It was a hectic Friday for the New York Yankees. They took some big losses to their offense and franchise. First, their best player departed the team after nine seasons in the Bronx. Their first homegrown superstar to leave in the prime of his career. Robinson Cano signed a 10 year contract with the Seattle Mariners worth $240 million, one of the four most lucrative deals in sports history. Curtis Granderson went across town to join the Mets for four years.
There’s no doubt the Yankees will miss Cano and Granderson, as they hit a combined 232 home runs from 2010-2013. However, they may miss the Yankees even more; in the long run, the Yankees may be better off without them. Cano moves from Yankee Stadium, one of the best hitting parks in baseball, to Safeco Field, one of the worst hitting parks in baseball. That alone will cut his power numbers by a serious margin.
Cano also moves from the greatest franchise in sports to one of the worst franchises in baseball. The Mariners have just 11 winning seasons in almost 40 years of existence, making the playoffs just four times. They only attracted 1.76 million fans this past season, 11th in the AL. Do Cano and Jay Z think he’s going to breathe new life into that franchise? He’s no Ken Griffey, Jr.
Let’s also not forget the talent in Seattle’s lineup is of minor league quality, so he will not be able to get good pitches to hit with a lack of protection. I mean, his second best teammate is Kyle Seager, a career .260 hitter. Thus, his numbers will start to decline as soon as next year, and it’s unlikely the Mariners will be competitive in the same division as Texas and Oakland. Cano’s move to Seattle from New York will be one he will regret, even if he got paid.
So how did the Yankees respond to two big losses for their lineup? Simple: Spend mo money. They brought back ace Hiroki Kuroda for one more season, a much needed piece to fill a huge void in the rotation. Then, they struck again on Friday night, bringing Carlos Beltran to the Bronx at long last; for three years and $45 million. They also have finalized the deals for Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann this past week; both are serious upgrades to positions where the Yankees had huge holes at.
So, to recap: The Yankees have so far spent about $300 million between McCann, Ellsbury, Kuroda, and Beltran. Cano and Granderson alone got the same amount of money. The Evil Empire still has some more holes to fill, (in the rotation, the bullpen, and the infield), but they have more than enough financial muscle to do so.
Their payroll is currently around $150 million, so they still have about $30-35 million to spend if they are committed to keeping the payroll around $189 million to avoid the luxury tax. They may risk going over the limit for trying to further upgrade the roster, but they may have even more flexibility if Alex Rodriguez gets suspended for the entire 2014 season. That’ll free up over $25 million.
Next move for the Yankees may be on the trade market. With the arrival of Ellsbury and Beltran, Brett Gardner becomes expendable, and he’s a valuable asset, being worth 16 wins in his last three full seasons and providing Gold Glove caliber defense. He can be packaged along with expendable prospects, and there’s already talk of the Reds willing to take him for either Homer Bailey or Brandon Phillips. They should also look into Chase Headley from the Padres if A-Rod gets banned.
Then there’s the rotation. Currently, three spots are filled with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Hiroki Kuroda. It seems one of the open spots will be a Spring Training competition, so the Yankees could afford to fill the last one via free agency or trade. The top free agent pitcher is Matt Garza, an AL East veteran who is looking for a deal for about five years. There’s also Masahiro Tanaka, the latest Japanese sensation, but he may not be available at all this winter as his team is frustrated by big changes to the posting system. Either one would be a terrific no. 2 or no. 3 pitcher in the rotation, but with plenty of risk attached.
This is likely going to be their Opening Day lineup, with different scenarios considered:
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
DH Derek Jeter (R)
RF Carlos Beltran (S)
1B Mark Teixeira (S)
C Brian McCann (L)
LF Alfonso Soriano (R)
3B/3B/2B Alex Rodriguez/Chase Headley/Brandon Phillips (R/S/R)
2B Kelly Johnson (L)
SS Brendan Ryan (R)
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
RHP Matt Garza/Masahiro Tanaka
RHP Ivan Nova
RHP/RHP/LHP Michael Pineda/David Phelps/Vidal Nuno
IF everybody stays healthy, any scenario is a really damn good lineup, one that is also very well rounded. Could be one of the best lineups in the game. That rotation looks pretty solid too, especially if Sabathia returns to form. A lot will still have to go right for the Yankees next season for them to win, given all the inconsistencies and injuries to several regulars this past season. But hey, it happened to the Red Sox this year, so “why not us?” They’re sitting more pretty even now than Seattle-bound Robinson Cano.