There were two main themes that came from the Yankees’ activity or lack thereof at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. One theme was that the team did not address their need at starting pitcher and were unable to make some of the big trades that the other teams made. The second theme was New York lost two of their players via four-year deals from other clubs that were a big part of last season’s team: David Robertson and Brandon McCarthy.
For this piece, I want to focus mainly on Cano and Robertson. Those two players were unique to the Yankees of past years in that they were key home-grown players. With the Core Four era now over, you have to look at what the roster looks like right now, in particular the projected starting lineup.
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When you look at that lineup, only two of the starting eight position players are from the Yankees’ farm system. Those two players are Brett Gardner and whoever wins the second base job between Robert Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
Thinking back to last season, the fans’ big chant to Robinson Cano was “You Sold Out.” I even saw a meme on Facebook earlier this week writing the words sell out over pictures of David Robertson and Robinson Cano. However, not only did Cano and Robertson have every right to make as much money as they could in free agency, but they wanted to benefit off a recent trend that New York has done for most free agents.
In the past, we have seen Randy Levine, the Steinbrenners, and Brian Cashman overpay or “bid against themselves’ to get free agents to sign. This time around, the Yankees didn’t make offers to Robertson or Brandon McCarthy, who ended up signing with the Dodgers. Once Andrew Miller signed, you kind of got the sense Robertson wasn’t coming back after a solid season replacing Mariano Rivera as the closer.
Last offseason, it was Cano who was a little perturbed at the Yankees for signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million while the most they would offer Cano was seven years for $175 million. You can almost guarantee that Cano and his agent, Jay-Z were expecting New York to overpay anyone to keep their own and make the second baseman the face of the franchise. It didn’t happen.
The next test for the Yankees is with Max Scherzer. Will they likely spend $200 million on a top-of-the-line ace and give him a seven to eight year deal or will they stick to their plan of not spending money on high-priced free agents? You can guarantee younger players are keeping an eye out on that.
It did bother me that Robertson was not even given an offer by the team and I thought, in my opinion, he at least deserved a fair offer. Now, you can make the case the $15.3 million qualifying offer was more than fair, which the reliever turned down. In the end, Robertson and Cano have one thing in common. They took the contract that gave them the most years and allowed them to have more stability knowing they would be with a team for the long haul, in all likelihood.
When I hear about the names that could be on the Yankees’ pipeline such as Aaron Judge, Gregory Bird, Gary Sanchez and others, one thing comes to mind. If these prospects do reach their top talent, will New York look to do something that is rare in this town: extend one of their own before they reach free agency.
It is a new trend in baseball that the Yankees haven’t caught up with yet, which can dilute the free agent pool in future years. With more small market teams having the money in this booming industry, teams like the Marlins can sign players to 13 years, $325 million or the Padres can afford to take on $70+ million for Matt Kemp.
The Yankees can’t outspend other teams as they easily did in past years. In fact, they were outbid by the Houston Astros for Andrew Miller, but Miller still chose to be a reliever in the Bronx. The future can be bright for this team if the prospects pan out, but if they do, will New York go outside of their own trend and try to build a new Core Four or they will follow the trend by letting Cano and Robertson go to free agency and watching them sign with other teams?