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Still waiting for the final analysis

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I know, I know, today’s was another Pinch Hitter post about the $189-million plan. In all honesty, it’s hard to get away from that topic. A guest post about Austin Romine as a everyday catcher is significant because the Yankees didn’t sign a more proven alternative this winter. A guest post about the value of durability carries weight because the Yankees have to worry about their aging players being able to contribute with a limited budget for replacements. A guest post about the global brand of the franchise is put in the context of a team that’s no longer drastically outspending the competition.

The desire to get the payroll below $189 million next season impacts basically every aspect of this team, it dominates every bit of the conversation, and that’s going to be even more true next winter.

This morning, Gordon tried to look back at the Yankees historical path from spending marginally more than everyone else to spending much, much more than everyone else. His conclusion: Cutting spending will actually help the Yankees build a true dynasty; it will get them away from an approach of constantly plugging holes with expensive and risky contracts.

The Yankees won’t bid against themselves in an artificial market for overpriced free agents. They’ll be less likely to sign regrettable, long-term contracts that can erode into Alex Rodriguez-type situations. They will have more incentive to truly develop young players who are often more valuable and effective than high-priced veterans.

It’s the optimistic way of looking at it, no doubt, but it also kind of fits with these best case, worst case posts that I’ve been writing for every position.

For the long-term future of this team, the best case scenario is everything that Gordon wrote. Player development and smart spending are the golden tickets to building something sustainable, and that’s especially true with a team that’s willing to put its payroll at or near the top of league spending. There’s risk involved, but an absolute, best-case scenario involves developing core talent from within, filling the gaps with bold trades and potent free agent spending, and filling the edges of the roster with fringy, in-house prospects and smart, risk-reward free agent signings.  

Thing is, the worst-case scenario of that model is also still in play. Player development and hesitant spending guarantees nothing, and it doesn’t carry the same message that came with the previous spend-at-will approach. One thing I’ve learned — that I didn’t really understand at first — is that there was comfort in knowing that the team was spending a ton of money in the 2000s. It didn’t always work, but it was an indication that ownership was committed to the cause.

Ultimately, though, it’s winning that matters, and it’s winning that will determine whether this new approach is a success. We’ll keep talking about it for weeks and months, but the final analysis won’t come from looking back or looking ahead, it will come from real life results. When we see how this plays out, only then will we know whether it was the right decision.

Associated Press photos