When you play poker, it is always a risk to go all-in with your hand. There’s usually a feeling of uncertainty that you never know whether or not the cards will go your way. In baseball, every season starts with some form of doubt. For the New York Yankees, there are still some holes to be filled, but not as many as in recent years.
Despite losing one of their key franchise players in Robinson Cano, general manager Brian Cashman and company went out and spent money on big bats to help the lineup in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. They addressed a significant need at catcher and upgraded at the corner outfield spots considering Brett Gardner is likely to move to left field come Opening Day.
For the last couple of years, the number $189 million has been at the forefront of Yankees’ fans minds and the team’s checkbooks. Hal Steinbrenner has said that the $189 million payroll or less by 2014 to avoid luxury tax penalties is a goal, not a mandate. There are still pending moves to be made and it’s a tall order to stay at that goal since the Yankees are currently at $177 million in total payroll (pending an Alex Rodriguez suspension).
With all the moves on offense, the Yankees still need one or two arms in the starting rotation. The team is still all-in on Masahiro Tanaka as they have been talking with his agent, Casey Close. This would be a move that the Yankees need considering Tanaka is only 25 years old and could be a force in the rotation for years to come.
This weekend, we also saw reports from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the Yankees might be in on Ubaldo Jimenez, Tanaka or not. There are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to the Bronx Bombers’ young arms because Michael Pineda hasn’t thrown a pitch in pinstripes and there is no front runner as of right now for the number five spot. The one caveat with spending on both Tanaka and Jimenez is that New York will be over the limit and will likely have penalties that could hinder them from significant pitching free agents in 2015 such as Clayton Kershaw, Justin Masterson, and Max Scherzer among others. However, with Manny Banuelos coming off of Tommy John surgery, veterans are at a premium to the rotation.
Plus, what about the bullpen? The Yankees have a rather young bullpen with the losses of Mariano Rivera and Boone Logan. It appears David Robertson is going to be the closer and that should be the case as I have written several times on this website. However, the bridge to D-Rob isn’t as reliable with Shawn Kelley right now being the set-up man. Could the Yankees go out and sign an Andrew Bailey type for a low salary to fill that role? Sure, they could. But, I could see the Yankees relying on players like Cesar Cabral, Preston Claiborne, and whoever loses the rotation battle to fill out the bullpen. They pitched well at times last year, but fizzled out due to the workload in September.
Is going all-in a risky play for the Yankees to get that 28th World Series? Absolutely. But, in a market that saw a decrease in attendance and TV ratings a season ago and fans wanting a star-studded product on the field, spending on free agents has been the Yankees’ way and likely will be the Yankees’ play until some of these prospects start to make their way in the big leagues.