When the 2012 offseason began, many Yankees fans were hoping that the Yankees would snag the big names off the free agent boards. Scenarios like possibly putting Josh Hamilton in pinstripes or maybe even re-signing Russell Martin were flying all across Twitter and Facebook. Of course, since the season ended in mid-October, all the Yankees have done were twiddle their fingers as the big names came off the board. Russell Martin? Signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates (and joined former Yankee A.J Burnett). Josh Hamilton? Signed a mega deal with the LA Angels and left the Texas Rangers hanging. Nick Swisher? Took his talents to Cleveland for the next four years. Raul Ibanez? He’s going back to Seattle to play for the Mariners. Eric Chavez? Taking his talents to Arizona to help the Diamondbacks get back into another postseason race. Even names like Mike Napoli and A.J Pierzynski came off the board although it made no sense as to why the Yankees didn’t offer either of them a contract with basically no catcher slotted for the 2013 season.
The only new signing the Yankees made so far was Kevin Youkillis who will play third base on Opening Day due to Alex Rodriguez needing hip surgery. The Yankees have made re-signings with some of their players such as Hiroki Kuroda, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Ichiro Suzuki, all whose contracts were rather small and for the most part one-year deals (minus Ichiro).
Many would believe that the reason the Steinbrenner’s aren’t spending as much money is due to keeping the payroll at $189 Million in 2014 in order to avoid a luxury tax, but this is something that Yankees fans aren’t used to. Yankees fans are used to spending money on players; giving lucrative contracts for players who can bring their talents to the Bronx and help the Yankees bring home another World Series Championship. However, with an aging Ichiro playing right field, no catcher, no DH and a very light bench, it seems that the Yankees could be heading towards the dreaded “R” word that we all know and hate: rebuilding.
According to an article in the New York Times last March, Hal Steinbrenner was quoted by saying, “Budgets matter, and balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player-development side and you have a good farm system, you don’t need a $220 million payroll. You don’t. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent.”
Yes, certain teams in baseball have had success with using young talent from the farm system in order to save on payroll. The Oakland Athletics, the Tampa Bay Rays are to name a few. However with the Yankees, this method won’t work. The Yankees farm system is bleak and some of their top prospects aren’t going to be ready to play for the big leagues in the near future. Their best prospect Jesus Montero was traded last offseason to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda who hasn’t pitched an official inning for the Yankees. (Although, he has made headlines throughout the year). Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances were both plagued with injuries last season, setting back their chances of making it to the Major League ball club in the near future as well.
In all honesty, pitching wise the best breakout Yankee prospect that we’ve seen in the last couple of years was David Phelps who has proven that he could play at a Major League level (and was a big help to the Yankees 2012 season after the injuries to Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia). Austin Romine could be a possibility for the catchers’ role, but he has been plagued with back injuries and concussions in his playing career.
The Yankees could stay competitive in 2013 with the likes of Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson in their lineup but what’s to happen in 2014 when Cano and Granderson become free agents? Will the Yankees offer a contract to Cano and let Granderson go? Will the Yankees sign the both of them to return? Will the Yankees let both of them go in order to try to rebuild a farm system that doesn’t look promising for the next couple of years? We’ve heard the dreaded “R” word surround other teams, but as for the Yankees (gulp) rebuilding, it seems like the end of the spending era and the beginning of an era where the Yankees just sit and wait until they win a Championship.