This Christmas, there will be no high-priced free agents under the tree for the New York Yankees. Over the past decade the Yankees have handed out over a billion dollars in free agent money. So far in the 2015 offseason they have spent $0. It is almost incomprehensible to think that the Yankees, who for years seemed to just print money, have currently been outspent by teams like the Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s, and Cleveland Indians. As it stands right now the only star they have acquired is Starlin Castro, and he came via trade. The list of giant contracts handed out over the past ten years goes on and on — Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Roger Clemens, Jacoby Ellsbury, Johnny Damon, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira. Not this year. The years of frivolous spending have finally caught up to the Yankees.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has stated for quite a while now his desires to move below the salary tax threshold of $189 million. Judging by last years’ payroll of $241 million payroll and subsequent $26 million tax, it doesn’t appear that GM Brian Cashman will have the authority to sign any of the remaining big-name players. It is unclear what type of budget Cashman has been given to work with for 2016, but it has been made known they will not be shelling out big bucks to players over the age of 30.
Joe Girardi deserves immense credit for guiding an aging and injury-depleted team to a Wild Card berth in 2015. He faces an even more uphill climb this year as the team is a year older, with question marks in big supply. Masahiro Tanaka, Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda all missed significant time with injuries last year. Those are four of the projected starting five pitchers who have varying degrees of injury concern heading into 2016. The strength of the team looks to be the back end of the bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, but will the Yankees have enough leads to turn over to their lights out eighth and ninth inning guys?
It’s clear the Yankees need to add at least one more starting pitcher to the staff, but Cashman sat idle and watched David Price, Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto all sign with other teams. Even the likes of Jordan Zimmerman, Jeff Samardzija, and John Lackey proved too rich for the now thrifty Yankees. In years past, a player like Jason Heyward, would have been all but assured to suit up in pinstripes for years to come. The “evil empire” has been turned on it’s axis.
To be fair, the Yankees did have solid production last year from young players such as Gregory Bird, Luis Severino and Didi Gregorius, albeit in relatively limited action for the first two. In 2016 each of these players will be counted on to contribute heavily. Alex Rodriguez had a huge bounce-back season, but his age and health will once again be major question marks going into the season. Mix in the age and injuries of Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Sabathia and they Yankees could potentially have almost as much money on the disabled list than on their active roster.
While this offseason is shaping up to be relatively quiet, the Yankees will not be quiet for long. After the 2016 season the contracts of Sabathia ($25 million, with a $5 million buyout), Teixeira ($23.1 million) and Beltran ($15 million) will all come off the books. This should put the Yankees in position to be players in the free-agent market once again. However the days of the free-wheeling, lavish spending for the once mighty New York Yankees appear to be a fleeting memory.