'Tis the season: Yanks aren't afraid to spend, and they're just getting started
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
Let's face it. As we sit here now, four months from Opening Day, there's no way of knowing if the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann will indeed get the Yankees back to a World Series for the first time since 2009.
On top of that, we'll be debating the wisdom of these two contracts for as long as each player will be wearing pinstripes -- and for many years later. But there is one thing we know for certain, beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Yankees weren't kidding.
With all the talk of fixing a broken roster, and spending whatever was necessary to do it, we've been taught once again that such promises are not hollow rhetoric in the Bronx. So it took a few weeks for the names to shake loose, as well as the financial terms, but the Yankees have made good on their pledge to this point. They don't sound finished, either. Not by a long shot.
Back in 2008, the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs, they spent a total of $423 million on three players: CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett.
Well, the Yankees are back in beast mode again, and just as volatile in their decision-making process. McCann was a no-brainer. He added offense to a position where the Yankees had zero. Did they overpay for him at five years, $85 million? Not in this market, evidently. To the Yankees, it's only money, right?
Ellsbury is a more puzzling call. He's supremely talented, sure. But with other options to consider, especially the ongoing contract staredown with their own homegrown star, Robinson Cano, the Ellsbury choice caught just about everyone by surprise.
Maybe even some in the Yankees' offices. One source said last night that they already were far along in getting a deal done with Carlos Beltran, possibly as soon as last weekend, before the focus suddenly switched to Ellsbury on Sunday. Sliding Beltran into rightfield -- with an occasional blow at DH -- made sense. He also would have been cheaper -- much, much cheaper -- with a shorter, three-year commitment.
Obviously, the Yankees aren't worried about such things this offseason, not when they have a reputation to repair. Managing a payroll five or six years into the future has never really been a strong point of this organization. With a motto of "Win Now, Pay More Later," we've been waiting for the bill to come due.
Funny thing, though. No one brings the bill when you're still ordering from the menu, and the Yankees are hungrier than we've seen them in a while.
"The singular and unwavering desire of this organization is to construct a team each and every season designed to play meaningful baseball deep into October," Hal Steinbrenner said after McCann's signing became official Tuesday morning. "Our work this offseason has just begun."
About eight hours later, the Yankees blindsided the baseball world by agreeing to terms on a seven-year, $153-million contract with Ellsbury. Hal wasn't bluffing. The same owner who told us for the past year that staying under the $189-million luxury tax threshold was merely a goal and not a mandate certainly is behaving like it.
So what's next? Sources indicated that the Yankees are still interested in signing Cano, but at their number, which has yet to creep much higher than $160 million. Based on what just happened with Ellsbury, there's no way Cano settles for that, not after his own team wrote such a huge check for a Boston hero.
Masahiro Tanaka is still on their wish list, but with no Japanese posting system in place yet, the Rakuten Eagles ace is an X-factor now. But he was part of the blueprint we thought the Yankees were following this offseason -- spending money, of course, but judiciously.
No longer. The Yankees, humbled last season, are back to being a December force again. We'll have to wait and see how that translates come April.