ORLANDO, Fla. — The blockbuster trade Tuesday that saw the Red Sox rid themselves of their best player in part to get under the luxury tax threshold did not come as a shock to Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner.
But not because he had any inside knowledge of the deal that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers as a part of a three-team bombshell.
“I guess it didn't surprise me just because there was so much talk about it,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday at the quarterly owners meetings. “I can't really speak to the decision-making process, but it would have to be a difficult one and a complicated one for sure.”
What isn’t complicated is the impact on the AL East. The Yankees, even before the trade, were heavy favorites to win the division a second straight year. But Betts’ departure from it certainly makes that task far easier, not that Steinbrenner is thinking in those terms.
“It's always going to be a tough division,” Steinbrenner said. “Tampa’s always going to be tough. And Boston, you know they'll be back. If they're not going to be here this year, they'll be back. But Tampa is certainly going to be tough this year. Good young team.”
The Yankees, meanwhile, have reached the desired point of having a healthy balance of established young talent to go with productive veterans.
They were proactive in extending two of the former type last spring — Aaron Hicks to a seven-year, $70 million deal and Luis Severino to a four-year, $40 million contract.
Might Steinbrenner consider doing the same with players such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez or Gleyber Torres, doing extensions to buy out coming arbitration seasons and, ultimately, delaying their forays into free agency beyond that?
“I think it's important to show the other players and our fans what we believe and our belief is, especially the kids that come up through our system or that we get at a young age, whether we draft them or they come to our system via trade, keeping them," he said. "Wanting them to be in the pinstripes for a very long time. And that's why we did what we did a year ago. There's only so much we can do in any given year. Obviously, you guys can do the math, I'm going to have some flexibility with payroll next year. We'll see where we end up and what we do versus signing guys or extending current players.”