WASHINGTON — Hal Steinbrenner says the Yankees spent $250 million this offseason, including contract extensions. But with the team trying to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2009, the Yankees managing general partner fended off charges Monday that he’s not spending enough.
Speaking on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN 98.7, Steinbrenner also took aim at those who say his father, George, wouldn’t have let young megastars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado go to other teams as free agents.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily true,” Steinbrenner said. “George was a very emotional guy, there’s no doubt about it, and very intelligent and passionate and all that. But he listened to his people. We had meetings every day in the offseason addressing areas where we really needed improvement, and that had to be the first thing — and sometimes the last thing — that we did. So there wasn’t always a Harper being signed every year, even under him.”
Machado met with Yankees brass in November but signed with the Padres for 10 years and $300 million in late February. The Yankees had no contact with Harper before he reached agreement with the Phillies at the end of February on a 13-year, $330 million deal.
“These are two incredibly talented players,” Steinbrenner said. “We talked about it and discussed it and opinions varied on both players, but I really felt our need if we’re going to go out and spend hundreds of millions of dollars, our need was pitching, because in my opinion — and people might disagree with me — that’s the reason we didn’t make it to the ALCS. Or the biggest reason we didn’t.”
The Yankees’ pitching staff that will open the season Thursday against the Orioles in the Bronx will include key new pieces James Paxton and Adam Ottavino, plus returning free-agent signees J.A. Happ, Zack Britton and CC Sabathia. The Yankees signed infielders Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu.
They also signed Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks to contract extensions totaling $110 million. Both will start the season on the injured list. (Steinbrenner also said “more to come . . . stay tuned” when asked if other extensions are being worked on.)
“We were active,” Steinbrenner said. “But, again, we were active not spending all that money on one individual, but spending on numerous parts in a real area of need as far as we were concerned. So that’s what we did.”
Steinbrenner also repeated a line he’s been using all offseason: that when folks criticize the Yankees for not spending more of their revenues on players, they don’t factor in the team’s expenses. Of course, as a privately held business, the Yankees don’t have to release either number. Their 2019 payroll is expected to be about $225 million. (Boston is projected at $237 million.)
“There’s been a lot of talk about revenues, revenues, revenues,” he said. “I just think it’s logical and appropriate if you’re going to talk about a company’s revenues to also address as best as you can their expenses.”
What are those expenses other than player salaries? Steinbrenner mentioned the bonds the team is paying off for Yankee Stadium; revenue sharing; stadium operations; analytics and performance science, and player development and scouting.
“They all add up in a hurry,” Steinbrenner said. “Believe me, we understand that the fans want to win, and I would never want the fans thinking that we’re not doing everything we can to win. As I said, we spent a lot of money in this offseason. I think we’re a considerably better team.
“We think we’re a very, very good team and a championship-caliber team, for sure, and better than we were sitting here March 25, 2018.”
The Yankees won 100 games last season before falling to the eventual world champion Red Sox in a five-game Division Series. Is this a World Series-or-bust season for the players and second-year manager Aaron Boone?
“That’s the way I look at it every year,” Steinbrenner said. “But the players never need me to put pressure on them. They’re competitors. They understand what our fans expect every year and they know what they expect out of themselves. I expect great things this year.”