The New York Yankees have been the picture of success for so many years. With a legendary history full of great moments and amazing players, it’s no wonder why the Yankees have been the most successful franchise in the history of sports. The team often wins in bunches, boasting dynasties and legendary players.
Babe Ruth (while not a home grown star) and Lou Gehrig were cornerstones during the Yankees’ dominance in the ’20′s and ’30′s, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were centerpieces in the ’40′s, ’50′s and early ’60′s. In the 1970′s the late 1970′s the Yankees turned to imports from trades and free agency to fuel their attack. Reggie Jackson, Chris Chambliss, Catfish Hunter, and Graig Nettles were all were not home grown Yankees but they shined on the team and made them champions early on. Of course the middle of the 1990′s saw the rise of the Core Four. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte were the main pieces behind the Yankees dominance of the era. Now… that era is coming to a close
Jeter is retiring. 2014 will be his last season and the Yankees will attempt to construct yet another dynasty. This coming season may be the start another import era. They’ve signed four stars in pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, and catcher Brian McCann and each will be an important cog in the new machine. The Yankees farm system needs a lot of work and until the team’s top prospects are major league ready they’ll rely on their bank account to build a winner. But that’s nothing new. The Yankees have always been baseball’s big spenders and whether other teams like it or not that’s not going to change any time soon.
This theory does have a flaw though and it’s a pattern that has been continuing for a few years now. With the cost of free agent stars on the rise many teams have taken to locking up their best players on long term extension and so less and less stars are hitting the open market in recent years. But that trend may be a little exaggerated.
Yes teams are locking up their players but the past few off seasons have seen Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Zach Grienke, B.J. Upton and… (sigh)… the Yankees’ own Robinson Cano leave their teams for high priced contracts elsewhere. Big time players still become available in the off season but just not in large groups. The Yankees can go year by year swiping up the big names as they wait for the their top prospects to be ready to make an impact at the Major League level. It’s not a bad idea but there is a catch.
In order to begin the Core Four the Yankees had to do quite a bit of losing. Jeter was the number six overall pick in 1992 Amateur Draft. Pettitte and Posada can each be classified as steals as they were both selected beyond the 20th round. Developing late picks into key players is not unheard of but a franchise should not make a habit of it. Losing isn’t the only way to garb picks of that caliber but is the most effective. With compensation picks now being attached to qualifying offers higher draft picks can be acquired when a team’s free agent signs away. However the first ten picks are protected under the new rules.
Thanks to free agents Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Rafael Soriano leaving, the Yankees received a compensation pick from the Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. They took full advantage of the opportunity and drafted three very talented players in Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge and Ian Clarkin with the 26th, 32nd and 33rd picks in the 2013 draft. Each of them are viewed as huge parts of the Yankees’ future. But there could be other pieces ready to join them in a few months ago.
One of the most important players in the Core Four was not drafted. He was not a free agent purchase. No instead he was an international amateur free agent and at the time he cost very little. With a $3,000 dollar signing bonus the Yankees bought themselves the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera.
Yes, international signings could be very low risk, high reward situations at times depending on the price and the Bronx Bombers are banking on just that. When the calendar turns to July and the process of signing these valuable commodities begins, the Yankees might take advantage of a possible perfect storm. With what is considered a particularly talented crop of players available this year the Yankees are reportedly looking to bust the bank ($10-$20 million dollars according to reports). These players would have to take time to develop in the minors but it will be worth the time and money if they can make an impact on the next era of baseball in the Bronx.
Let’s not get too down right now. After all, Jeter still has one more season and the Yankees brought in some very big pieces to bolster the roster and many see them as world series contenders right now. But Jeter’s impending departure will bring an end to one of the greatest periods in the Yankees’ fantastic history. Under the leadership of Jeter, Pettitte, River and Posada the Yankees won four World Series championships from 1996 to 2000 and again in 2009. The Yankees always find a way to win. It’s in their nature. Now that the sun is setting on the days of the Core Four another era will soon be dawning on the horizon.