After getting swept in the Amercian League Championship Series last fall, the New York Yankees went into last offseason with a lot of work to do.
Knowing Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter would likely be out until the middle of the 2013 season, the Yankees needed to make upgrades. They also needed to fill holes in the outfield and at catcher.
However, they also needed to do so on a budget, as ownership wanted to cut the team payroll to $189 million for the 2014 season, which limited their options and caused most to forget about the likes of Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn donning pinstripes.
As a result, the Bronx Bombers went out and signed old foe Kevin Youkilis to a one-year deal for $12 million. Instead of re-signing Russell Martin, who signed a two-year deal for $17 million with Pittsburgh, or bringing in A.J. Pierzynski or Mike Napoli to play catcher, they decided to go with journeyman Chris Stewart to be the primary starter. Splitting time with Stewart to start was Francisco Cervelli and later, rookie Austin Romine.
In the outfield, they gave a 39-year-old Ichiro Suzuki a two-year deal for $13 million, and after Curtis Granderson's injury in spring training, the Yankees traded for Vernon Wells, owing him about $14 million total for this year and next.
Even though they had already stated they wanted to cut payroll, the Yankees went out and added more—and in the form of awful, washed-up players. Instead of adding cheaper, but useful, players like Nate Schierholtz or Napoli in the Yankees' $189 plan, they added expensive, old scrubs.
This spare-parts strategy seemed to pay off, at least in the first two months of the 2013 season when they peaked at 30-18.
Since then, the Yankees are just 27-38 and seven games out of a playoff spot. The offense is just atrocious with impending free agent Robinson Cano and perhaps Brett Gardner as the only reliable above-average players.
Besides Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera, New York's pitching has also struggled in the last two-and-a-half months with even CC Sabathia having the worst season of his career. Derek Jeter looks like he can't play every day anymore, Mark Teixeira is another albatross contract and Alex Rodriguez is all over the news for the wrong reasons in addition to his poor play.
Clearly, after 19 seasons, 17 playoff appearances, 13 division titles, seven league pennants and five world championships, it's time for the Yankees to rebuild. However, thanks to their front office, particularly general manager Brian Cashman and owners Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, the process will be even longer and painful.
For the next three years, they will have over $65 million invested in Rodriguez, Teixeira and Sabathia, with all of them on the wrong side of 30.
Unlike the Yankees' last spending spree in the 2008-09 offseason, baseball's free-agent market in the coming years will also be scarce, as many mid-market and small-market clubs have locked up their stars like Justin Verlander and Evan Longoria.
This would lead the Yankees to try to rebuild the way they did in the early '90s—through the minor league system. However, New York's farm clubs are very dry at the moment with little talent ready for the big leagues in the immediate future. Their legitimate prospects from the recent past were either traded (Jesus Montero) or otherwise ruined by the organization's poor handling of them (see Joba Chamberlain and Dellin Betances).
Perhaps the biggest cause for the Yankees' upcoming drought is their inactivity at the trade deadline.
Sure, they traded for Alfonso Soriano and got the Cubs to pay for the massive majority of his contract like the Angels did for Wells, but you'd think this would mean the Yankees are serious in trying to make a push for the playoffs this year and more moves would be forthcoming.
Instead, they did nothing. The Yankees didn't get a third baseman, although they are still starving for offense there, and they still have no catcher or a shortstop.
With so many holes, a realistic and wiser option would have been to become sellers. Impending agents Cano and Kuroda could have gotten a mother-load of prospects if Cashman had played his cards right.
Remember who the Mets got for Carlos Beltran two years ago? Zack Wheeler. Cano is in his prime and could have gotten even more than Beltran was worth. Now, the Yankees will either lose Cano for nothing or else give him a ridiculous contract.
There is a total lack of direction in the Yankees' organization. Cashman and the Steinbrenner brothers have deceived both the fans and the media into thinking they're trying to put a winning product on the field.
Instead, they are simply adding names of has-beens and more albatross contracts rather than replacing aged players with younger ones who have enough talent to stick around and excel, at least enough to be a part of the clubs' future. They equipped themselves poorly for this season, resulting in a team that is old, washed up, and simply unwatchable.
Yes, a dry spell was going to happen sooner or later. But Cashman and the Steinbrenners blew several chances to rebuild on the fly and now this team is headed for the abyss where they may stay perhaps for a long time.
Get ready Yankees fans. It's going to be painful.
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