Let’s have some fun today with a look back at some December signings throughout the past decade for the New York Yankees. I’m going to cheat and use re-signings too, because, hey, they could have signed elsewhere, right? As Yankees fans we are spoiled with one of the biggest payrolls in sports, thanks to the Los Angeles Dodgers we no longer need to hear we “buy” our teams. Let them have that moniker for a while. Let’s take a look at some of the best December signings for the Yankees in the past decade.Straight up, this is what my team would look like, regardless of which year they signed:
- SP – Roger Clemens (signed 12/30/02)
- SP – CC Sabathia (signed 12/18/08)
- SP – Andy Pettitte (signed 12/21/06)
- SP – A.J. Burnett (signed (12/18/08)
- RP – Tom Gordon (signed 12/23/03)
- CP – Mariano Rivera (signed 12/7/10)
- C- Russell Martin (signed 12/16/10)
- 1B – Jason Giambi (signed 12/13/01)
- 2B – Vacant
- 3B – Alex Rodriguez (signed 12/13/07) / Kevin Youkilis (signed 12/14/12)
- SS – Derek Jeter (signed 12/7/10)
- LF – Johnny Damon (signed 12/23/05)
- CF – Ichiro Suzuki (signed 12/19/12)
- RF – Gary Sheffield (signed 12 17/03)
That’s not too shabby of a team, right? I could put Jayson Nix at second base, as he signed in December 2011. It’s funny, going through some of these signings I could remember how I felt on those exact days. “Oh man, we got Jason Giambi! He’s going to do some serious damage with the short porch in right field.” While he had a few good seasons, he never lived up to the lofty expectations of his contract. His MVP year in Oakland never materialized to the same type of success in the Bronx.
However, I would take that pitching staff for an All-Decade December Signing Team. The biggest haul came in 2008 when the Yankees signed Sabathia and Burnett to seven and five-year contracts, respectively. Sabathia has been a workhorse throughout his time with the Yankees, while Burnett fell out of favor after two consecutive poor seasons following a World Series championship in 2009. Clemens and Pettitte are old holdovers from the Yankee Dynasty years of the late 90′s and early 00′s. For me, they will always hold a special place in my heart as a Yankees fan.
As for positional players, the Yankees have signed some pretty good infielders. Giambi was solid throughout his career, not spectacular, but the Bronx Bombers have also signed Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter to anchor the right side. A-Rod signed a 10-year contract for more than $200 million in 2007 after winning his third (and likely final) MVP award. You know, the year he hit 54 home runs and the like? The team signed longtime rival while in Boston, Kevin Youkilis, earlier this month, who will take over for A-Rod as he recovers from another hip injury.
As for the outfield, we have some speed, some power, and some defense. Gary Sheffield‘s time with the Yankees was underwhelming. He wasn’t the Sheff of the 90′s, but he could still do some damage with bat and his arm, but overall his defense stunk. Damon’s time with the Yankees was good, he was a solid leadoff hitter who was bumped to the two-hole as an experiment, which worked out pretty well. As for Ichiro, he played very well for the Yankees in the second half of 2012. He seemed rejuvenated and he parlayed that into a two-year deal with the team this season.
Finally, we come to the relief pitchers. There are only two, but one is an all-time great and the other was good in pinstripes. Mariano Rivera signed with the team in early December 2010, and started a series of one-year contracts with the team. The greatest closer of all-time, who is playing well beyond his years gets to do that, right? As for Tom Gordon, I think his time with the Yankees was a bit underrated. He held a 2.38 ERA with his two years with the Yankees, and he almost struck out a batter per innings (170 innings, 165 K’s). Flash was the ultimate set-up guy for Mo during 2003 and 2004.
Now onto the honorable mentions/bloopers. Everybody’s favorite punching bag, Carl Pavano, was signed before the 2005 season and will forever be remembered infamously in Yankee lore. He had every imaginable injury, some from his own mistakes. He wasn’t well-liked in the clubhouse and didn’t endear himself to fans in the slightest.
Moving right along, Kei Igawa makes the list because he was paid big time and spent most of his time in Triple-A. Five years riding a bus and getting paid multi-millions per year? I’d do it in a heartbeat. His signing was a direct answer to the Boston Red Sox signing Daisuke Matsuzaka. Didn’t work out too well for the Yanks.
So there you have it. The Yankees haven’t given fans a big “get” this offseason, and who knows if it’ll happen either. The newly budgeted front office is being awfully frugal as they approach the 2014 offseason. It’s a far cry from what we are used to, but maybe this will have the same result, but with a different process.