Having the biggest market in baseball, you can always expect the New York Yankees to be major players in free agency, and that is exactly what we saw this offseason.
After missing the playoffs last season, New York decided to remake their aging roster in hopes of contending once again. With arguably no franchise player to build around, the Yankees knew it was time to hit the panic button and break out the big bucks, becoming active on the market for the first time since the signings of C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira.
New York’s top priority was at the catching position. With an array of catchers failing to produce last season, the Yankees knew that they needed to take a stab at one of the elites available, and the best option came in the form Brian McCann. Without hesitation, McCann and the Yankees agreed on a five-year, $85 million contract with a vesting option for a sixth year that would make the contract worth $100 million.
Though a great signing, it was only the beginning of what the Yankees were looking to accomplish.
It wasn’t long after before New York began shifting their focus to another big name on the market. Knowing they had virtually no chance of re-signing Robinson Cano, and with no intentions on re-signing Curtis Granderson, the Yankees had to find somebody who would become a leader and be the face of the franchise. With multiple World Series championships under his belt, Jacoby Ellsbury was a prime candidate.
Seeing that the Boston Red Sox were hesitant on dishing out the money that he was seeking, the Bronx Bombers decided to strike and signed Ellsbury to seven-years and $153 million. With two marquee signings and two big free agents off the market, New York still wanted to add one more big bat to the lineup.
The Yankees quickly accomplished this by Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $40 million deal. Teams were hesitant on giving Beltran a third year due to his age and possible regression, but the Yankees are known to take risks and gambled on Beltran. After all, the focus was on building their lineup as they spent a combined total of $283 million on these three players.
After their blockbuster signings, the Yankees decided to shift their focus over to the pitching rotation. The Yankees knew that 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda was a valuable asset to their rotation and wanted to re-sign him to provide depth in the starting rotation.
So with four big names already off the market, the Yankees still have a lot of work to do, and a lot of money to do it. But one of the more important questions is: how will these players perform in the latter stages of their contracts?
More than any other franchise, New York should know the negative affects of signing a player long-term. Just look at Alex Rodriguez. But when an opportunity presents itself and temptation strikes, it is very seldom that a team like New York would avoid acquiring a name like Ellsbury.
He posted a .287 average over six seasons with the Red Sox, and saw his best offensive season in 2011 when he maintained a .321 average along with 32 HRs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases to finish second in AL MVP voting. This is the type of performance that the Yankees are hoping to get out of Ellsbury as he has been inconsistent over his career.
At 30 years of age, and with seven years to play on his contract, many are worried that Jacoby is already on the decline.
On the other hand, at only 28-years old, McCann is in the prime of his career. Over five seasons with the Atlanta Braves, McCann proved to not only be elite defensively, but was a solid contributor on offense as he was one of the best-hitting catchers in the NL. It will be interesting to see if he can adjust to the AL.
Last but certainty not least, Mr. Postseason Beltran has high expectations centered around his first season in the Bronx. Though he is 37, the Yankees are hoping that Beltran can provide that much-needed spark to help propel them back to the playoffs.
With the starting lineup averaging almost 33 years of age, the Yankees are still relying on veteran presence to lead them back to the postseason. But the ultimate question is this: is it championship or bust in New York? That’s for all of us to find out.