"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Not That Smart


I hurt my knee on November 10th and it took me a month to schedule a doctor’s visit. Partly because I hoped I would just heal on my own and partly because I’m intimidated by the prospect of finding the “right” doctor. More than seeing this as a chance to solve a problem and improve my life, I saw it as an opportunity to expose my ignorance.

When I finally navigated the insurance web site (no, not THE insurance web site) to find an in-network doctor close to my office, I called them to schedule an appointment and carefully combed over the details of my policy with the receptionist. I still somehow ended up with an appointment with his partner who does not take my insurance. I regretted the decision while making it. Still, I went ahead with the visit just so I would not have to call, again, and reveal my stupidity.

How I long to be the smartest guy in the room and that’s rarely true unless that room is the bathroom and it’s cockroach-free at that moment. I think that’s a universal feeling and it influences the way we talk about the Yankees. But should it? I don’t really care if the Robinson Cano contract is a laughing stock or the Yankees are perceived as stupid for giving it to him. All I care about: is Robinson Cano the best guy they can get to play second base? Yes? Then why isn’t he a Yankee?

In the run-up to Robinson Cano signing with the Seattle Mariners for $240 million over ten years, many Yankee fans thought a contract for seven years for $175 million was OK, but ten years was prohibitive – because they didn’t want to pay him for the very end of his career. The difference ended up being three years, $65 million for Cano’s 38-40 year-old seasons. A similar amount, after accounting for inflation, to what they just gave Carlos Beltran for his 37-39 year-old seasons.

Between the McCann deal, the Ellsbury deal and the Beltran deal we have seen all of the facets of the Cano deal play out over three different players. I observed the following general reactions to these deals:

Brian McCann (C, 5 years, $85 million – with an easy vesting option for a 6th year at $15 million more) – A premium price to be sure, but offense at catcher is so rare that it’s worth it. Also, McCann may not be catching by the end of the deal, but the near-term upgrade is so attractive that we’ll deal with the end of the contract when we get there. There’s always first base and DH, right?

Jacoby Ellsbury (CF, 7 years, $153 million or 8 years, $169 million) – WTF? That’s a lot of money for a guy who’s had two really good seasons. But he’s a solid player and evidently can be an important cog on a championship team, so I’m glad to have him around. Still, that seems like too much money – $22 million a year. Does this mean the Yankees are planning to shoot past the $189 million limit? I sure hope so.

Carlos Beltran (OF/DH, 3 years, $45 million) – Excellent hitter, too bad the Yankees didn’t get him when he could also field and run the bases! Oh well, he’s a one dimensional player now, but will be a nice solution for the middle of the lineup. Three years is at least one year too many since he’s so goddamned old, but that’s the price of doing business I guess.

So that’s the premium price for positional scarcity, the scary high average annual value, and the overpay for the mega-decline years that we’re mocking Seattle for giving Cano. The Yankees are guilty of as much stupidity as the Mariners, the only difference is the Mariners ended up with the best player. Oh yeah, in addition to the oppportunity to pay a 37 year old in 2014 instead of in 2022, the Yankees still don’t have a second baseman for next year.

We can compare projected WAR totals and stab at how badly the Yankees have allocated resources here, but regardless of the metric, wouldn’t the 2014 (15, 16, 17 etc) Yankees have been a better team with Robinson Cano plus the quality outfielders they could acquire with this cash they are throwing around than they will be with Ellsbury and a crappy second baseman? And if they plan to blow past the salary cap, then wouldn’t they be much better with both of them?

I don’t see as much hand-wringing about these three deals. They just represent run-of-the-mill stupidity. Yankee fans will likely never hear another word about them even if they fail spectacularly. The Robinson Cano deal has the potential to resonate for a decade and I think Yankee fans no longer want to see their team top the list of “worst contracts.”  We’ve been hearing about how stupid the Yankees are ever since the winter of 2007, when they gave Arod all the moons of Saturn, and they’ve won 3 Division titles, played in 3 ALCS and even a World Series during these dark days.

Did you know a strain of Yankee fan exists that is mad that Robinson Cano didn’t accept fewer years from the Yankees just so he could finish his career reflecting the glory of the franchise? This is a logical fallacy, because the Yankees did not offer Robinson Cano a contract that would take him to the end of his career! And the same fans applauded their restraint. In fact, it was this tail end of his career that scared so many Yankee fans away from the ten-year deal. “Yes, we want you to be a Yankee forever, right up until you are no longer great.”

How can we ask Robinson Cano to invest in the idea of being a career-Yankee when the Yankees were not willing to do the same? The Mariners showed more faith and loyalty to Cano than the team that profited (heavily) off of him for the last nine years.

I’m open to engaging any baseball argument about why keeping Cano is a bad idea. Is his durability a mirage? Is his less-than-max-effort running the bases a big deal? Has he stopped hitting lefties? Is he a PED bust and precipitous decline waiting to happen? But this is where the debate has to be for me because the accounting angle doesn’t work. I cannot prioritize the possibility that 1/25th of the roster (and what, 8% of the payroll?) might be a bad contract in 2022 over winning in the here and now.

Because if we agree that Cano is the best player available, I find it hard to fathom how the Yankees could have spent all this money and still whiffed on the most vital acquisition. It would be like buying the most expensive cranberry sauce for Christmas dinner but refusing to pony up for a goose.

For those of you who have celebrated the Yankees’ intelligence for not matching Seattle’s offer, please consider this question: When will this decision pay dividends for the Yankees? I am a fan who wants to see the Yankees win the World Series as soon and as often as possible. I think that employing the best second baseman in baseball is a step towards making that happen. Will letting him go get the Yankees to the World Series any faster? Any more often? If the answers lie in 2022, then the questions are moot.

The Yankees famously refuse to hang banners for pennants and division titles. I wonder if they’ll alter that philosophy when their fans proudly declare them “smartest team in the league” because that’s the only title they figure to win.

Categories:  1: Featured  Hot Stove  Jon DeRosa  Yankees

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Show/Hide Comments 1-100
1 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 11, 2013 11:58 am

two words: Dustin Pedroia.
two figures: $110/8
30 year old re-upped in July forgoing a shot a free agency next winter to stay with his franchise, and be part of a winning team.

The Yankees offer to Cano would not definitely have made him a Yankee for life. But who knows? Maybe he'll be done by then. But if not, it would have brought him close to the end of his career, and surely, if he was still able to play, the Yankees would have given him another contract. The Yankees resigned Jeter, Rivera, Bernie, Andy and Posada late in their careers. Even if it was year to year, those guys found a way (with the exception of Andy) to be Yankees for life.

When you consider your lifestyle making $25 million dollars a year, at what point is enough enough? If staying on the Yankees was important to Cano, and being on a team that competes (as opposed to Seattle where he will be protected by no on in the line up) $175m/7 would suffice. He probably could have gotten even more out of the Yankees, $190m? an 8th year? if he reasoned with the Yankees.

Look, it's obvious the Mariners offer blew the Yankees out of the water. Money isn't everything, but if $175m isn't enough, I don't know what is.

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:07 pm

and I know Pedroia doesn't slug anything like Cano, but if $110/8 is good enough for him, $175m/7 is far from an insult to Robbie.

I asked this question here the other day: look at Seattle's line up at this point, and tell me why would you throw Cano anything that looks like a strike? Smart teams will walk him every chance they get. So much for his big numbers if the Mariners don't surround him with several more hitters.

and to those who think the Yanks blew it with Cano: what would you have given him? Same deal as Seattle? More?

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:13 pm

Cano saw strikes last year, didn't he?

4 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:24 pm

3) he did see strikes, but he was surrounded by hitters who at least were expected to. He also drew more walks than ever. Improved plate discipline? Maybe not. He's currently protected by precisely no one in the Seattle lineup.

5 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:47 pm

Who protected him last year? Wells? Overbay? Maybe I am purposely forgetting, but I thought they had nothing until soriano arrived.

6 TheGreenMan   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:56 pm

I try not to get invested in having players stick around on my favorite team in this era anymore. I would love to have had Cano through the end of his career, but I think the Yankees made a fair offer and good for him for getting more from Seattle. I'm not bitter. No one knows how the next ten years is going to pan out for either Cano or the Yankees.

But I'm hopeful. The Ellsbury contract bothers me a bit, but I'm on board for McCann and Beltran. I'd like to see the Yankees move forward with FA deals that are 5 years or less. The day of the 10-year deal should be long over. Anaheim realizes that, and one day Seattle might too. Even if it is for the best second baseman in the game. It's too much.

Maybe none of this would be happening if the Yankees had a practice of doing what other teams seem willing to do. Stop letting their players reach free agency and lock them up to long-ish deals through their primes. Like what BOS did with Pedroia. But that was never their policy and it doesn't look like they are going to have that kind of young talent for a while now. So no crying over that spilled milk.

I'm more interested in seeing if the Yankees can radically change their approach to developing young talent. Because it looks like some lean years coming up in that territory. Unless some of these guys progress instead of regress as they move up. We'll see...

7 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:57 pm

Yeah, the Yankees scored 26 more runs than the Mariners' last year. But I figure Rob himself is (much) more than a 26 run upgrade at his position, so I'd say on the whole the Mariners' line-up around Cano will be *better* than the Yanks' line-up around him was in 2013.

Still, he won't win, and he won't be in New York. I kind of agree with Sliced that it seems like players are using their salaries to keep score and have forgotten that the point of money is what you can get with it.

8 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:58 pm

I've blanked it out too, but vaguely recall the team was hitting well (even wells and overbay) until June, and then it completely sucked until Soriano arrived, and then ARod came back, and it ended up still sucking, but he at least provided cover for Robbie for a while.
Anyhow, looking to 2014, the Yankees (on paper) look like a better place for a hitter than Seattle.

9 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 12:59 pm

Sorry, [7] was referring to [5], but Green Man pounced while I was typing.

Green Man, I don't think it's a matter of policy. I think Pedroia's contract is VERY team-friendly. Not many players will sign a contract like that. I don't know how the Rays so often hypnotize their young stars into agreeing to forgo the extra money they'd get if they went to free agency.

10 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:01 pm

[8] True, and YS is a much better park for a power lefty.

11 TheGreenMan   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:02 pm

[9] Maybe it just seems that way. Cashman and others in the organization have stated many times over the years that they don't negotiate during the season, so maybe that's what I was thinking of. But I can't recall any extensions for good young players in quite some time now. De facto policy, I guess.

12 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:05 pm

[8] Yes, I agree that 2014 looks better in the Bronx.

Answering your question in [2], I would definitely match the Seattle offer if that was what it took. If I have to account for every penny in order to stay under 189, at 24/year, that's less than the price of Ellsbury and Johnson. I'd rather have Cano than those two guys. If not, then it's really a no-brainer. And I already said that the 2021-2023 years are low priority to me.

Is there anybody out there that thinks the Yanks will be better off in 2014 without Cano at 2B? If so why? If not, when will they see the benefit of not spending this money on him?

13 TheGreenMan   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:06 pm

Cano did post his best BB% last year, but it as only a tic above 2012. He was virtually the same player in 2012 and 2013. Which is still fantastic. If he was being pitched around, it didn't affect his 2013 stats that much.

14 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:06 pm

Jon, obviously the Yanks will be worse off in 2014 without Cano!
They'll see the benefit of not spending the money in five years.

15 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:08 pm

[13] Yeah, I don't really think lineup protection exists in the sense that we're discussing here. It may impact the location of pitches in certain situations, but for high contact hitters who aren't all that selective to begin with, it doesn't change much.

16 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:09 pm

[14] Meaning that Ellsbury will be more valuable at 22/year than Cano is at 24/yr in 2018 and beyond? That seems unlikely to me, but certainly possible.

17 TheGreenMan   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:10 pm

[12] Saying that the Yankees could be better at 2B in 2014 without Cano seems silly. He's the best out there right now at that position. But I could see an argument that they will eventually see the benefit of not spending that money on him. Maybe even 2014. The team had a lot of holes. They still do. They've filled some, but created another at 2B. Only time will tell if it all works out.

18 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:10 pm

[15] I agree. And I've definitely read serious sabermetrics that's very skeptical about lineup protection.

19 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:12 pm

[16] I'm not following you. What does Ellsbury have to do with it?

I meant, by 2019 Cano will be under-performing his contract by a large margin, and the Yankees will have that money to spend on someone who will perform much better.

20 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:14 pm

[17] I'm not asking only about 2B, I'm talking about the whole team. The $24 million they saved on Cano is already spent: Ellsbury + Johnson = $25. So is that a better team then Cano + Almonte = $24.5? Not for me.

21 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:15 pm

[19] They gave Ellsbury $ that they could have given to Cano.

22 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:18 pm

12) I have to admit I agree with your logic, and I hate losing Robbie. but it's hard for me to get past $175M not being enough.

I do expect the Yanks to be slightly better than they were last year, but I don't expect them to be great. The pitching is the biggest concern. Maybe Cano didn't expect the Yanks to be that good going forward either, with or without him. That would make his decision an absolute no brainer.

23 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:25 pm

Oh, I get it. Sort of.
I'm not convinced that they think of it that way -- I think they evaluate each decision on its own, except that this year there's that rumor that they want to stay under $189M.

It's very hard to guess, then. I mean, one question is whether they can trade Gardner for an important player. If so, the Ellsbury deal starts to look much better. Another question is, if they hadn't signed Ellsbury, who would be playing CF in five years, and at what price? Not only don't we know the answer, it's hard even to speculate.

24 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:26 pm

[22] But he can't think the Mariners will be better than the Yankees over the next decade. That would just be dumb.

25 TheGreenMan   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:26 pm

Jon - Aha. I misunderstood your question about the Yankees being better off. Thought you were just referring to 2B. If meaning that the Yanks are better off for spending the $ on McCann and Ellsbury (and Beltran) than...yeah, I could argue that they are. They've improved at OF/DH and C (two HUGE holes last year), and created another one at 2B. The 2014 Yankee team could be better offensively at 6 of the 9 lineups spots than they were in 2013. If Tex and Jeter are healthy and if A-Rod plays, that is. Those are some big ifs, but I can see it. Which team is better:

Look at the 2013 Yankee regulars (heh). Add McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran then subtract Cano. Which team would you rather have? You might prefer the one with Cano, but it's not a slam-dunk.

26 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:35 pm

[23] With the average annual value of the deals so similar, and one player being obviously superior to the other, we must contrast the contracts directly. Not to mention the timing. Cano is more than 1/12 better than Ellsbury, right? So 24/yr for Cano is a better deal than 22/yr for Ellsbury. As long as we are playing the 189 game, these are just puzzle pieces and the Yankees used two pieces when they could have chosen one. As for center field, if they get under this 189 thing, then the idea is to go over again next year or the year after, and they they can get the CF at that point. Getting a CF as good as Ellsbury is easier than getting a 2B as good as Cano. Gardner, already on their team, is a lot closer to Ellsbury than Infante is to Cano.

[25] That ignores the fact that they could have had McCann, Beltran AND Cano. They just need to punt Ellsbury and Johnson to account for Robbie.

27 oncewent3for2   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:36 pm

I agree with the speculation that the Yankee front office not offering Cano a bigger contract - that was a decision based on something more than just accounting. Doesn't make sense otherwise. That just doesn't feel like the Yankees. When Jeter retires, a lot of fans will feel much less connection to the team, if they still feel connected at all then. Anyway, good luck Robinson Cano.

28 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:43 pm

Okay, if you just want to compare Ellsbury and Cano straight-up, I guess I'd say it will just start to even out in five years. The advantage to the Yankees comes after that, and of course especially after seven.
But if the $189M ceiling isn't serious, then this is the wrong way to compare. The right question then would be, should they have signed both, or neither, or just one?

29 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:50 pm

[28] In one 7 year span, the Yankees won 6 World Series. Fairly recently, they won 4 World Series in a 7 year span. Anything happening 7 years down the road should be steeply discounted.

30 TheGreenMan   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:53 pm

[26] Of course they could have had all those players, but they chose not to for some reason ($189 million). So with the players they went out and got...yeah, I could see being more optimistic about Ellsbury/Beltran/McCann/Johnson than Granderson/Ichiro/Cervelli/Cano (the projected starters at those positions in 2013 vs 2014). Cano, of course, is the best player of those 8, so losing him hurts the most. But you could argue enough positives from those other three spots to offset the negative of the one.

I see your point. The Yankees should have just been the Yankees and signed everyone. But they didn't and I'm choosing to be optimistic about 2014.

31 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:54 pm

[28] Basically what I am saying is that the Yankees have answered all the concerns about the Cano deal with these other three players.

How to fit $24/yr into the $189 thing? Easy, Ellsbury and Johnson.

How about when Cano has to move off 2B? Just like McCann, there is 1B and 2B, and the benefit now outweighs that possible future.

How about when Cano is 38-40 and a one dimensional hitter? That's what Beltran is right now and they are happily paying him.

32 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:56 pm

[30] You are making the wrong comparison. I am not saying they should have signed everybody - I am saying they should have signed Cano instead of Ellsbury and Kelly Johnson. So the comparison you should consider is:

Cano, Beltran, McCann & Almonte vs Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann & Johnson.

It's not 2013 vs 2014.

33 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 1:57 pm

[29] Hm, that seems like a non sequitur.
How does the fact that the Yankees have in the past won a fistful of WS in seven years show that anything seven years in the future should be steeply discounted? (Or discounted at all, for that matter?)

In my life I've had some pretty damned good seven year stretches, but I don't discount my own future steeply!

34 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:00 pm

[33] If you think the Yankees should be setting up 2020 at the expense of 2014-2019, then we just have fundamentally different expectations of this organization.

35 Ben   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:06 pm

Jon, I think you're missing something: The Yanks didn't want to pay Cano 24 million for ten years. That's it. I believe they made an offer for 175 and 7 years... that's 25 million a year. So they valued him highly. And i don't think the extra 3 years or 75 million due a decade from now was what stopped them. They just didn't want to give that contract to that guy. Otherwise, they would have. They clearly could've afforded it based on your Cano - Ellsbury and Johnson analysis. Not sure why they didn't want to. Just didn't. Maybe they think he's smelly.

36 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:07 pm

[34] Well, it depends on the tradeoff. You wouldn't want to wreck the team for a decade just for a minor short-term upgrade.

But I don't think that has anything to do with whether they were great in the late Nineties, or whatever.

37 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:08 pm

[35] I don't disagree at all. But that motive, whatever it may be, is at odds, as far as I can tell, with winning the Serious in 2014, 15, 16 etc.

38 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:11 pm

[36] The point is that the Yankees have accomplished in seven years (multiple times) what other franchises maybe accomplish in a century because they are willing to go for it, full tilt, all the time.

And it has never wrecked the franchise. Will paying Cano 1/12 more than Ellsbury for the next seven years, or paying Cano $72 million from 38-4o be the nail in the coffin?

39 TheGreenMan   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:13 pm

[32] There is a strong possibility that if the Yanks paid Cano what he wanted then they may have made other choices at C (Pierzynski, Salty, etc..) or DH/RF (Kubel, etc...).

But yeah, given the choice of Cano over Ellsbury (forget all those other players) with or without $ considerations I'd rather have Cano. I just don't think it's that simple in the current spending environment. At least if the Yanks stick to it. Which I kinda doubt. Barring a missed 2014 for A-Rod, they are already pretty close to the "cap". And they need another SP and maybe some RP (and some IF help).

If they go over (likely), then I agree that they should have gone full-in on going over and given Cano his money. Hard to tell just where their heads are at right now.

40 Ben   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:13 pm

The Yankees aren't only about winning the world serious. They are also a brand, a network, any other number of things. I bet somewhere one of the business units has done an analysis of the rate of return on competititive vs. victorious teams. Gotta stay competitive but only gotta win once a decade, twice a decade, something like that to maintain the brand. Maybe ten years ties Cano to the brand and they just didn't want him being a lifelong yankee. Not sure why. But there's more to the 'why' than 'win'.

41 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:20 pm

[38] Of course it wouldn't be the nail in the coffin. I mean, it might be, but extremely unlikely.
Will missing Cano be what prevents them from winning the WS in the next five years???

That's why I said it depends on the trade-offs.

And yes, by the way, neglecting the future sure did wreck the franchise for a long time. Cooking up a core of younger players is what got them their (most recent) impressive run of World Series.

42 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:22 pm

[40] That's certainly possible. But why should fans bend over backwards to try to align with those complex goals?

It seems more elegant to me to always try to win and to be known as the brand that is always trying to win, than to say one thing and do the other. Eventually, they would be exposed if they try the latter.

43 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:28 pm

[31]How about when Cano is 38-40 and a one dimensional hitter? That's what Beltran is right now and they are happily paying him.

That's slightly bogus reasoning. One could easily make the argument that signing Beltran to three-year deal now (to be a one dimensional player) is a better risk that hoping Cano can fulfill then end of his contract as a similar one-dimensional player. This is because the Yankees can look at Beltran's *recent* history (consistently productive and healthy the last two years in the role he is being signed for) and try to make a reasonable guess about his short term future arc. Predicting seven years into the future with Cano is much chancier.

44 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:33 pm

[41] That's a good point about the 90s teams. Other than those guys, who were all retained long term or immediatley regrettable let-gos, the only young core player they've developed is... Robinson Cano.

45 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:37 pm

[43] That's fair. He could be worse than Beltran is right now. He could also be better. It's too far out to say, so should be noted.

But Beltran, a similar but inferior hitter to Cano through age 30, does fit the bill of an aging player whose peripheral skills has mostly eroded and still has value because he has retained some of his elite hit tool.

46 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:39 pm

[44] Right.
But that certainly doesn't mean they should have re-signed him. Think Bernie Williams.
It means the problem has been the inability to develop a great core. Well, I guess that's easier said than done, but that might be what it takes.

47 Ben   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:39 pm

I think the fact is, they are exposed now. So the baseball people using the mentality of win now, spend now, doesn't hold as much water as it did in the late 90's. So without that rationale really having an advocate, (the boss) then other factions of the business will weigh in. The brand will say, oh this guy cano doesn't sell shirts. He doesn't grow the brand... etc. It's a interesting business. No doubt. But not nearly as interesting as the game if you ask me.

Personally I never liked Cano that much. Just seemed kind of indifferent. Like Garret Anderson. Great talent, great smile, just no fire. Not too hopefull about Ellsbury, but maybe I'll be suprised.

48 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:40 pm

[0] I am a fan who wants to see the Yankees win the World Series as soon and as often as possible.

OK, this is the crux of the matter. Perhaps the Yankees have looked at their model over the last ten years---hell, let's make it 11 years to include 2003---and realized that they have only been to two WS and won one despite consistently spending the most money on players, and those two WS appearances rested largely on talent that was developed internally the decade previous. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (4 WS appearances, 2 wins), Red Sox (3 WS appearances, 3wins), Giants (WS, 2 wins), Phillies (2 WS, 1 win), Rangers (2 WS, 0 wins), Tigers (2 WS, 0 wins), have been about as successful or more successful, yet have spent less to do so. If you look only at the last 10 years, the Yankees fair worse by comparison.

So, if the goal is as many WS wins as soon as possible, whatever the Yankees have been doing for the last decade has not really been working.

Perhaps the Yankees are looking at the Red Sox and Cardinals in particular: both consistently competitive, both successful at the obtaining the ultimate prize, both willing to spend some money on player salaries (the Red Sox in particular are big spenders), both willing to cut ties with players or hold the line on very long term deals (Pujols), and both apparently able develop their own talent through the minors in addition to making FA deals and trades.

49 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:44 pm

[46] The Yankees did suck in the early 90s, and they did benefit enormously when they got Jeter early in the draft. But other than Jeter, all the core players could have been acquired from any other draft position.

I don't see a consistently winning team and young player development as mutually exclusive. Of course it helps to pick early in the first round, but that's not the only way to do it.

50 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:46 pm

[44],[46] About Bernie, why doesn't anyone consider him a core player? Sure he started earlier than the others, but he was homegrown and as much a contributor during the dynasty years as the other four, and they were being called the Fab Five when they were in their prime and Bernie was still playing. Calling them the Core Four seems like a phenomenon that started around the time Bernie was being set to pasture, or am I wrong?

That said, where do Gardner, Nova and Robertson fit into the discussion? Is it because they don't have the established track record of Cano that they are not considered Core?

51 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:51 pm

[48] If you draw the line at World Series appearances and titles, the Yankees don't do as well. But if you expand to include division titles, wild cards and regular season games won, the Yankees blow everybody away. And those are the things a GM can exert some measure of control over - as opposed to the outcomes of short series.

Still you may be right at how the Yankees are looking at it. If that's the case, they are pulling the plug at an odd time because they don't have the Major League ready talent in the minors that the Cards did when they let Pujols walk.

52 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:53 pm

Of course Bernie was a core player. I just meant, when you think about signing a core player to a long new contract and he's already in his thirties, think about Bernie's later years.

I agree that developing a good core doesn't exclude signing expensive talent. I'm saying, the problem is that they haven't done the former. And the more you can avoid paying a huge sum for declining talent, the better off the team is.

53 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:54 pm

[51] I think that's right. And there's just no such thing as building a team to win the WS. There's just building a team to win games, which the Yankees have done, and done better than anyone.

54 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:55 pm

[50] I can't speak for everybody, but I think RI and I both are referring to Bernie as a core player.

I think a "core player" is one that makes massive contributions to the team's success and that you build the roster around. I don't think any of those guys qualify under that definition - though they're three good players who I like to have around. Robertson especially.

55 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:56 pm

[54] And Frankie, of course.

56 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 2:59 pm

[49] I don't see a consistently winning team and young player development as mutually exclusive. Of course it helps to pick early in the first round, but that's not the only way to do it.

Isn't this even more damning of the organization, that they have been so neglectful and/or incapable of redeveloping a core of young players?

[50] Bernie was most certainly a core player, and arguably the most valuable of the core players during the organization's most successful period (the near-four-peat).

Gardner is a nice player---indeed the second most valuable position player on the team last year (which says a lot about how bad the roster was)---but he's already 30 y.o. and hardly a core player around whom you build a team. I for one can not see a relief pitcher as "core" though Robertson has been excellent in his setup job. The jury is still out on Nova. He's had flashes of brilliance, but he's also 26 y.o. and has not thrown more than 170 innings. By comparison, Pettitte had topped 200 innings in three seasons by the time he was 26.

Seriously, a reliever, a back-end starter, and nice defensive OF with a sneaky good offensive game is a pale comparison to the (admittedly absurdly good) 1990s core, with a HOF SS, a near HOF C and CF, a near HOF starting pitcher and a HOF reliever...plus trading a still in his prime OF for another in his prime OF and trading MiL talent for an in his prime 2B (and then develop another young 2B).

57 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:03 pm

I for one can not see a relief pitcher as "core"


58 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:06 pm

[0] The Yankees famously refuse to hang banners for pennants and division titles. I wonder if they’ll alter that philosophy when their fans proudly declare them ”smartest team in the league” because that’s the only title they figure to win.

[48] If you draw the line at World Series appearances and titles, the Yankees don't do as well. But if you expand to include division titles, wild cards and regular season games won, the Yankees blow everybody away. And those are the things a GM can exert some measure of control over - as opposed to the outcomes of short series.

Wait, which is it?

*I* don't draw the line at WS appearances or wins, but it sure sounded like that is what you were demanding, and more importantly it seems like that is a large part of the Yankees current brand, even more than in years past.

In this light, the Red Sox must appear vexing. They spend a lot, but not as much as the Yankees, and they win a lot. Maybe not quite as much as the YAnkees, but they make the playoffs almost every year---maybe not 15 years straight or whatever it was the Yankees did, but damned close---and they've managed more WS appearances and more WS wins in the last 10 years. And they develop their own talent in addition to signing people to big contracts.

Right now, they are (or seem to be) the model franchise, not the Yankees.

59 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:08 pm

[57] Heh-heh!

60 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:09 pm

[58] Maybe, but I suspect your view is tinted by last season. Well, they did win the World Series -- but you might be forgetting some pretty hideous recent seasons.
The franchise has done very well, no doubt, but it's hardly been 'model', in my opinion.

61 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:09 pm

[57] I said it and meant it. I know it's heresy around these parts because of the long shadow cast by Mo, but I think it's the case. But as great as Mo was, you can't build a team around a relief pitcher, even in today's game that values relievers more.

62 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:14 pm

[58] There's no sure way to build a Series winner, as RI said. I'm saying that assembling the best team possible and winning as many regular season games as possible is the closest we can come. IE the reason we should be employing the best second baseman is that he will help us win the most games which will get us in the playoffs where they might win it all.

63 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:18 pm

[60] Actually, I agree with you...it's probably much about perception over reality. That said, how many "hideous" seasons did they really have? Since 2003 (for no better reason than I used it above), they've finished 1st in the division twice, 2nd five times, third three times and 5th one time. When they finished third, they won 90, 89, and 86 games. In that span of 11 seasons they made the playoffs 7 times. They've averaged more than 91 wins/season, and almost 94 if you take out the one truly bad year when they came in last (2012). That's pretty consistent success, that looks even better when you add in three WS titles.

64 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:18 pm

Lets be honest, the Red Sox won the World Series because they found a franchise in LA that was desperate/dumb/bold/whatever enough to bail them out of 3 insane contracts...which then freed them up to hit the reset button. That's not exactly a model that you can duplicate. Also, coming into this year they hadn't won a playoff game since 2008.

They've obviously had a ton of success, but they've had some pretty wild ups and downs over the past decade.

65 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:18 pm

[61] Sacrilege. In my heart, I know some day you will pay for that.

I don't think you really build a team around a player in baseball. You do that in basketball, and maybe in football.

66 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:20 pm

Let's see here homegrown, core players:

50s Mantle, Ford, McDougald, Howard
60s Stottlemeyer, White, Munson
70s Guidry
80s Righetti, Mattingly
90s Williams, Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte
00s Cano
10s ?

So Cano is the second best player since the 50s? And the only one other than Pettitte and Righetti to leave? Missing anybody?

67 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:20 pm

[60] I think too much of that "model" talk is because people think the Red Sox farm system is about to pay big dividends - Boegarts and Bradley, among others. Steven Goldman has been harping on this a lot the last few months, too. I, however, am not convinced - I might be wrong, but let's see them succeed in the majors first.

The one thing I see missing from this discussion is a point Sliced made briefly in [22]. Cano in 2014 vs. Beltran in 2014 is a red herring. So is Cano in 2014 (or any other future year) and no Cano. The Yankees are not going anywhere without another starting pitcher - preferably a really, really good one.

Even if they had Beltran and Cano right now, a CC-Kuroda-Nova-????-5th starter rotation does not cut it. Sure, the Yanks could bash their way to the playoffs with a patched together pitching staff, but we all lived through the mid-2000s. We know that is not a path to Serious success (if that is what the fans want).

Let's say Tanaka is posted, and let's say (we pray!) the Yankees get him. If the choice is then phrased as Tanaka vs. Cano - and I don't think anyone in this thread has asked that question yet - I think I prefer Tanaka.

And yes, I know that Pineda could maybe be that guy, too, but that's an awfully big "could maybe" right now.

68 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:27 pm

[66] I don't get your point.

It seems to me the only one on that list who supports the idea of signing a 30+ player to a long expensive contract is maybe Jeter. I guess Rivera, because his was only huge for a reliever, not for a baseball player.

Were you thinking otherwise?

69 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:27 pm

[62] Of course. But your position also assumes that money is effectively no consideration. And maybe it shouldn't be. As William has pointed out, the Yankees are making money hand over fist despite suffering the luxury tax. So really, the best thing they can do is actually outbid every team every year for the best FA players. If that means they have to eat the end of ARod's or Cano's contract---even if it means simply releasing players to whom they own tens of millions of dollars to free up a roster spot, so be it. Hell, if that's the case, they should have signed Cano and Ellsbury and McCann and Beltran...and Shoo and maybe three starting pitchers, and put in a high bid for Tanaka.

But assuming that there is an upper limit to what the Yankees can and will spend, either for profit reasons or ethical reasons (who knows, maybe even the Yankees brass finds it unseemly to have a $300 or $400 salary), then talent cannot be evaluated by itself. You have to start dealing with talent/cost. And moreover, future considerations cannot be totally abandoned or ignored.

This does not mean that I disagree with your position, that the Yankees should have resigned Cano even if it meant paying more in annual salary and accepting a contract that went nine or ten years. But I do think it's a more complicated discussion than simply "the Yankees would have been better with Cano next year so they should have signed him."

70 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:29 pm

[67] If the Yankees have to fit everything in under the 189 budget, the best way to do it is to consolidate production in as few roster spots as possible and pay league minimum elsewhere. Survive the season however it goes and then replace the league minimum guys with better players when the restraints are lifted in 2015.

If they don't have to serve 189, then there's no reason they can't get all these guys now.

Put another way, there no reason to cobble together the best also-ran possible in 2014 and then start fresh again in 2015. If they really have to pinch pennies, then everything should be done to maximize the 2015 team. There will be no 2B available in 2015 better than Cano, so you take care of that now. There will be pitchers available in 2015 better than Garza, so you let that slide.

71 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:32 pm

[65] You probably can't build a team around a single player, but I think you can go along way to building a team still the "olde fashioned way," with studs at C or SS or CF (or yes, 2B) and then going out from there. And still relievers are far more fungible. It's a lot easier to throw a bunch or relievers against the wall to see what sticks, and even build a dominant bullpen *within a given season* in a way that you can't with position players.

72 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:32 pm

[69] Of course. I think Cano is the best solution at 2B for several years. Also the 2021 roster right now has zero players on it. So we can put Cano on there without too much worry. If it was already a crowded ship, maybe it would be a different story.

73 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:35 pm

[68] No point, just looking into how rare Cano's case is. If you look at that list, but the time they were 30, most of the guys on there were embraced more fully by the fans.

74 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:40 pm

[66] for what it's worth, Munson made his debut in 1969, and White's first full season (600+ ABs) was 1968. I would argue the were more core players of the 1970s (especially Munson), though perhaps you mean that the 1960s was when these players were developed.

What is interesting about the 1970s Yankees mini-dynasty is that it had relatively few "homegrown" core players (Munson, Guidry, White at the end of his career), but other core players like Randolf, Sparky Lyle (a reliever for you guys), Rivers, and Nettles were all acquired when they were young (28 y.o. or younger). So the Yankees were able to build the team a round a large core of young players hitting their primes at about the same time, to which a few "older" stars like Jackson and Hunter were added.

This again does not seem to be the strategy followed currently by the organization.

75 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:41 pm

[71] If you have Kareem Jabbar or Michael Jordan, your next question is how you can get the right complementary players. If you have Tom Brady, well, you're pretty much set, but ideally it dictates what sort of players you'll be looking for. If you have Big Joe Hockey, then you should forget it because it's hockey and hockey doesn't matter.

But if you have a superstar baseball player, that doesn't give you any information or constraints at all as to what you should do next. You just do what you would have done anyway, which is to get the best players at favorable prices. Baseball doesn't have synchronicity. (Is that the word I want? It's not fahrfegnuggen, is it? One of those made up words.)

Anyway, yes, with possibly rare (and arguably unique) exceptions, it's foolish for a GM to spend his time or resources on relief pitchers.

76 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:43 pm

[70] Yes!

I think this is the real elephant in the room. It's simply not clear if the Yankees are serious about getting under $189 or not, and that assumes they have a coherent plan (which increasingly I doubt). If they are trying to get under the self-imposed cap, some of the signings make little sense. If they aren't trying to get under the cap, why not sign Cano as well...and for that matter, how does one explain the bizarro signings made last year. Unless the plan changes from year to year, which does not inspire confidence.

77 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:45 pm

[75] Forget about Big Jim Hockey. What if you have Big Jim Slade?

78 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:55 pm

[74] Yes, when they were developed as opposed to when they had the biggest impact.

And yes, if you are getting a 21 yr old 2B to become your immediate starter, does it really matter if you "developed" him or not? The key is "21" and "starter" not where he played his minor league games.

79 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2013 3:56 pm

Now I'm wondering why they haven't competed nearly as much for international players like Chapman, Cespedes, Puig, Soler and the like. Compared to what they offered Ellsbury, it sure seems like they could have been well under their target mark and still had both a young and highly productive core, which also could have precluded any notion of Cano leaving. Is there a more pronounced schism and deeper factionalism in the Yankee heirarchy than we know or accept? The strategy, if you want to call it that, sure seems to point to that as the main culprit.

80 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:01 pm

[79] Yeah, good question.
My guess is they thought the Cubans were very risky. And, they were, but the Yankees aren't traditionally afraid of risk.

81 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:05 pm

[80] How are international signings counted for luxury tax purposes?

82 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:05 pm

[76][70] I think there is no plan re $189M. I think it is a useful tool for the team to justify it's actions at that point in time. When it helps to have it be a "limit", then it is portrayed as a limit. When it does not, it is a "goal, not a mandate".

Shoot, the team doesn't even have to say anything about it anymore - they just had to put the possibility out there enough. We the fans and the media do the work for them now.

[70] I don't know if $189M was the reason for not having Cano + the other guys + Tanaka too, or not. But I do believe that without another really good starting pitcher, the Yanks aren't going anywhere - for a while. I expect that acquiring really good pitchers via free agency is going to get harder and harder - and ridiculously expensive, maybe even for the Yanks.

Tanaka is an opportunity not be missed.

83 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:08 pm

[81] Only their major league salary counts. Bonuses and the like are not part of payroll and thus not a luxury tax consideration.

[79] I have been wondering that for a couple of years now, too. In fairness, only Chapman seemed like a sure thing when he was able to be signed, and IIRC, the Yanks were in big on Soler - the Cubs were just in bigger.

Of course, given that almost all international spending was going to be capped soon after those guys became available, it seemed crazy for the Yanks to not go wild when their biggest advantage wasn't capped out of existence. Hindsight etc etc.

84 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:09 pm

[81] Same as other players.

The 'posting' fee for a Japanese player doesn't count because it isn't player compensation.

85 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:09 pm
86 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:09 pm

[82] I can buy that. But if so, what do you think is the organization's plan? To make as much money while cobbling together a competitive enough team of brand name players to keep the fans happy? Or do they have no plan at all?

87 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:10 pm

[84] Exactly. But Cespedes, Chapman and Darvish make far less per year than they would if they were to become free agents now that they proven themselves.

88 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:12 pm

[85] The acquisition of Wells and Suzuki suggest a combination of penny-pinching and incompetence and incompetent penny-pinching that is downright scary.

Yes. Yes. YES>

89 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:14 pm

[84] But does a player have to be on the 40-man roster for his salary to count for tax purposes? For example, Kei Igawa was dropped from the 40 man roster (as I recall) and toiled away in AAA for years, all the while making millions of dollars. Was that money counted toward the luxury tax?

90 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:14 pm

[87] Right, that's what I was thinking about. And, the Yankees could have got them without giving up draft picks, unlike grabbing free agents.

[83] Wait, is that right? A signing bonus wouldn't count against the luxury threshold?

91 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:16 pm

[82] The problem with that line of thinking however is that it has the potential for many missed opportunities, especially if a need arises at a crucial time. In retrospect, they could have locked Cano up earlier to a long-term contract if they wanted to that would look reasonable at this point, but they took their chances with the market and boom. Now they have a need and the well is not only drying up, but the fish are getting more expensive. The strategy is then dictated by external conditions, not design. I just don't believe that they looked at it as a flexible goal the entire time, I think they had every intention of staying under until they realized (too late) that they couldn't if they wanted to stay competitive.

92 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:17 pm

[89] You're right, it doesn't count if the player isn't on the 40-man roster. Interesting.
That's almost always irrelevant, since you can't ship down the typical expensive American player, but it's quite relevant for international players. It means the risk is somewhat reduced.

93 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:18 pm

[91] I doubt Cano would have been interested in missing out on the free agent market for a Yankee Special contract. I mean, there's no reason whatsoever to think he would have.

94 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:29 pm

[93] Maybe not. But if the Yanks had been competitive for Cano, they could have had him for less than what the Mariners offered. I'm sure Cano wanted to stay, but the money and years they adamantly offered didn't compare to what he eventually got. The Yanks are banking on a lot of production from both McCann and Ellsbury, not a fill-in for what they lost.

95 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 11, 2013 4:58 pm

[92] Actually I think that isn't quite right.

Igawa's salary still counted for luxury taxes purposes, because despite not being on the 40-man roster anymore, he was signed to (and continued to receive money under the terms of) a major league contract. Same reason why Brackman's salary counted back in the day - he was signed to a major league contract. The question is whether he is on the major league team's payroll - and anyone who has signed a major league contract is.

96 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 11, 2013 5:07 pm

[86] What you said, sort of amended:

To make as much money while cobbling together a competitive enough team to keep up/growing the value of the brand. Sometimes this means making the fans happy - or at least happy enough so that lots come to the park and watch on TV.

I am not sure name brand players are quite as important as the competitive part. Yankee fans love their winners, whether they are well-known or not. Winning trumps all. I'd rank them as 1B (name brand players) and 1A (competitive team).

97 RIYank   ~  Dec 11, 2013 5:08 pm

[95] Oh, okay. My source is wrong.

But are you sure a signing bonus for an international free agent doesn't count? That sounds like a pretty absurd loophole.

98 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 11, 2013 5:50 pm

[97] Pretty sure! The signing bonuses for draft picks don't count.

99 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Dec 11, 2013 10:18 pm

Great thrad here, well done everyone.

I still wonder..maybe Cano was happy to leave? Look at the A-Rod-Mgmt War, perhaps he just had enough? The money pushed it over the top?

100 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 10:39 pm

Here, I'll stir up some fresh trouble: http://tinyurl.com/o37zeqo

Basically, I'm in favor, though I'd have to see precisely how the rule is worded.

Show/Hide Comments 101-104
101 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Dec 11, 2013 11:08 pm

[101] If they just enforced the rule as it's written there would be no need for a 'new' rule. Catcher is clearly not allowed to block the base path if not in the act of fielding the ball.

102 monkeypants   ~  Dec 11, 2013 11:58 pm

[101] I agree, of course. But I don't mind a new (and superfluous) rule if it gets rid of the "play". And a new rule might clarify certain situations. Mainly, I'm just happy if the stupid collisions are eliminated.

103 RIYank   ~  Dec 12, 2013 6:59 am

[100] - [102]
Yeah, I agree with all that. My gut reaction was the same as Mr OK's. Why are there no collisions at other bases? Because the fielders don't block the freaking bags.
Just explain to all coaches and catchers that from now on, if you deliberately blockade the plate, the runner is safe.

It is by far the worst play in baseball. Terrible. Distant second is the plunk.

104 monkeypants   ~  Dec 12, 2013 9:07 am

[103] But don't fielders block the other bases? Not the same way as the catcher, but they do. Fielders are taught to put their foot in front of the bag to block a slide. More germane: if a fielder has the ball well in advance of the runner approaching the base, he most certainly stands between the runner and the bag so that he can tag the runner. He doesn't step to the side and swipe tag him. Yet it would be considered completely unacceptable for a runner---say going from first to second on a blown hit and run---who is out by twenty feet to lower his shoulder and obliterate the second baseman.

Yet it's perfectly OK for a runner going home to lay out the catcher no matter how far away from the plate he is when the catcher receives and secures the ball and waits to tag him.

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