Ah, the best laid plans of mice & men.
For the past two seasons anyone who either follows Major League Baseball closely or is a fan of the New York Yankees heard countless reports of the teams plan to work its way under the magical “luxury tax threshold”, undoubtedly rolling their eyes each time they heard it.
But alas, with the recent signing of Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka to a 7 year/155M dollar deal said plan went right out the proverbial window.
That isn’t to say the team won’t revisit the strategy at some point down the road, doing so certainly has its merits, but for the here & now the Bronx Bombers have decided that protecting the brand by putting a better product on the field was the way to go.
The team also surprised a good deal of people by selling a large chunk of its stake in the Yes Network to 21st Century Fox recently, a move that will yield a reported $150M per year, before they even get around to negotiating their new deal with Time Warner Cable.
In the big scheme of things, what exactly does this mean?
Well, for starters it means the team that is usually flush with cash will have even more chips to play with moving forward.
While that certainly doesn’t guarantee much, it is in all likelihood a fairly safe bet to say that barring another season with a record level of injuries they’ll score quite a few more runs because of the return of Jeter and Teixeira, coupled with recent acquisitions Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran & Brian McCann.
But beyond that not much is certain.
No, winning the off-season doesn’t guarantee much more than owning the headlines for a while.
More to my point, amidst all the talk, all of the yammerin’ about the Yanks newfound purchasing power there hasn’t been a whole lotta solid analysis.
It seems like most folks have just tended to go for the glossy stuff, the easy byline then moved onto the next “flavor of the moment” story.
That being said, there have been a couple of solid observations, most notably from ESPN contributor Buster Olney.
Olney recently pointed out that while the same injury bug that hit the Yankees big league roster also depleted their farm system (not even kidding, it seemed like just about every big time prospect the team had got hit with an injury lasy season) we should look for the Bombers to be big players at the trading deadline this summer.
Simply put, come mid-July you need one of two things to make some moves.
You either better have some Grade A trade chips or you best have the cash to absorb some contracts other teams are looking to unload. And now that the Yankees have both flown right by that luxury tax threshold and increased their revenue stream they fall squarely in that latter category.
An obvious area of concern for the Yankees is there infield.
Jeter, as great as he has been is on his way out. If he stays healthy he’ll continue to be productive, providing a solid bat for his position, but the Yankees do need to think ahead & second base is just a mystery in the post-Robinson Cano era.
So if somehow the Rockies, Phillies, Blue Jays or Brewers find themselves out of the mix and looking to shed some money come late July then Tulo, J-Roll, Jose Reyes or Rickie Weeks could find themselves being made available.
Granted a lot would have to fall into place for one of these scenarios to take place, but as we’ve seen over the years, stranger things have happened.
Another area where both the front office and the fans are both at least mildy concerned is the bullpen.
Let’s face it. One does not simply lose the greatest closer of all time and not see some sort of a regression.
David Robertson may very well be up to the task. He’s been one of MLB‘s premier relievers for a few years now and has all the tools to handle the job.
But in the end, ya just don’t know if he’ll hold up, either physically or mentally.
So once again, this is where the fat pockets come into play.
Come trading deadline if the Phillies are scuffling or the A’s are feeling bold (as they are prone to) one could easily envision Papelbon or the recently acquired Jim Johnson being dangled on the market.
Additionally, right-handed bats like Billy Butler, Michael Cuddyer & Josh Willingham all have the kind of contracts that team could easily absorb in order to provide financial relief to the small market teams that currently hold them.
If either scenario plays itself out you can rest assured that the “Evil Empire” will, at the very least, be keeping a weather eye on things, ready to pounce if need be.
Obviously it’s all just pie in the sky stuff right now, but some times the moves you make at the trade deadline aren’t just the difference between making the playoffs or missing them, but rather play a sizable role in determining who exactly is the last team standing.
This year, more so than the last few, the Yankees seem positioned to be major players at the July 31st deadline and that always makes things a little more interesting.
Every year, major sports-media outlets make a huge deal out of the MLB trading deadline. But is the coverage of the deadline overblown?
Once July 31 passes, teams officially are no longer allowed to make formal trades with other clubs; however, every front office is well aware of the month of August, also known as Waiver Wire month.
Just last year the San Francisco Giants were huge benficiaries of some waiver wire magic when they picked up playoff hero Cody Ross from the Florida Marlins.
If it weren’t for Ross’s clutch play in the NLDS & NLCS the team would have never gotten to the World Series, let alone have won it.
This year shouldn’t prove to be different. One or more teams in the hunt will make moves via this process and some of them will undoubtedly pay off in big ways.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the process, it goes something like this:
Any player under contract may be placed on waivers at any time. If a player is waived, any team may claim him. If more than one team claims the player from waivers, the team with the weakest record in the player’s league gets preference. If no team in the player’s league claims him, the claiming team with the weakest record in the other league gets preference. In the first month of the season, preference is determined using the previous year’s standings.
If a team claims a player off waivers and has the viable claim as described above, his current team (the “waiving team”) may choose one of the following options:
- arrange a trade with the claiming team for that player within two business days of the claim; or
- rescind the request and keep the player on its major league roster, effectively canceling the waiver; or
- do nothing and allow the claiming team to (1) assume the player’s existing contract, (2) pay the waiving team a waiver fee, and (3) place the player on its active major league roster.
If a player is claimed and the waiving team exercises its rescission option, the waiving team may not use the option again for that player in that season. If no team claims a player from waivers in three business days, the player has cleared waivers and may be assigned to a minor league team, traded, or released outright.
The waiver “wire” is a secret within the personnel of the Major League Baseball clubs; no announcement of a waiver is made until a transaction actually occurs. Many players are often quietly waived during the August “waiver-required” trading period to gauge trade interest in a particular player. Usually, when the player is claimed, the waiving team will rescind the waiver to avoid losing the player unless a trade can be worked out with the claiming team
Who knows who is going to be moved off the wire this August, but if I was pressed to bet on one I’d have to go with the Houston Astros‘ Wandy Rodriguez.
He’s owed a modest $2.3 million for the remainder of this season, but $36 million over the next three years.
Not all scouts are convinced that his stuff translates well in the A.L. East, but provided Houston comes down on it’s pre-deadline price tag (the team was asking for one or two “can’t miss prospects” in return for eating some of his salary) a team like the Yankees, White Sox or Twins might roll the dice on the guy.
As always, we’ll see soon enough.
ESPN’s Buster Olney talks waivers in his latest blog post, and I can’t help but join in.
- The Twins are currently seven games out in the AL Central. If they slip further from contention, Olney wonders what will happen if they place outfielder/designated hitter Jason Kubel on waivers later this month. He projects currently as a Type B free agent. I wonder if the draft pick alone would compel a non-contending AL team to make a claim, with less than a million bucks remaining on his contract after August.
- Olney sees such a scenario as possible for Rays reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who profiles as a Type A. He could see the Blue Jays jumping in for the draft picks, though I imagine the Rays would keep him for the same reason.
- Would Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez or Padres closer Heath Bell make it to an NL contender? Or would Type A status again factor in? Olney sees the A’s pulling back Josh Willingham rather than dumping his contract, probably because he’s a Type A currently. I wonder if Willingham would accept an arbitration offer though.
- Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena is a good candidate to be moved as a salary dump, with half of his $10MM due in January.
- Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez is expected to clear waivers, with over $38MM left on his deal through 2014. Just to play devil’s advocate: Wandy is a bargain this year with just $2.27MM remaining, so it’s possible one contender could decide they can stomach three years and $36MM from 2012-14, and make a claim.
- Guys like Carlos Quentin and Jeremy Guthrie would be claimed, but dealing them in the offseason probably makes more sense.