Make no mistake, money makes a difference in baseball. That’s not to say high-spending teams simply buy their championships — poorly spent money helps no one — but a larger payroll certainly has its advantages. A little extra money helps a team get away with a few mistakes. Whether that mistake is Carl Pavano or Kei Igawa or Pedro Feliciano or A.J. Burnett, the ability to spend helps a team make up for all those signings that go wrong. In that way, I suppose I disagree with Eli’s morning Pinch Hitter post.
But I think I agree with his final point: “Embracing change will ensure that (the Yankees) fiscal advantage will still be there.”
Maybe the Yankees new approach won’t quite ensure that the team’s financial advantage will remain, but it should help. The surest way to eliminate that advantage would be paying for too many long-term contracts gone bad, and the Yankees now seem to be picking their battles. Their financial advantage is still significant, but they’ve coupled it with a focus on player development and a willingness to search for free agent bargains.
The Yankees big-money moves this winter were an extension for CC Sabathia (an ace they’ve come to know and trust) and a $10 million deal with Hiroki Kuroda (a veteran signed to a one-year deal with no long-term side effects). When they traded away their top prospect, they got a young, cost-controlled player in return. Now that they’re looking to fill the final spot in their lineup, they seem focused on low-cost veterans who will settle for short-term deals. These aren’t sure things, but they’re low risk.
Will it work? It worked last year. The bottom line is that the Yankees biggest offseason risks have been calculated. They’re still spending more than any other team in the game, but they seem more hesitant to sign the sort of contracts that need to be dumped for pennies on the dollar three years later.
They haven’t stopped spending, they’re just spending differently, and that might very well help them keep spending into the future.