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The penalties of the past

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The penalties escalate, and that’s important to know because it explains why the new CBA luxury tax incentives impact the Yankees more than any other team.

The Yankees aren’t starting with a clean slate. They have a track record of exceeding the luxury tax limit, and according to the new CBA, that track record means the Yankees will have to pay more until they reset the clock with one sub-$189 million season.

For now, the decisions of the past are weighing on the decisions of the future.

This morning, Patrick explained the situation as simply as possible, then he asked the big question that’s hung over every move this offseason: Given their financial obligations and roster limitations, can the Yankees really fill in the gaps for 2014 and beyond without going over $189 million?

I’ll ask another question, one that deals directly with this offseason: Are the Yankees going out of their way to avoid the past mistakes that put them in this position in the first place?

[3]Overspending on free agents
Go back to 2007. If the Yankees hadn’t committed massive years and dollars to Alex Rodriguez, the current picture would look much different. Today, Rodriguez’s 10-year contract looks like the worst in all of sports. He’s the most signifcant drag on the team’s latest financial goals. It’s also worth noting that just last year the Yankees had to eat the bulk of A.J. Burnett’s bad contract just to gain a little bit of financial wiggle room.

This winter, the Yankees passed on Josh Hamilton, and seemed to do so without showing even a passing interest. Hamilton is legitimately one of the best hitters in the game, and signing him would have — in theory — given the Yankees an impact bat to help make up for Robinson Cano’s pending free agency. But the Yankees weren’t willing to take the risk on a guy who’s already had significant trouble staying healthy. They also showed no interest in matching the Dodgers massive six-year deal with Zack Greinke.

Trading away prospects
The backlash against Curtis Granderson might not be so overwhelming if not for the fact Austin Jackson had a best-case-scenario season in Detroit. The disappointment in Michael Pineda’s shoulder injury might not feel like such a punch to the gut if not for Jesus Montero being perfectly healthy up in Seattle. The Yankees haven’t always traded away their upper-level prospects, but their two most notable recent standouts are both playing elsewhere. And you might have noticed that the Yankees current roster has a Montero-sized hole at designated hitter.

This winter, the Yankees have seemed hesitant to make a similar eggs-in-one-basket move. In the past, they’ve taken heat for never giving their young guys a real chance to play in the big leagues, and now they’re taking heat for holding onto their young guys instead of trading for a proven bat. Fact is, the Yankees are going to need some young guys in the not-so-distant future. Even Hal Steinbrenner has talked about the need for young players to emerge. Yes, Justin Upton seems to fit perfectly, but if he were to blow out his shoulder in spring training, would we look back at last season’s career-low slugging percentage and say the Yankees should have seen it coming?

Putting veterans ahead of unknowns
Andruw Jones over Justin Maxwell. That was the most recent example of the Yankees trusting a proven, on-the-decline veteran ahead of a young, unproven no-name. I’ve written before that the Jones-over-Maxwell decision was based in some logic. Plenty of people wanted the Yankees to go the other way — and obviously Jones proved to be the wrong decision — but it must be acknowledged that Maxwell had flopped in his previous big league opportunities and was coming off a season lost to injury. The more reliable choice was Jones. The more exciting choice would have been Maxwell.

This winter, the Yankees had a chance to go with an aging veteran ahead of unproven options when Russell Martin signed with Pittsburgh and left 36-year-old A.J. Pierzynski as the clear catching standout on the free agent market. Instead of pursuing a deal with Pierzynski, the Yankees stayed in house. Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli provide some experienced, defensive options, but the real prize is a golden opportunity for Austin Romine. We might also see a Jones-type role go to young waiver addition Russ Canzler.

Associated Press photos