The New York Yankees team that was swept off the field like old leaves by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS may still be old in 2013, but they will have many new faces. Three key players in the Yankees successful run in the 2012 season have rejected qualifying offers from the team and now Hiroki Kuroda, Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano will hit the free-agent market.
Of the three Yankees that decided to hit the market, the one the Yankees should pursue the hardest is Kuroda. Kuroda was the real heart of a Yankees staff that treaded water after the All-Star break. Kuroda kept the Yankees afloat and was the most durable pitcher in 2012 and still has a lot left in the tank. The problem the Yankees face is not just battling other teams in the MLB for Kuroda; they also are facing a battle with his country. Kuroda is reportedly thinking of heading back home to Japan. The Yankees and their punch drunk lineup are going to need good pitching and losing Kuroda is not the way any fan had hoped the offseason would start.
The problem is the team with the highest payroll in baseball all of a sudden has closed the bank, which is opening the door to mediocrity. General Manager Brian Cashman has been talking about his desire to lower the payroll for years, but doing this now, he will be signing a contract of his own, one that signs the Yankees up to be average.
Three weeks ago the city was excited and ready for another parade, but now as emotions have had time to cool and the planning for 2013 has begun, Cashman is getting New York confused with Pittsburgh or some mid-market city that is ok with winning seasons and not making the playoffs. He goes down the road he is headed, he will be setting himself up to be testing the market. He is trying to sell the city on this ridiculous idea that somehow the Yankees are good enough to build from within and not go after the high profile, high priced, free agents, but that is not going to fly in New York. Listening to him say: “Right now, we’ve got some gaping holes” Thursday during a break at the General Managers Meetings is laughable. As Captain Obvious is off in the country doing most likely nothing, the Yankees roster is getting old and there is no player in the farm ready, so if he doesn’t spend some money, this is the beginning of the end.
Other than needing a corner outfielder, catcher, designated hitter and starting pitcher or two, Cashman can almost take the winter off.
Cashman loves to talk about his great payroll plans, but they just aren’t going to work. The Yankees have been the team that so many in baseball dislike, and the team that fans across both leagues despise, well now is not the time for Cashman to get all sentimental and throw a wrench into who this team is. The Yankees are the “Evil Empire” and New Yorkers are not patient for anything, this will blow up in his face.
Cashman plans to commit to being under $189 million by Opening Day 2014, when baseball’s new luxury-tax rules kick in, so the Yankees are unlikely to make a run at Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn or any of the other big-ticket free agents.
Payroll cuts? One cut that is looking good is Cashman’s salary.
Cashman’s words sound great, but who is he trying to convince when he says, “I feel good about the process. I feel good about the people I rely on. I feel good about the ownership group and their commitment to winning. I’m confident that our track record continues. We’ll solve this thing. We’ll solve it fast, slow, whatever it takes. But we’ll solve it, and we’ll be a championship-caliber club” – himself or the fans that pay $300 to go to a game in the cheap seats with their kids.
In past years somehow he has pulled it off and turned someone else’s trash into Yankee treasures, but the core he relied on to keep the team together is getting old and banged up and some have retired, so what is his next move? This could be the end of an era in more ways than one.
The winds of change are blowing and they might be stronger than anyone expects and blowing the wrong way for the Yankees.