Friday, November 9, 2012

When Your Greatest Strength Becomes Your Greatest Weakness

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

There's been nothing major to come out of the first 2 days of the GM meetings this week, and I highly doubt anything major will come out of today's final day, which is not surprising at all.  These meetings are just the precursor to the bigger meetings in December.  What is a bit surprising is how open the Yankees have been in regards to what they will and won't do this offseason as part of their planned 2014 payroll cut.  Joel Sherman reported yesterday that they would not be willing to offer Torii Hunter more than a 1-year deal, and that despite Justin Upton being back on the trade block and reportedly removing New York from his no-trade list, "the Yankees are not on him."  I'm all for trying to avoid the luxury tax penalty in 2014, but I can't help but think that the Yankees are tipping their hand a little early here and setting themselves up for future problems as they go about filling out their roster for the next couple seasons.

Brien Jackson of IIATMS touched on this a bit yesterday in a post on the same topic, saying:

"This... is a good illustration of why the Yankees’ financial resources and ability to compete for any free agent is a huge part of their success, as you just can’t make a good minor league pipeline simply on wishes, and another good example of why the Steinbrenners decision to take that advantage away from their franchise is so absurd from a competitive standpoint."

I'm not even going to try to sum up the situation better than that, but it was that point by Brien that got me thinking.  Sure, there is the chance that this is another classic Yankee smokescreen to throw everybody off of their true plans.  But for as long as we've been hearing about the austerity plan for 2014, I believe this is something the Yankees are going to stick with and I think their open declaration of that in the face of every report connecting them to a player is going to end up working to their disadvantage.

As Brien said, the Yankees' biggest competitive advantage is their tremendous bankroll.  They don't have the top-flight farm system that other teams do, which makes it more difficult for them to promote players internally to positions on their everyday roster and to be as aggressive in the trade market as they could be.  Their issues with starting pitching development are well-documented, and they've had much more success recently using their deep pockets to address their rotation needs than their own farm system.  The players they've lost this season have to be replaced somehow, and that is going to cost money one way or the other.  To set limits on what they will or won't spend handcuffs their ability to find the best players or the player who's the best fit for their team, and robs them of their greatest strength when it comes to building a winning team.  They run the risk of players, like Hunter, who may have wanted to come to New York instead looking elsewhere if they feel their earning potential is higher with other teams willing to be more flexible in their spending.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to save some money, and I do believe that getting below $189 million in 2014 is a worthwhile goal.  And yes, more than a 1-year deal for Torii Hunter is probably not a wise move.  But as Brien said, if getting below the luxury tax outweighs the chance to bring in a 25-year-old All Star outfielder who would slide into the position most needing to be filled in the lineup, that just doesn't make sense.  Even if the Yankees don't have the prospects that other teams do, that shouldn't prevent them from being in on Upton.  If this is how their offseason plan is going to continue, I worry that players and other teams will use it against them to rob the Yankees of players that could have helped both the winning and the payroll plans.

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