has time value. More specifically, under typical economic conditions, a dollar in hand is worth more than at any point in the future. How does that impact Cano’s contract? The chart below provides a full picture, but in 2023, for example, the second baseman’s salary will be equivalent to about $15.5 million in current terms.

Present Value Depiction of Robinson Cano’s New Contract

Note: Present Value is based on AAV of contract discounted back by 5% (1% + 30 Year Treasury Rate), with payments assumed as a lump sum on first day of each year  and discount rate compounded annually (this actually overstates the present value). Inflation adjustment is a further 3.55% discount based on average annual salary increase between 2003 and 2012. For example, the chart says that in 2013, Cano’s $24 million salary is worth $15.5 million in today’s dollars, and that based on rising cost structure, paying someone $15.5 million current dollars in 2023 would be like a $11.3 million payment today. 

Between 2003 and 2012, the average salary in major league baseball rose from $2.3 million to $3.2 million. If similar growth is applied to Cano’s contract, his $15.5 million present value salary in 2023 would be similar to paying a player $11.3 million today. If Cano only has to be worth around $11 million in 2023, not $24 million, and you consider the surplus he may provide in the early years of the deal, all of a sudden what seems like a burdensome arrangement becomes fair value.

But, what about the luxury cap? Inflation and time value mean nothing to baseball’s tax man. Even though Cano’s outer years may be worth less in today’s dollars, a team will still be on the hook for a $24 million AAV in 2014. For the Yankees, that’s particularly onerous because, even with an Arod suspension, the team is all but assured of paying the luxury tax once again. However, it’s hard to say the team was motivated by this factor when their top offer had an AAV just below the $24 million figure that will be assigned to the Mariners. And, if Cano had accepted a $10-20 million discount to return to the Bronx, the AAV of a 10-year deal would actually be worth less than the $160 million offer made by the Yankees (the difference becomes greater if the team’s reported willingness to go as high as $175 million over seven years is true).

At the risk of getting bogged down with financial minutia, the math illustrates that long-term deals are not as burdensome as often portrayed. This realization leads back to the original question. Did the Yankees really want Cano? If the financial implications are not so prohibitive, shouldn’t the team have been more aggressive? And, if so, what explains the team’s lukewarm courtship?

Do the Yankees believe Cano is a candidate for a rapid decline? Did they infer from his relationship with Jay Z that baseball was no longer a priority? Was a lack of hustle and work ethic an underlying concern? What about Cano’s close friendship with Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera? Perhaps a PED undercurrent made the Yankees more cautious. It’s easy to throw out conspiracy theories, but a more logical explanation might actually come back to finances.

Instead of being concerned about how much Cano was going to cost, it could be the team was worried about how money they could make off his star power. In an ironic twist, the Yankees may not have been scared away by the prospect of Cano becoming Arod. Their greater concern may have been Cano’s inability to match Rodriguez as a drawing card. Winning is the ultimate lure, and Cano helps in that regard more than most, but the Yankees’ brand also relies heavily on big names. So, without the extra bang for their buck, the organization may have decided Cano wasn’t worth the price. And, if the Yankees were acting from a financial standpoint, their motivation may have been governed more by marketing than payroll reduction, although the latter was certainly a bonus.

Life goes on for the Yankees. Just as Cano isn’t greedy, they aren’t cheap. However, Yankee fans have every right to question whether the team’s commitment to winning has taken a step back in favor of profit maximization. It’s one thing to build an occasional winner on a more defined budget, but when the mandate is perennial success, a lot more risks have to be taken. The Yankees passed up on a big one yesterday, and, it could turn out that they dodged a bullet. What is certain, however, is they have forfeited any chance at a big reward.

One final note is a personal one, but I hope it’s a consideration shared by many Yankee fans. Cano’s departure transcends win-loss rates and profit margin. It also impacts the team’s legacy. There will be no tearful goodbye to Cano in 10 years. By then, his time as a Yankee will have faded into distant memory. Instead of being the heir apparent to Derek Jeter, that royal line will now lay dormant. That might not seem important to some (including Cano), but having the opportunity to watch great players over their entire careers has been an important part of being a Yankee fan and integral to the franchise’s lore. It could be that the organization perceived a lack of connection between Cano and the fans, but nonetheless, the second baseman would have added to the franchise’s pantheon of all-time greats. Now, they’ll have to share Cano with Seattle.

Categories:  1: Featured  Baseball  Hot Stove  Yankees

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1 monkeypants   ~  Dec 7, 2013 2:31 pm

Typically great stuff from William. I have only two quibbles. First, William (and many of us) seem to assume that the Yankees are always in the drivers seat, pushing every decision. It is possible that some moves this off season were out of their control, or completely unforeseen by the organization. Second, William seems to assume that the organization has some kind of plan. Increasingly I doubt the latter. I seriously wonder if we've returned to the 1980s model, with the organization lurching from one reactionary signing to the next.

2 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 7, 2013 3:06 pm

C'mon guys, we'll all gather round the internet in 2023 and celebrate the savings!

Gotta be the steroids, they know something.

3 MSM35   ~  Dec 7, 2013 3:39 pm

Interesting speculation but that's all it is. The difference between now and the 80's is that the people running the franchise get their information from baseball people not the limo driver or the cable guy.

4 monkeypants   ~  Dec 7, 2013 7:18 pm

[3] So, it was baseball people who recommended getting Vernon Wells and signing Ichiro to a two-year contract?

5 monkeypants   ~  Dec 7, 2013 7:42 pm

This would make the offseason *perfect* !!


6 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 7, 2013 7:44 pm

I'll add that what I'll miss most about Cano is his aesthetic. He's one of the smoothest players I've ever seen--both in the field and at the plate. Beautiful smile but graceful, fluid movements. That play where he moves to his right, back hands a ground ball and then sidearms it to first is gorgeous.

I think sometimes that graceful-looking players like Cano, especially when they are Latin or Black--aren't appreciated for how good they are because they make it look effortless and easy, which, of course, it's not.

I believe there is something behind the scenes that also kept the Yanks from offering him a more aggressive package. Who knows if we'll ever find out about that, though...

Who is the the Yankee comp for Cano? Maybe Joe Gordon, another great-hitting second baseman?

7 MSM35   ~  Dec 7, 2013 8:11 pm

I loved watching him play. I am really sorry he is going to Seattle. But I really don't believe the manager or ownership was the reason. He was convinced that the Yankees did not value him as much as the people around him told him they should. It is a win for his new agency. I hope it will be for him also. Maybe he sleeps well on planes. He will plenty of practice in the next few years.

8 Branco   ~  Dec 7, 2013 8:40 pm

The last paragraph is what gets me. Who's the "Next Great Yankee"? Cano was so clearly lined up to be the bridge between the Jeter years and whatever came next.

9 cult of basebaal   ~  Dec 7, 2013 9:38 pm

I believe there is something behind the scenes that also kept the Yanks from offering him a more aggressive package. Who knows if we'll ever find out about that, though...

I dunno, the fact that any 10 year contract is pure and utter madness seems clear enough to me.

It seem apparent enough the Yankees were willing to add more money, but not more years to their offer. Me? I'd take a better AAV over fewer years and make the bet I'd still have enough left in 7 years to go back on the market at the new, inflated salary structure that would likely be in place then and make more *actual* money over the same 10 year time frame. Cano and his advisers decided to do otherwise. Fair enough to them, but I still haven't seen any evidence that the Yankees weren't honest and interested bidders in this process, it's just that given the way that sports contracts get reported in this media, TOTAL value is far more important than AAV and that put the Yankees at a disadvantage once it became apparent that Seattle was willing to go 10 years.

Oh well ...

10 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 7, 2013 10:49 pm

Team Cano fucked this up from go putting the $310m number out there. That was beyond having a heavy sense of worth, beyond posturing. It was a fucking obnoxious demand. Did the Yankees really want Cano. The answer 175 million times is yes.
The better question is did Cano really want to be a Yankee? It's clear iii didn't mean much if anything to him. I'm over being bummed out about him.

11 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 7, 2013 10:50 pm

It didn't mean much.. Not iii

12 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Dec 7, 2013 10:52 pm

Superb stuff William.
I'm so not interested in the financials. The Yankees franchise is worth an estimated $3 billion. If thy wanted Cano they could have kept him, it's simple.

Maybe Gary Sanchez can be the next great Yankee? In the meantime..well, I still love watching Granderson, Mo and A-Rod. Sorry..what's that?


13 cult of basebaal   ~  Dec 7, 2013 11:14 pm

If thy wanted Cano they could have kept him, it's simple.

I'm sorry, but it's nothing like that.

Just because someone does something REALLY stupid, you don't have to follow suit and do something merely stupid, just because you can better afford it.

It's a really dumb contract.

The fact that it seems a LESS dumb contact for the Yankees than the Mariners, doesn't matter to me.

At. All.

14 William Juliano   ~  Dec 8, 2013 12:11 am

[13] That's fair, but as I think I illustrated above, Cano's chances of providing enough value over the life of the deal are much more reasonable than portrayed. We need to get past the knee jerk revulsion toward athletes making so much money and look at it in the context of industry economics. If the Yankees can build a team capable of winning consistently without star players like Cano, then more power to them. If not, their sudden aversion to risk will come back to haunt them. It's already been reported that the Yankees lost about $60 million in attendance-based revenue alone in 2013 because they failed to put a quality product on the field. If the same thing happens in 2014, that decline will become more steep. The Yankees built a brand based on winning and stars. I Let's see if they can maintain it on a budget.

15 William Juliano   ~  Dec 8, 2013 12:21 am

I always find it amusing when fans blame the player for wanting market value. Teams are the ones who keep raising ticket prices. Teams are the ones who demand every last penny for rights fees...costs that are passed onto every consumer. Teams are the ones who hold municipalities hostage when they demand public financing. Robinson Cano owes the fans nothing (after all, most would run him out of town as soon as he wasn't productive). The Yankees, however, should be more more beholden to the fans, who are the customers and, in many cases, the creditors.

16 Greg G   ~  Dec 8, 2013 1:31 am

The Yanks might have known that Seattle was going to keep bidding higher and higher for Cano, and they knew they didn't want to go that high. This might have left the Mariners without a 2nd bidder and they got him at that price.

17 Boatzilla   ~  Dec 8, 2013 4:45 am

I blame Jay-Z. It's much easier than hating the Yankees or dismissing Cano (who we loved).

New Stadium chant: Jay-Z SUCKS! Jay-Z SUCKS! Come-on, everybody now....

18 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 9:04 am

Regardless of how much the Yankees are worth, I find it laughable that any Yankees fan can think $175m over 7 years was not a generous offer, and an honest attempt to make Cano a franchise player. Cano did not set the market value for second baseman. He made an obnoxious money grab with total disregard for being a Yankee.
It sickens me to wish for the first time ever that he was more like, yes, I'm going to say it, Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia is not as good as Cano, but he's an elite second baseman who has very recently been fitted for another championship ring. If rings are all, or mostly what matters to Yankees fans, avert your eyes from the Boston second baseman who now has a larger collection than our beloved Cano. This is the same Pedroia who gave his team a hometown discount when he accepted $110 for 8, forgoing a shot at free agency next winter. He did this saying he did not care about market value. He just wanted to be on a winning team, and stay with the franchise. Pedroia doesn't slug like Cano, nothing like Cano, but he"s a great player, a leader, and a multi champion. Do the math. Cano is nowhere near twice as valuable as Pedroia. If Cano felt about the Yankees, and about winning the same way as Pedroia feels about winning, and Boston he would not be on his way to Seattle.

19 Boatzilla   ~  Dec 8, 2013 9:12 am

[18] I kind of agree, but a big problem with that logic is that the Yankees, at least of late, have a policy of not negotiating with players in their "walk" years.

If they had reached out to him during spring training or at some point last year, I bet both sides could have come to an agreement.

20 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 9:22 am

[18] And recall, didn't Bernie take a discount to stay with the Yanks after 1998?

21 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 9:24 am

19) true, but then it comes back to Cano's opening demand for $310/10. Are we to believe he would have accepted $160/7 (the Yankees initial free agency offer) if it was presented to him last spring? I don't think so.

22 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 9:42 am

[14] I agree with you that the Yankees brand has been built up by their run of success, which has been predicated largely on paying top dollar to guarantee talent on the field. But this oversimplifies things a little, no? I mean, their alleged goal of getting down to $189 (even if this goal has been abandoned, it sure seemed like it drove decisions last year) would still have left then with the second highest salary in baseball. Only the Dodgers, who took on a crazy amount of contracts would have more, and the number three follows by a significant gap.

So it's not like the suddenly found austerity meant the team was turning into the Marlins. I have no problem with the organization trying to dial down the payroll a little. There is really little excuse for not being able to field a competitive team with the highest or second highest payroll in the game.

The problem is that they have stacked one stupid contract on top of another, which has given the organization less flexibility to operate within their alleged payroll goal. The contract for Ichiro was simply stupid, for example. The problem is exacerbated by the organization's failure to develop any position players (or any starters, really) in many years. Thus, injuries or weakspots have to be dealt with by overpays for aging players.

Lastly, the organization is now finding itself paying lots of money to players who are not top talent. 7-8 years at $22 million per year to Ellsbury? Seriously? He's a nice player but in no way worth that sort of money. And especially not if it undercuts the flexibility to make an overpay for a truly legitimate superstar like Cano.

I guess what I'm trying to say is there is more going on here than just "the Yankees are trying to cut payroll and make more profit," and that's why they let Cano walk. The deeper issues seem to me to be that the organization continues to make very questionable personnel decisions in general, whether that is in their drafting, their ability to develop minor league talent, or their ability to evaluate and make wise investments in MLB free agents and trade pickups (Vernon Wells???). Or put another way, the organization should not have to carry a $250 million or more annual payroll to buy off the ongoing mistakes and bad contracts. If they *need* to do that to be competitive each year and keep the brand strong, something is wrong.

23 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 9:55 am

20) it wasn't exactly a hometown discount, but Bernie did accept a few million dollars less than the Red Sox offer of $90m/7. That was a huge contract at the time, but keep in mind that Bernie had just won a batting title hitting .339 while slugging .575. For what it's worth, Bernie was two years younger than Cano is now, and had two championship rings in his pocket.
It's interesting to compare Cano and Bernie's Yankee experiences. The Yankees considered trading each of them several times, and played hardball with them when it came to contracts. But Bernie (and Boras) managed to stick with the Yankees for Bernie's career.

24 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 10:28 am

if you consider the rate of inflation, Bernie's 7 year/$87.5m deal in 1998 looks something like $127m/7 yrs today. Again, Bernie was 2 years younger than Cano and coming off a batting title, and 2nd championship. As we know, Bernie went on to win two more rings, Yankee-immortality (TM), and a Latin Grammy. Cano, who somehow needed more than $175m/7 to feel appreciated, is going to Seattle where he will be surrounded/protected by no one in the lineup, and his chances of winning are terrible.

25 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 10:38 am

Cano's chances of winning a Latin Grammy in Seattle also do not exist.
If he stayed in New York, his chances of surrounding himself with great players, and winning a Latin Grammy are substantially greater.
heh. Didn't think of the Grammy possibilities now did you, Jay-Z?

26 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 8, 2013 11:19 am

[22] I agree, and I think the problem you refer to is "arrogance". There seems to be at the very least a disconnect between the baseball people (Cashman, Newman, Oppenheimer, et al) and the business/marketing people (Levine, Trost, et al) that has been at play in the years since George Steinbrenner relinquished control of the team (or maybe even before that) and the team has been almost obviously course-correcting ever since.

I wonder why nothing had been said about any of the other players making a call or hanging out with Robbie during the entire process. How was Robbie really perceived in the clubhouse; beyond the soundbites and quotes of him being a great player and a nice guy for the media? (I mean, why is Ortiz saying anything about Cano, never mind that he was "the face of the franchise" and none of his own (former) teammates have even a word, or is it like Madison Square Gulag and they're pretty much not allowed to say anything...)

27 The Hawk   ~  Dec 8, 2013 11:28 am

Better late than never, but my impression isn't that Yankees fans are celebrating the move as a sound financial decision; they're relieved not to have that ten year contract. If Seattle had gotten him under contract for seven years, I guarantee you most fans would be up in arms.

28 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 11:36 am

26) In an interview earlier this week Mo said he had spoken to Robbie about staying, and he thought it would happen. So who knows what Robbie said to Mo, or what Jeter, and ARod said to him, and what Robbie's agents said to him. Maybe his head was spinning, and it wasn't such an easy decision. Either way, I think he made the wrong one.

29 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 11:55 am

27) exactly. Yankees fans aren't "celebrating" anything, but many are okay with the refusal to go ten years, even if it means losing our best player. In some cases, our favorite player. Especially since a generous offer was made to keep him here.

30 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 8, 2013 12:49 pm

[29] Yeah, I buy that to a certain extent. Up until the tenth year was added, it seemed from all reports that Robbie was mulling it over. Hal made a statement saying he "hoped Robbie would give them a last call", ostensibly because they may have considered the nine-year offer or may have raised the AAV to match, but when the tenth year came into play, that set the Yanks way back on their heels. Perhaps they were hoping initially that the Mariners would reject it outright, since it came the Cano side. Again, ego came into play. Personally, I'm glad Cano achieved the financial security he sought; obviously the Yanks would be concerned far less with how secure he and his family feels as opposed to their own fiduciary and competitive concerns. I wish he stayed, but it is what it is and nobody should feel bad for either side.

31 Mrs. Peterson-Kekich   ~  Dec 8, 2013 1:12 pm

As I read somewhere else today, Cano and Granderson signed for $300 m.

The Yankees spent $299 m on Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran and Kuroda.

I view Beltran-Granderson as a wash, so the question is whether Ellsbury, Kuroda and McCann > Cano. Sorry to see Robbie go, but I think the Yankees made the right decision.

32 Simone   ~  Dec 8, 2013 1:33 pm

I just read that the MLBPA chose Tony Clark to be its executive director. The players have lost their damn minds. They are turning into NFLPA. I cannot believe Clark had the nerve to mention Marvin Miller who had more union experience than most people alive was not a lawyer which somehow justified him being the executive directors. These players deserve all the deceit and losses that the owners are about to wrought upon them.

33 Chris   ~  Dec 8, 2013 3:12 pm

I agree wholeheartedly that theYankees' decision making is incoherent. I wonder what folks make of the NYPost claiming, after supposedly talking to friends of Cano, that he didn't like playing for Girardi. And didn't like that he hit second a bunch last year?

34 randym77   ~  Dec 8, 2013 3:38 pm

I hadn't thought about the steroids issue, but now that you mention it, Cano's name did come up in the Biogenesis mess. He was not disciplined, but maybe the Yankees know more than they're telling about that.

Much as I love watching Robby play, I kinda think the M's did us a favor with this contract. The conventional wisdom is that you don't sign second basemen to big contracts past their age 32 season. Robby is 31. True, Cano is not just any second baseman, but still.

Long contracts have a cost greater than just the dollars. There's the roster spot, and the players you have to pass up with that roster spot occupied. Sure, if he's terrible, you release him and eat the money. But most players don't fall off that badly. They end up like Dan Uggla, a burden to keep around, but not quite bad enough to cut loose.

35 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 3:59 pm

[29] I'm happy they didn't go to ten years with Cano, but that happiness is greatly mitigated by the decision to give 7 or 8 years to Ellsbury. Five years to a soon-to-be 30 y.o. catcher doesn't thrill me, either, but that's more defensible I guess.

36 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 4:01 pm

[26] No first round draft pick this year, with all of the FAs. Not the Yankees do much with their high draft picks, but now there is not even the pretence of developing their own impact players.

37 William Juliano   ~  Dec 8, 2013 4:02 pm

[22] The problem with that argument is so much of the Yankees current payroll is tied up in LT deals that were given out to ensure winning earlier in their term. CC, Tex and Arod have already paid big dividends, but now the Yankees need to replace them with talent comparable to those players when first signed. Also, the Yankees mandate is not to win sometimes or even most of the time...the organization itself professes an expectation to win every year. In order to accomplish that, you can't skimp. Otherwise, you remove stability. Put another way, a $230mn and $189mn payroll can both lead to 95 wins, but the former is much less likely to lead to 85 (last year aside because Yankees accelerated a lot of payments in anticipation of a 2014 reduction).

I look at the Yankees situation very simply: they have spent a lot of money and both won a lot of games and made a lot more money as a result. What you refer to as "one bad contract after another", I consider part of a formula that has worked. Put another way, would another 10 years like the previous decade be bad for the Yankees, from both a financial and competitive standpoint? I know I'd sign up for it a minute.

Finally, I think you underrate Ellsbury by labeling him a nice player. If he plays like last year, he is a great player. If he plays like 2011, he's an immortal. Ellsbury has a decent chance to out WAR Cano next year, but the reason I think Cano is more valuable is because his contribution is more certain. That goes back to the risk/reward scenario I mentioned in the post. The way the Yankees have won is by paying Cano for his guaranteed production and still be willing to spend for Ellsbury's high upside. Now, it seems like they are willing to roll the dice a little more and risk a down year for Hal's Holy Grail of a winning on the field (thereby maximizing revenue) while also trimming costs.

38 William Juliano   ~  Dec 8, 2013 4:13 pm

[18] I don't get why you find Cano's demands obscene. Should he not try to get every dollar possible? And if not, why do the Yankees conduct their business in such a manner?

It's also funny how so many people fret about teams overpaying for free agents, but no one cares about players who spend up to nine years under team control, often for salaries well below the value they contribute? The owners and players agreed to the current system. As long as players are prevented from earning fair value at the beginning of their career, they shouldn't be begrudged their attempt to make up the difference at the end.

[23][24] Bernie actually didn't come back until the Boss topped the Red Sox offer after he called him directly. Had the current admin been in power, Bernie may have finished his career in Boston.

Also, it's not really relevant to compare contracts handed out in 1998 to ones in 2013 because the industry revenue picture is vastly different. A better way to do it would be compare each contract AAV to team revenue, and in this example, Bernie was paid a larger portion of the Yankees' pie.

39 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 4:36 pm

[37] What you refer to as "one bad contract after another", I consider part of a formula that has worked. Put another way, would another 10 years like the previous decade be bad for the Yankees, from both a financial and competitive standpoint? I know I'd sign up for it a minute.

Well, my own interest in the team declined over the last decade, and especially the last few years. So maybe I for one would not sign up for a repeat.

And of course, having an ever-rising payroll was *not* what the Yankees did the last decade. Overall the payroll increased significantly especially between 2003 and 2005. But since 2005 the payroll has remained relatively stable, oscillating up and down from an average of $206 million, with a low of $189 in 2007 and a high of $228 last year. Interestingly, they *reduced* payroll from 2008 to 2009 and went on to win the WS.

So I reject the premise that the Yankees relative success has been built on spending more and more, locking into longterm contracts, with no limit in sight, and with several dubious decisions along the way (Ichiro?Really? That's part of the strategy for success?). Spending wisely on top talent to supplement a solid core was the key to success. Indiscriminate spending is unlikely to be a similar plan for success.

40 William Juliano   ~  Dec 8, 2013 4:57 pm

[39] Can't argue with your preference, but that's another story altogether.

You are citing Opening Day payroll numbers; the final numbers are higher, especially in seasons when they made key mid-season acquisitions. Also, they don't include benefits, which get applied to payroll for lux tax purposes (i.e., a $189mn figure is really ~$178mn). That aside, those number support my general point, which is the Yankees should have no problem at least maintaining a payroll in the $210-$220 million corridor, and, should be willing to expand it because their revenues and the overall cost of talent have risen over the last decade. If the Yankees think a $189 million payroll in 2014 is the same as in 2004 or even 2012, they are mistaken.

I agree about Ichiro, but indications suggest that was a marketing decision. Also, it's worth noting that he was worth about the $6.5 million he was paid. The problem was the Yankees deciding to entrust a full time job to a $6.5 million player. That aside, I don't think the Yankees have spent indiscriminately, especially not this year. On the contrary, I think a bigger risk for the Yankees is under-spending, not over-spending.

41 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 5:06 pm

[40] If I recall, your favorite player is Don Mattingly. Why?

42 William Juliano   ~  Dec 8, 2013 5:07 pm

[41] Because he was the Yankees best player during my formative years as a baseball fan.

43 JeremyM   ~  Dec 8, 2013 5:20 pm

They definitely wanted him back, but they wanted him back at their price. There's a difference. Same with the Cardinals and Pujols. It worked out well for them, but I don't think Cano will blow up the way Albert has. That doesn't mean it was still not a good idea though.

44 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 5:55 pm

[42] The same for me, though it is arguable that he was their best player (Henderson was probably better, and maybe also Winfield). And I would add that my emotional attachment to him involved more than simply the fact he was the best (or perceived best) player. My attachment was also bound up in the fact that he came up through the minors and played his whole career with the team. My preference, and I think most fans' preference, goes beyond solely winning or competitiveness (though that is a large part of the equation).

45 William Juliano   ~  Dec 8, 2013 6:09 pm

[44] In retrospect, Henderson and Winfield were better than Mattingly for a season or two, but at the time, RBIs meant a lot, so Donnie was the king. I agree that attachments are more than just "who's the best", but I don't think the homegrown aspect is paramount (for all I knew at the time, Winfield was homegrown...also my second favorite was Randolph because he shared my name). Longevity and tenure are important (one reason losing Cano is more of a blow to me), but how many Yankee fans are sad to see Phil Hughes and Joba go?

46 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 8, 2013 6:28 pm

[30] Financial Security? One can't be financially secure on $175m+?
Well... thinking about it... looking at a 52 week year, that's only about $480,000/week, 52 weeks a year, for 7 years.

Do you really believe that Robbie, or his kids (or grand kids, or great grand kids) will ever spend that 'extra' $50m or so?

How many people in this country make $25m/yr? Hundreds? Thousands?
How many plaques are in monument park?

I guess Legacy means less to some than others.
Sometime... maybe within the next 10 years, maybe after... Robbie will regret this decision.

47 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 8, 2013 7:11 pm

38) I stand by my assessment of Cano's decision to leave, and remind you Bernie did accept less than the RS offer to stay in NY. Bernie made his case to George about wanting to remain a Yankee, and the Yanks increased their offer to make it close enough to the RS offer for him. To my knowledge Cano did not make any such effort to personally speak to management. Not that it would have made much of a difference considering his demands.

48 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 7:15 pm

[45] I'm not sad to see Hughes and Chamberlain go because they turned into duds, but that only underscores what I'm saying. There are deep problems with the way the organization evaluates and develops talent (at least internal talent). And this puts more pressure on organization to lavish money on free agents not to supplement a solid core, but in fact to create the core...and the back-ups (because apparently the organization can't develop any position players good enough to be backup...to be better than Vernon Wells, for example).

49 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 7:17 pm

[46] I agree that the financial "security" argument is overstated. At the same time, I think the "lost legacy" argument is overblown as well. I really doubt Cano will regret his decision because one day he'll wake up and think, "oh no...my legacy."

50 JeremyM   ~  Dec 8, 2013 10:13 pm

[49] Do you think Pujols regrets leaving at all? No, seriously. I'll bet he does--going from baseball nirvana to Disneyland isn't worth the money, in my opinion.

51 monkeypants   ~  Dec 8, 2013 10:43 pm

[50] No, I don't think Pujols regrets his decision. His legacy is secure; he'll be a HoFer and one of the greatest players in the history of one of one of the most storied franchises. And it's easy for one of us to say leaving St. Louis for Anaheim, or leaving NYC for Seattle, is not worth the money, because we're talking about someone else's money. I doubt any one of us would turn down the extra tens of millions.

52 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 9, 2013 7:29 am

51) everybody has their price I suppose, but there are players who would take substantially less to be on a winning team, or to play in a preferred city. They are the exceptions.

53 William Juliano   ~  Dec 9, 2013 8:04 am

[48] What see as a problem, I look at as a byproduct of success. The Yankees' inability to develop talent is overblown, in my opinion, because the team is hampered by very poor draft position and the mandate to win now (which means you trade AJax for Granderson). Also, I keep coming back to the same simple statement: if the Yankees win the most and make the most money, what's so bad about their formula?

Also, it's worth noting that all of the prospect "experts" ranked the Yankees around a top-10 farm system entering this season, and BA rated their 2013 draft one of the best.

Here are more thoughts on Yankees' drafting and developing pitchers: http://www.captainsblog.info/2013/02/20/yahoos-passan-prints-the-legend-but-yankees-have-done-ok-developing-pitchers/19279/

54 William Juliano   ~  Dec 9, 2013 8:10 am

[47] You're correct. The Yankees increased their offer from 5/$60 million to 7/$87 million, or 40% + 2 year, after the Boss intervened. If the Yankees had done the same this time (40% increase over $160 million), the resultant $224mn/9-year deal would most likely have been more than enough. By citing Bernie, I think you actually undermine your argument because Cano did not act much differently from Bernie; but Hal did act differently from the Boss.

55 William Juliano   ~  Dec 9, 2013 8:13 am

[46] In my opinion, legacy from this standpoint belongs to the team, not the player. A great player can enjoy a legacy with several teams, but when an all-time great spends most of his career with one team, the franchise is the beneficiary. The Yankees continue to market their brand with the likes Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, etc., and I am pretty sure none of those guys are getting royalties.

56 monkeypants   ~  Dec 9, 2013 11:47 am

[53] If you have an organization that cannot produce AAA outfielder, or does not trust its own AAA outfielders, to outproduce arguably the worst starting OF in the league two years running (Vernon Wells), your organization has structural problems in player development and personnel evaluation. Likewise if your best homegrown IF in the last 8 years or so is Nuñez.

Are the Yankees really hampered by poor draft position? Are they hampered significantly more than, say, the Red Sox?

And what does it mean that the Yankees win the most? Have they won the most World Series in the last ten years? Have they been to the most WS in the last decade? Or do you mean they won the most games? They won the most games in the 1980s, but I do not look back at that decade as a particularly successful one, or one whose organizational strategies should be copied.

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