The Boston Red Sox have emphatically announced their intentions to contend for a division and World Series title again in 2016. David Price is signed, Craig Kimbrel has been acquired, and Chris Davis has been discussed. While the Red Sox set about “winning” the offseason for the second straight year, the New York Yankees have sat on their hands and discussed the need to get their payroll under $190 million.
Are these the same New York Yankees I grew up watching run roughshod over the rest of the league every winter?
No, they are not. George Steinbrenner is no longer calling the shots. Son Hal is running the show in the Bronx after his father’s death, and is far less reactionary when making free-agent signings. The Yankees passed on Jordan Zimmermann even though he signed for a relatively low (in this market) sum of $22 million per season. All-Star outfielder Brett Gardner is on the block, as is All-Star closer Andrew Miller. The Yankees have preached a need to get younger while developing prospects into stars. Unfortunately, the league’s winningest franchise is not in position to sit on its hands for a few years while waiting for the youngsters to develop.
Not when you’re charging over $500 for good seats in an already sparsely-populated ballpark.
The time has come for the Yankees to “Yankee-Up” and sign Jason Heyward. Passing on Zimmermann could turn into a big mistake, especially as the Red Sox address their biggest hole. Letting Heyward, a 26-year-old, get away would be inexcusable for the Yankees. This is the rare chance for the Yankees to put their money to work to sign a young All-Star, not an aging, past-his-prime All-Star.
Looking back on the mini-dynasty of the Yankees between 1996 and 2001, there were very few times the Yankees had the best, most powerful lineup in the league. Their lineup slowly bludgeoned you to death with high batting averages and high on-base percentages. Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez — those were the players upon whose backs the championship years were built. Jeter, Posada, and Williams were homegrown stars. O’Neill and Brosius were savvy pickups.
The Yankees began going off the rails when they sunk a quarter of a billion dollars into Alex Rodriguez and then commenced handing out massive contracts to players like Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Sabathia. The Boss got impatient and emotional and tried to sign everyone. The Yankees “Yankee’d-Up” far too frequently for their own good.
The Yankees were most likely wise to concede David Price to the Red Sox. They cannot afford to let Jason Heyward stay with the St. Louis Cardinals or sign with the Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, or anyone else for that matter. He is the type of player the Yankees never would have missed out on in the past. With Heyward, the Yankees can continue waiting for a few prospects to develop while still adding a star through free agency. Carlos Beltran comes off the books after this season, as does Mark Teixeira. Rodriguez and CC Sabathia will follow close behind. There will be plenty of money being freed up in the coming years, but no under-30 stars to spend it on (unless the Yankees want to put all their money in the Bryce Harper or Mike Trout basket — which is not unlikely).
Heyward may not be a true, build-your-team-around-him superstar, but neither were players like Williams, O’Neill, Martinez, or Posada. At the risk of insulting every Jeter worshiper out there, neither was The Captain.The historic 1998 squad that won 114 games did not have a single player hit more than 30 home runs.
When the Yankees were at their best, their players worked together as a team. Heyward brings this type of quality to the clubhouse. He sacrificed power for contact when leading off in St. Louis, he will hit close to .300, draw walks, steal bases, and should begin putting 30 balls over the short porches in the American League East with ease. This is the type of player the Yankees need to be rebuilding their next “Core 4” around. It’s going to be expensive, and it’s going to seem like a lot of money on paper, but these are the New York Yankees we’re talking about. Heyward will look mighty good playing outfield with Gregory Bird at first base, Didi Gregorious at shortstop, Gary Sanchez behind the dish, and Rob Refsnyder at second base. He is the type of player, a Jeter-esque, lead-by-example type, who can help mold the next generation of great Yankees.
Time to “Yankee-Up,” Hal.