"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Hot Stove History: A Look at the Best and Worst Moves the Yankees Didn’t Make

If Bobby Grich had signed with the Yankees, Reggie Jackson's star would have never made it to New York.

If Bobby Grich had signed with the Yankees, Reggie Jackson’s star would have never made it to New York.

Sometimes, the best trades or free agent signings are the ones a team doesn’t make. Many Yankee fans seem to feel that way about the team’s decision to let Robinson Cano head west to Seattle. Is that wishful thinking? Perhaps, but considering the team’s eager willingness to trade him earlier in his career, such an outcome would be par for the course.

What about the flip side? When it comes to transactions not made, is relief really more common than regret? Or, are opportunities lost just as impactful as serendipitous gains? Since the advent of free agency in 1976, no team has been more active on the open market than the Yankees, so there are plenty of case studies to consider. Listed below are some of the higher profile transactions that the team seriously considered, but never made, accompanied by alternatives that were implemented, when applicable, and an evaluation of how the net result influenced the course of franchise history.

1976: Yankees pursue free agent Bobby Grich, but settle on Reggie Jackson as a consolation.

Background: Baseball’s first free agents were subject to a very different system than today. Instead of simply hitting the open market, players filing for free agency would enter what was known as a re-entry draft. Teams would then select players in a pre-determined order, much like the amateur draft, but instead of acquiring exclusivity, they would simply be granted the right to negotiate. Because only 12 teams could select any one potential free agent, the draft process effectively cut the player’s market in half. In addition, individual teams could only sign two net new free agents (i.e., if a team lost a free agent, it could sign three). These limitations were intended to limit competition for players, but they wound up constraining supply more than limiting demand. Exponentially higher salaries were the result.

Fresh off a World Series sweep at the hands of the Reds, the Yankees entered the winter seeking a player who could put them over the top. As it turned out, Reggie Jackson fit the bill perfectly, but he wasn’t the Yankees’ first choice. When it came time to make their first selection in the re-entry draft, the Bronx Bombers went with Orioles’ gold glove 2B Bobby Grich (Jackson was selected sixth, but that was partly due to the relative lack of interest from teams who knew they would not be able to sign him). The only problem for the Yankees was Grich was intent of playing close to his home in Long Beach. So, when Grich reached an accord with the California Angels, the Yankees shifted their focus to Jackson and signed him shortly thereafter.

Outcome: In five years with the Yankees, Jackson was the straw the stirred the drink. From 1977 to 1981, the right fielder posted an OPS+ of 148 and was a key contributor to two World Championships, including being named MVP of the Fall Classic in 1977.

Over the span, Bobby Grich was equally impressive with the Angels, compiling an OPS+ of 128 and playing strong defense at second base. In 1979, Grich also helped the Angels win their first division title.

Verdict: Although the Yankees very well might have enjoyed similar success with Grich, it’s hard to imagine the second baseman (who would have played short stop for the Yankees) providing more value than Jackson. Also, when you consider the contributions of Willie Randolph and Bucky Dent during the five years in question, it seems clear that the Yankees’ plan B in 1976 turned out to be the best course of action.

1982: Sign Floyd Bannister, trade Ron Guidry to Texas for Buddy Bell, or Ron Guidry or Dave Righetti to Kansas City for George Brett, and deal Graig Nettles to San Diego for a minor leaguer (the quality of which would depend on how much of Nettles’ $500,000 salary the Yankees were willing to eat)

1983 almost had Brett in pinstripes instead of pine tar?

1983 almost had Brett in pinstripes instead of pine tar?

Background: After a disappointing fifth place finish in 1982, the Yankees were looking to shake things up in the offseason, with Floyd Bannister being the linchpin to a series of dramatic moves. The Mariners’ 27-year old lefty was coming off a season in which he led the league in strikeouts, making him one of the most coveted players in the re-entry draft. If the Bronx Bombers were able to sign Bannister, news reports suggested they would then flip Guidry or Righetti for either Bell or Brett and jettison Nettles for a minor leaguer.

Considering all of the moving pieces involved, it’s hard to know whether the Yankees could have executed the plan, but it was all made moot when Bannister signed with the White Sox. So, instead of the exciting chain of events that might otherwise have unfolded, the Yankees’ winter shopping consisted of signing Don Baylor and Steve Kemp.

Outcome: Over the term of his five year deal with the White Sox, Bannister proved to be a solid contributor, (200 innings in all but one season; ERA+ of 107), but hardly the cornerstone of a rebuilding process.  Both Guidry and Righetti proved to be more valuable pitchers over the span, albeit not by much.

It’s hard to believe Brett was really available. However, if the Yankees failed to do everything in their power to obtain him, it was a big mistake as the third baseman posted an OPS+ of 148 from 1983 to 1987 and remained one of the best players in the game throughout the rest of the decade. Although a more modest performer with an OPS+ of 108, Bell would have also represented a big upgrade for the Yankees, who wound up losing Nettles via free agency after the following season. It would take nearly a decade for the Yankees to acquire another third baseman of similar stature.

Verdict: In just about any iteration, the Yankees would have benefitted greatly from this deal. The acquisition of Bell would have more than offset the downgrade from Guidry to Bannister, while the idea of Brett in pinstripes seems as cataclysmic now as it must have then. Was such a deal really on the table? If so, the Yankees’ failure to consummate it qualifies as one of the team’s worst non-moves.

1985: Trade Don Baylor for Carlton Fisk

Background: In 1985, Carlton Fisk posted career highs in home runs and RBIs, but the White Sox were not eager to sign their 37-year old catcher to a long-term deal. Instead, they worked out a sign and trade with the Yankees, whereby Chicago would ink Fisk to a new deal and then flip him to the Bronx Bombers for disgruntled DH Don Baylor. However, Baylor had a no-trade clause, and he wouldn’t waive it unless Chicago sweetened the deal. Team co-owner Eddie Einhorn angrily balked at the request, proclaiming, “Let him stay with the Yankees”.

Baylor did stay with the Yankees, but only for another month, at which time he was dealt to the Red Sox for Mike Easler. Fisk’s staying power was much greater. Not only did the catcher sign a new two-year deal that offseason, but he remained with the White Sox for the final eight years of his career.

Outcome: Baylor had a solid year for the Red Sox in 1986 and provided above average offense over the next two, but the Yankees made out better with Easler. However, over the longer term, Fisk would have proven to be a better replacement. Despite having the worst season of his career in 1986, Fisk posted an OPS+ of 112 over the next five campaigns, which easily dwarfed the Yankees’ output from their catchers over that span.

Verdict: Assuming the Yankees had kept Fisk for more than two years, they would have easily come out the victor if Baylor had agreed to waive his no trade clause. Would Fisk’s production and leadership have made a difference on Yankee teams that came up short from 1986 to 1988? We’ll never know, but the value he provided at a very weak position for the Yankees would have made the team even more competitive during those years.

1986: Sign any or all of the following free agents: Tim Raines, Jack Morris and Andre Dawson

Jack Morris offered his services to the Yankees in 1986. They said no.

Jack Morris offered his services to the Yankees in 1986. They said no.

Background: During the winter of 1985, many of the best players in the game filed for free agency, but strangely, they attracted little interest around the league. Nearly every free agent that off season not only ended up re-signing with their current team, but they did so at terms well below recent norms. The same situation arose in 1986, but this time players were even more desperate to drum up a market. Jack Morris, then regarded as one of the best pitchers in the game, was so exasperated by the process that he offered his services to a list of five teams headed by the Yankees. Every single one turned him down without even discussing the terms. Morris was eventually forced to accept the Tigers’ offer of arbitration.

Tim Raines and Andre Dawson ran into the same difficulties as Morris, but the Expos’ outfielders didn’t relent as easily. Each outfielder refused to accept arbitration or re-sign with Montreal by the January 7 deadline, making them ineligible to return to the team until May 1. Faced with the prospect of not playing for a month, Dawson practically gave the Cubs a blank contract with his signature on it. Meanwhile, Raines waited patiently for another team to show interest. None ever did, and the outfielder was back in Montreal when the calendar turned to May.

Outcome: Raines, Dawson and Morris all had stellar seasons in 1987, and the two outfielders remained very productive for several years thereafter. However, it wouldn’t have taken a long-term deal to sign either or all three. By simply offering fair market value, the Yankees could have added as many as three All Stars to a team that won 90 games in 1986.

Verdict: By colluding with other teams to depress player salaries, the Yankees forfeited a chance to improve their team and prolonged a postseason drought that would last another eight years. The organization’s short sightedness also exposed the league to a costly lawsuit settlement and years of labor acrimony. Considering all the downside to saving a few extra dollars, the winter of collusion is the most glaring example of the worst moves being the ones you don’t make.

1992: Sign Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux

Background: The previous four seasons had been among the worst in Yankees’ history. After the suspension of owner George Steinbrenner, the team had retrenched and embarked upon a rebuilding process that was just starting to yield dividends. So, with the Boss on his way back from exile, and the Yankees’ farm system stocked with the talent, the team planned a master stroke. That winter, the free agent market was headlined by one of the best pitchers and hitters in the game…players who seemed destined to rank among the all-time greats.

The Yankees aggressively courted Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux, but GM Gene Michael couldn’t reel in either. Bonds’ contract demands, particularly his insistence on more than five years, proved too rich for the Yankees, while Maddux took less money to play in Atlanta. As a result, the team was forced to explore other options, which turned out to be Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key.

Outcome: Boggs and Key proved to be valuable consolation prizes, and were important contributors when the Yankees won the World Series in 1996, but Bonds and Maddux each continued on their paths toward immortality and, in the case of the former, infamy.

Verdict: If the Yankees had been able to sign either or both, it stands to reason that their ascendency toward the top of the baseball world would have been expedited. Having said that, it’s hard to imagine the team being more successful from that point forward, so, even though the franchise would have been given a boost in the early part of the decade, most Yankee fans probably wouldn’t want to change how the rest of it unfolded.

1998: Sign Albert Belle; let Bernie Williams go

Background: The Yankees had just completed one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, and Bernie Williams was at the forefront. That year, Williams won the batting title, gold glove, and posted the league’s second highest OPS+ at 160. It was the perfect time to be a free agent.

The Yankees initial offer to Williams was for five years and $37.5 million (eventually raised to $60 million), but the center fielder wanted something closer to seven years and $90 million. The gap was so wide, the team prepared to move on by courting Albert Belle, the only player in the A.L. with an OPS+ higher than Williams in 1998. Then, the Red Sox stepped into the fray, offering Williams the terms he wanted. Around the same time, the Orioles trumped the Yankees’ offer for Belle, so now even their backup plan was on shaky grounds. For whom would the team up the ante?

Before agreeing to the Red Sox offer, Williams made a last ditch effort to keep his pinstripes by calling George Steinbrenner directly. By the end of the call, the Yankees essentially matched the Red Sox offer, keeping Williams in the Bronx for seven more years.

Outcome: Williams was an elite performer for the first four years of his new deal, and over the full term provided value commensurate with his salary. The center fielder was also a key part of two more World Series victories and ended his career as one of the most prolific post season performers in baseball history. Meanwhile, Belle, who signed with the Orioles for five years and $65 million, had a very strong 1999 campaign, but only played two more years because of a debilitating hip injury.

Verdict: It’s a good thing the Yankees didn’t put plan B into action. The loss of Williams’ consistent excellence over the next four years, and the likelihood of Belle’s chronic hip flaring up in the Bronx, would have removed a pillar from the Yankees’ dynasty and, perhaps, caused it to fall much sooner.

This example most closely resembles the Yankees’ recent decision to effectively replace Robinson Cano with Jacoby Ellsbury (or Carlos Beltran). Interestingly, if the Yankees had increased their last offer to Cano in line with the bump given to Williams (approximately 40% in years and total value), the terms would have matched Seattle’s. However, this time, no phone call was made, and, considering the Yankees’ posture, it probably wouldn’t have been well received anyway. Now, the Yankees have to hope they can replace Cano’s remarkable consistency, which was also a hallmark of Williams.

2003: Claim Manny Ramirez from irrevocable waivers

Background: Manny Ramirez was an extremely productive member of the Red Sox’ lineup, but his mercurial behavior often left the team exasperated. So, after a crushing loss to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, the Red Sox determined it was time to go in another direction, which meant shedding the remaining four years of Ramirez’ contract. To bring that about, Boston placed Ramirez on irrevocable waivers, essentially making him available to any team who was willing to pay the slugger $20 million per year.

Outcome: No one claimed Ramirez, who posted an OPS+ of 149 over the next four seasons and played a vital role in two World Series victories for the long suffering Boston franchise. Although the Red Sox relationship with Ramirez ended acrimoniously, they didn’t part company until 2008, when the Red Sox extended his contract by picking up one of the two team options attached to the original deal.

Verdict: The Yankees’ failure to claim Ramirez was mitigated by the signing of Gary Sheffield, who essentially matched the Red Sox slugger at half the cost in 2004 and 2005. However, Ramirez had greater staying power, and, by plucking him from Boston, the Yankees would have benefited from removing one of their chief tormenters from a bitter rival. On the whole, the Yankees would have been a better team with Ramirez during the four years that remained on his deal, and their relative supremacy over the Red Sox would have likely been extended.

2004: Sign Carlos Beltran instead of trading for Randy Johnson

Will the second time be a charm for the Yankees and Beltran?

Will the second time be a charm for the Yankees and Beltran?

Background: The Yankees were hoping to wash away the bitter taste of their collapse in the ALCS with a big acquisition in the off season, and two long coveted players just so happened to be available that winter. However, the team decided that it could only afford to add one, so the Bronx Bombers passed on Carlos Beltran, who offered the team a discount, in favor of trading for Randy Johnson.

Outcome: In 2005, Randy Johnson was the anchor of an otherwise shaky rotation, and his 5-0 record against the Red Sox turned out to be a crucial reason why the Yankees bested their rival for the division title. After that season, however, the Big Unit petered out in pinstripes and was traded back to the Diamondbacks one year later. In contrast, Beltran posted an OPS+ of 130 over the seven years of the deal he signed with the Mets, although two seasons were cut short by injury.

Verdict: Although Beltran provided much more value than Johnson, in 2005, the Big Unit helped the Yankees rebound from their ALCS collapse. Also, Johnny Damon, whom the Yankees likely would not have signed with Beltran in the fold, helped make up some of the void left in centerfield. On the whole, however, it’s hard to argue that the Yankees wouldn’t have been better off with Beltran. Brian Cashman is undoubtedly hoping that the same is true this time around, making the Yankees recent acquisition of the switch hitter a case of better late than never.

2007: Trade for Johan Santana

Background: It had been seven years since the Yankees last won the World Series, and the team’s lackluster starting pitching was the main culprit. So, with the Twins dangling Johan Santana, it seemed a certainty that the Yankees would backup the truck for the talented left hander. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Austin Jackson were all coveted by the Twins, and it was reported that the Yankees would have to part with at least three to make a deal. That price proved to be too steep, especially considering some of the concerns the team had about Santana’s durability. So, instead of trading for the ace they so desperately needed, the Yankees allowed the Mets to swoop in and claim that winter’s biggest prize.

Outcome: After the 2008 season, it looked as if the Yankees had blundered badly. Santana finished third in the NL Cy Young race, while the Bronx Bombers missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. However, Santana began to regress and never again threw 200 innings in a season. In addition, all of the players on the Twins wish list contributed in varying degrees (either in pinstripes or as a trade chip) to the Yankees’ future success.

Verdict: Passing on Santana proved to be the right decision, regardless of the package sent to Minnesota, although including Cano in the deal would have been catastrophic. By keeping all of their prospects and signing a healthier ace the following season, the Yankees quickly rebounded in 2009, winning their 27th World Championship with Sabathia, Cabrera, Cano, Hughes, and Chamberlain all playing a key role.

2010: Sign Cliff Lee

Background: The Yankees tried to acquire Cliff Lee at the 2010 trading deadline, but the deal fell through when David Adams’ medical report revealed a red flag. The Yankees weren’t willing to amend the deal, so the Mariners traded Lee to Texas instead. After watching Lee dominate them in that year’s ALCS, the Yankees were determined to sign the lefty during the off season. However, Lee was more interested in beating the pinstripes than wearing them, so he took less money to join the Phillies.

Outcome: In the three years since signing the deal, Lee has remained one of the best pitchers in baseball, posting an ERA+ of 139 in over 660 innings. Not only would he have made the Yankees a better team during that period, but the left hander would also fill the void in the team’s starting rotation that remains today.

Verdict: Because Lee turned down the Yankees, the team can’t be blamed for inaction. However, had the club been willing to sweeten its offer to the Mariners during the 2010 season, he may have been more amenable to remaining in the Bronx that off season. As a result, that initial reticence has become a source of regret for Yankee fans, and, perhaps, Brian Cashman as well.


1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 16, 2013 11:24 am

Great list William. It's funny how proposed transactions that I lived through seem very tangible, but ones that were considered outside my experience, like the Brett or the Grich scenarios, seem like a Bizaaro universe.

Also remember a couple of others. Randy Johnson in 1998. Didn't the Yanks and the Indians want him, and the Yanks stuck around until the Indians dropped out and then they dropped out and Johnson went to Houston. Or something like that.

And I don't know if these were more than rumors, but Dan Haren after Cliff Lee didn't work out in 2010. Joba was the hold-up? And Halladay in 2009? The Yanks scoffed at both Joba and Hughes?

It may be that the money was the reason given in 2005, but I don't believe it. I just don't think they believed Beltran would be the huge upgrade he turned out to be. They went ahead and signed Damon to a huge deal just one year later when they realized how bad the situation had become.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 16, 2013 11:44 am

I'd forgotten about that Brett thing. Great list, man. Funny, both Bonds and Maddux used the Yanks as leverage that off-season. Back when going to play for the Yankees was not desirable.

3 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 16, 2013 12:03 pm

Shoulda Claimed Manny

4 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 16, 2013 2:39 pm

[3] Yep.

I think Maddux is the same as Lee - he just wasn't going to sign with the Yankees. The difference is that Maddux probably didn't regret it, but I will bet Lee does now.

5 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 16, 2013 2:47 pm

I could be mis-remembering, but I feel like they were much closer on Maddux than they were with Bonds. Bonds was the big fish that year and everything, but I don't think anyone ever REALLY believed he was coming over.

Maddux on the other hand sat through Cats with Gene Michael, if that doesn't show a commitment to get something done I don't know what does.

But hey, Key and Boggs (plus the O'Neill trade) make that maybe the most important Yankee off-season of the last 30 years. 2008 is close, but those three guys coming over in '92...I don't know if I'd trade that for anything.

6 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2013 7:10 pm

The Bernie Cano comp still doesn't work for me for a variety of reasons. Bernie accepted less to stay with the Yankees. Robbie did the opposite.
The Yankees were motivated to raise their offer to Bernie because he cut through the agent b.s. and told the boss how important it was to him to remain a Yankee. Cano made no such overture. The Yankees also came up to Bernie's price range to keep him from going to a competitive division rival, and not just any division rival, but Boston. Not a last place west coast team.
Factoring in the rate of inflation, Bernie's 7 year offer in 1998 would have been about $125m today. So the Cano comparison doesn't work on any level for me.

7 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2013 7:21 pm

Based on a cumulative rate of inflation of 43.3% Bernie's 7 year offer was almost $129m today. He was also 2 years younger than Robbie, and wearing the '98 hitting crown, with 2 rings in his pocket.

8 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2013 7:38 pm

Bottomline: If you want to compare Bernie and Cano, it's easier for me to imagine the Yankees matching Seattle's offer if Robbie was 2 years younger (strike 1) coming off a batting title (strike 2), and his 2nd championship (strike 3 looking), plus if a Boston offer (as opposed to Seattle ) was driving up the price.

9 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 16, 2013 8:17 pm

I've heard the Bernie/Cano comp thrown around a lot as well, and I also don't buy it for all the reasons mentioned above.

The Yankees were coming off the most successful season of all time, he was their team MVP, and the main competitor for his services was their division rival...none of those factors are at play here. To me this is more like Andy leaving for Houston, except for the fact that Houston was Andy's hometown.

The team made an offer, but at the same time drew a line in the sand. They wanted their guy, but weren't willing to go past a certain point. Much like with Cano.

And for the record, I have never been more furious as a fan than I was when Andy left. I thought, and still think, it was one of the biggest blunders of the Steinbrenner era.

10 William Juliano   ~  Dec 16, 2013 8:28 pm

[6] Bernie accepted about $3 million less over 7 years, or about one half million per. According to reports, Cano offered the Yankees a last ditch $235 million, which would have been about one half million per.

I don't think anyone really knows what Cano did, but I don't think it should have been incumbent upon him to call Hal Steinbrenner, who is most certainly not his father in many regards.

Your comment about inflation also doesn't hold water because it ignores present value of each contract, and most importantly, the economic condition of the sport (teams are making much more money now than in 1998) as well as the rate of salary inflation (price of players is a little different than CPI).

[7] [8] The difference was only one year (actually 11 months). Bernie was 30 when he was a free agent (having just played his age-29 season). Cano was 31 (having just played his age-30 season). As for the hitting crown, well, let's just say batting average isn't exactly the best basis for a comparison. Also, the rings are a team accomplishment. A less contrived comparison would be to simply compare each player's previous performance, and Cano comes out significantly ahead.

11 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 16, 2013 8:49 pm

And yes I know the "line in the sand" in regards to Andy was the third year, not money since he left that on the table.

It's been a decade, I need to move past this.

12 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2013 8:59 pm

10) rate of inflation, and CPI is relevant with respect to salaries (period). What team's make is less relevant to me because team revenues are influenced by box office, TV ratings, whether or not they own a network, etc. Rate of inflation is a perfectly reasonable means of comparison of 1998 dollars and 2013 dollars.
As for your other arugments:
Bernie was a late bloomer and didn't become a full-time player until his age 24 season. He had played 6 full seasons, and about half of two others when he got his 7 year mega-deal. Robbie at this point has played 9 full. In addition to being younger, Bernie's odometer showed significantly fewer miles than Robbie's at this point, making him more deserving of a longterm parking deal, and 7 years, you'll recall, was plenty.
Oh, and you know, Bernie's batting title was just that, a title. He was much more than just a player who could lead the league in average. Quite the slugger, you'll recall, and quite excellent in the postseason. The rings are, indeed, a team accomplishment, and Bernie, like Cano, manned a premium position in the middle of the field while helping his team win twice as many rings as Cano at this point. Four times as many, eventually,, and several additional AL championships.
Cano, as great as he is, and as valuable as he think this is (which are two different things) will be very lucky to accomplish half, or even a third of what Bernie did in his career.

13 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 16, 2013 9:23 pm

Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout have been so good these last couple of years that I think they have obscured, even to Yankee fans, the fact that Robinson Cano is the third best position player in the American League, and under more normal circumstances, would have been heavily involved in the MVP discussion for last three of the last four years.

14 William Juliano   ~  Dec 16, 2013 9:34 pm

[12] CPI is measuring the price increases of a market basket of consumer goods and services. When business factor in inflation for specialty inputs, they do not consider CPI...they look at the inflation of their costs of production. In the case of baseball, player salaries are the main input, and they increase differently than the CPI components.

I am not sure how you can say industry revenue is not relevant to you. If a business makes more money, they have more to spend. MLB as a business is much healthier now than in the past. That's why Cano's salary as a percentage of the Yankees payroll would have been similar to Bernie's rate of the team's revenue back in 1998.

Being a full-time player at age-24 isn't really a late Bloomer. Cano did have about 400 more PAs than Bernie by that point, but that's on the major league level. If you include the minors, they played a similar amount of games. Again, you are trying to contrive Cano's 11-month age difference into something much greater than it is.

Your last statement is the most bewildering. If you use WAR as a basis, Cano's current total of 45.2 is just below the 49.5 Bernie had for his entire career! WAR is not the end all statistic, but it illustrates how vastly you seem to be underrating Cano.

There's no need to contrive an argument. Cano was a better player than Bernie (who was great himself) and became a free agent at a time when the Yankees and the industry were making more money. I wish Cano had reached out to Hal, but all indications are he would not have made the same compromise as his dad. I hope the decision doesn't turn out as badly as letting Bernie walk away would have been. If the comparison holds to form, we'll have plenty of time to express regret.

15 William Juliano   ~  Dec 16, 2013 9:38 pm

[13] For some reason, so many Yankees fans seem to be undervaluing Cano. Maybe it is the language barrier or silliness about not running hard to first baseball, but when I hear Yankee fans discounting how great he was, it makes me shake my head. I wish these fans would consider how much money the Yankees make before becoming so protective of their profit margin in 10 years.

16 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2013 9:41 pm

13) true, and I get your point. Robbie is/was an outstanding player. No argument here.
but we know MVP doesn't mean as much outside baseball, let alone third-runner up. Baseball generally is not a superstar sport, not compared to the NBA or NFL. More non-sports fans could tell you who LeBron is, or who Tom Brady is, but they couldn't pick Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout, or Robinson Cano out of a lineup. The baseball guys might look familiar but they don't have the same name recognition outside the game as the basketball and football (qb) guys. Jay-Z is hoping to change that.
I'm thinking of other MLB MVP types.
ARod and Ryan Braun might be as recognized as LeBron and Brady, but mostly due to negative press.
On the other hand: there aren't too many people in the world who couldn't pick a Yankee logo out of a lineup. Franchises are bigger than players in baseball, and none are bigger than the Yankees. Jay-Z hasn't learned that yet.

17 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2013 9:45 pm

14) you're missing my point. I'm not comparing WAR. I'm comparing WS and AL championships. I'll take Bernie's career over what I think Cano's will be.

18 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 16, 2013 9:46 pm

I would like someone to answer me a very simple question:

Do you think we have seen Robinson Cano play the best baseball he is ever going to play? I would say that yes, we have. I think most people would agree. Time will tell, but this is just my guess.

So really, take all the static about inflation and revenue out of it. We are left with a very simple question, do we expect to ever see Cano be as great or better than he's already been in his career?

19 Ara Just Fair   ~  Dec 16, 2013 9:54 pm

Excellent discussion as usual. I just know if I'm luck enough to to live another 40 years I'll be telling all my kin how much I loved Cano. Still bitter. Bollocks!

20 William Juliano   ~  Dec 16, 2013 10:07 pm

[17] How are team accomplishments relevant to the relative value of each player at the time of their free agency (wasn't that the point)? Otherwise, you might as well be saying Cano will never have the career of Luis Sojo.

[18] I think he may have 2-3 years left as good as the average of his last four. Over the next 10, Cano won't be as good as the first nine, but that doesn't mean he isn't worth the contract.

To flip your question around: does anyone thing we will see another 2B play as well as Cano has over the past nine years, or will over the first half of his deal? Everyone forgets that part of the equation.

21 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2013 10:18 pm

20) again you miss my point. Bernie's career was a nice balance of team/individual accomplishments. Cano has his ring, and will probably not get another, and what's next for him? Third-fourth-runner up for MVP if he's lucky. I'll take Bernie's career and his inferior WAR and paycheck over Cano's career forever.

to your last point: who knows? None of us expected Cano to turn out as good as he did. But more importantly to me, will we see another Yankee 2b win another championship? That's what I'm looking forward to. We'll see another hitter as good as Cano in our lifetime, that's for sure. A lot of them.

22 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 16, 2013 10:25 pm

[20] no I don't think we are likely to see a 2B of his 2009-2013 caliber in the Yankee lineup anytime soon. But I think the length of the deal is the bridge too far for many people, even taking the money out of it for a moment.

Even if you get 4 Cano-like years out of him, you're still on the hook for another SIX. By comparison, if you get 4 good years out of Ellsbury (the deal that inevitably gets brought up in this discussion) you only have another three on the books.

Me personally? I would've liked to see the Yankees go to 8/$200M for the final offer. I don't think there's a shot in hell he would've said yes, but I think it would go a long way to diffusing any talk of them being cheap.

Like I said on day one, I feel like how I imagine a Cardinals fan felt when Pujols walked. You know you're inevitably going to downgrade from what he gave you, but you also understand you're probably better off in the long run.

23 William Juliano   ~  Dec 16, 2013 10:27 pm

[21] You miss my point. Re-signing Bernie was a big reason why the Yankees won two more WS. Had Hal been running the team, however, they may not have been given the chance. I agree Cano likely won't win a WS over the next 10 years, but by letting him go, the Yankees have lessened their chances as well. My bottom line is I would prefer that the Yankees spend the gobs of money they make from their fans (and the NY taxpayers) on great players like Cano...just like the Boss did when push came to show with Bernie. And, if it means a smaller profit margin in 2022 (when the YES contract with FOX really starts to escalate), so be it. I don't mind Cano getting a slice of Hal's wealth, especially considering how much excess value he provided during the past nine years.

24 William Juliano   ~  Dec 16, 2013 10:35 pm

[22] The Yankees generate so much more revenue than the Cardinals, they can afford the risk of overpaying on long-term deals. Also, don't discount the Cardinals' advantage of playing in the NL Central. Finally, the Yankees' proclaim that their mandate is to win EVERY year. The Cardinals are not as demanding. Unless the team wants to change its tune, it has to be judged by the bar it sets.

Specifically regarding Cano, I think you can get too caught up in the later years of a long-term deal. With the time value of money, high level of salary inflation, and excess value from early years of the contract, the idea that Cano can't come close to providing value commensurate with his salary is overstated (in fact, some projection systems value Cano right around what the Mariners paid him).

25 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 17, 2013 12:26 am

24) sure, but just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD. The Yankees bar is to compete for a championship every year, we know this. But to me that means putting together a team that can make the playoffs every year, since I believe once you're in its basically a crapshoot.

I don't think the Cardinals have a bar so much lower than the Yankees, it's just that when faced with a similar situation in Pujols they were smart enough to realize that they could afford to let him walk while still putting a quality product on the field. Again, COULD they have topped the Angels? Yeah probably, if DeWitt had really been that hung up on getting something done. But they made a judgment call, same as the Yankees.

As for the commensurate value of the Cano deal. Only time will tell there. Remember, there was a time we figured the ARod deal would pay for itself with all of the excess revenue of his "clean home run record chase"

26 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 17, 2013 5:47 am

The Cardinals analogy fails because:
1) the Cardinals had Allen Craig to replace Pujols.
2) Pujols had shown evidence of injury and decline immediately preceding the deal.
3) the ease of replacing Albert's 2011 level offense at 1B is far greater than the ease of replacing Cano's 2013 level offense at 2b

Also, Pujols May or may not be the age listed on his baseball card and the Cardinals may or may not know something about how he put up those video game numbers earlier in his career.

The Yankees still don't have a 2b. It's possible the downgrade from Cano to mystery 2b offsets the entirety of the upgrades they've made else where this off season. Upgrades that have cost, thus far, 316 million.

27 William Juliano   ~  Dec 17, 2013 7:23 am

[25][26] For the reasons I cited previously and Jon mentioned, I don't think the Pujols comparison is valid. It just boils down to the Yankees having a much higher risk tolerance (i.e., they can afford to have the Cano deal sour on the back half; the Cardinals cannot). In fact, a greater risk to the Yankees is not having players good enough to ensure perennial 90-plus win seasons and playoffs. Last year, the team lost $50 million! in ticket revenue alone, so there is a price to be paid for sacrificing wins now for profit later.

Also, everyone disparages the Arod deal, but he did play a crucial roll in the team winning a World Series, and somehow, the Yankees have continued to make tons of money in spite of him. On the contrary, it's hard not to cynically wonder if the Yankees' have benefited from his infamy, especially when you consider the ratings increase that occurred when he returned.

28 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 17, 2013 10:39 am

26, 27) I think you guys are taking my Pujols comp a bit too literally. All I mean is that from a fan's perspective I imagine it's a similar reaction. You want him, but at some point there is a limit. That's all I'm saying. I know the career comparisons don't hold up, but that's not the point I was making.

The A-Rod deal I agree with you, no ARod deal means there is a very good shot we're going on 14 years without a title. My only point is, remember that whenever someone would say "the Yankees bid against themselves!" one of the responses was that with the flood of revenue that would inevitably come in with the home run chase. Well we all know how that turned out. So forecasting out that a deal will be "worth it" is a risky proposition.

To say that Cano's deal will be a good deal is to take a leap of faith that it will be the first time a 10 year deal has been handed out to a 30+ year old and it turned out to be a good deal. There is LITERALLY (yeah I said it) no precedent.

Just because the Yankees have the ability to lug around a bad contract for 5 years, that doesn't mean they're obligated to.

29 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 17, 2013 10:44 am

and I'm also gonna throw out the elephant in the room, and this is PURELY speculation, but this is a blog comments section and not a court of law so whatever...

I think the Yankees think there is a PED issue with Cano. A-Rod, Melky, BioGenesis, I'm not saying there is something there...but I think they believe there is a good enough chance that there is something there, that it may have played into their decision making process.

30 William Juliano   ~  Dec 17, 2013 11:08 am

[29] Agree...I mentioned that in my previous post. Whether it's that or another issue behind the scenes, I believe something other than the contract length made the Yankees lukewarm on Cano (my best guess is they don't think he is marketable, so didn't want to make him their centerpiece). If a player with Jeter's vibe entered free agency at the same age and with the exact same numbers that Cano had, I truly believe the Yankees would have signed him eagerly.

31 William Juliano   ~  Dec 17, 2013 11:15 am

[28] There is no precedent because there have only been 3 10-year contracts (by my count) given to a player older than 30, and two have just begun.

Also, I am not saying the Yankees should lug around a bad contract for five years just because they can; rather, they should be willing to risk doing so because the first five years will help the team win a lot of games and make a lot of money (again pointing to the significant revenue decline experienced last year in a 85-win season as an indication of how fickle the Yankees fan base and market dynamics can be).

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