The Yankees Got What They Paid For (In A Good Way)


The headline before the other headline almost makes it seem like this was going to be a negative post. Understandable, given that nearly every article written about the team and money in the aftermath of the Detroit series has been some sarcastic take on the Yankees getting what they paid for. Pay Alex Rodriguez to sit on the bench. Pay CC Sabathia to blow up in an elimination game. Great investments! What other ridiculous headlines can we come up with?

Stop the sanity! Low-key Yankees have become boring

Over-indulged fans, high prices sucked life out of Yankee Stadium

Wake up the echoes: If Notre Dame can revive the ghosts, why can’t the Yankees?

Yankees, YES look to shake rust from tarnished brand

Three of those are actual headlines from various New York tabloids and one is my own attempt at being a headline monger. It's admittedly a poor attempt, but really, they all are. Not that they aren't effective, because they would probably go away if they weren't, but they're just poor in general. Now consider that someone gets paid to come up with these headlines and back pages. That is someone's job. Haha life.

No shameless, attention grabbing headline for the sake of it, though. The Yankees did get what they paid for this year; a really good team that won a lot of games and fell a series shy of playing for a championship. That, and usually more, is expected given the payroll, but 29 teams go home without a championship every year. The payroll advantage certainly gives them the inside track, and even still, there's no model guaranteed to work. The Yankees and their roster of highly-paid mashers end up in the same position as a Cardinals team lauded for their great organizational building and timely contributions from the Pete Kozmas and Daniel Descalsos of the world. While those things about the Cardinals are true, nothing is certain to get a team a title, no matter how they build.

Getting what you paid for is all a matter of how much value you put in something. Value is equally as subjective, especially in baseball, since there's no real consensus on what should be valued. Some teams will favor a player like Kozma based his contract and a few big hits in key moments. Others, probably in the majority, will favor an A-Rod based on him unquestionably being a better player, despite the contract.

Fangraphs does its best to attribute value, making one win by fWAR worth roughly four-point-five million dollars. Again, subjective all the way based on stock put into WAR, or even which church of WAR you belong to. It could be argued that despite some mid-season struggles, Yu Darvish and his 5.1 fWAR (~$22.9 million) has been worth over 40 percent of his six-year contract in year one. One could also harp on the exact opposite. It's all about perspective. Taken from the perspective of 'win as much as you can in the regular season and go from there', the Yankees more than returned the investment made in them.

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(Cot's Contracts and Fangraphs)

It isn't perfect by any means, but the value and differences with both hitters and pitchers is kind of baseball in a nutshell. There are great over-performers, great under-performers, players who can't live up to their contract even with a great season and players who more than live up to their deal despite a somewhat down year. There are role players having bounce back years on the cheap, bad players with bad years doing enough to justify what they make and everything in between. It's exactly how baseball works over the course of the year, and on a smaller scale, each and every day.

With A-Rod injured and failing to play up to an impossible contract, Cano stepped up and had a monster year, making up the difference. Without a highly valuable fielder in Brett Gardner, Ibanez, Ichiro and Jones (to a much lesser extent) kept things from being a complete mess. Soriano makes far more than a reliever ever should, but elite production from a Robertson and his moderate contract balances it out. Some of the individuals underwhelmed, but as a group, as a team, they were worth it. When one dropped, another stepped up in their place. And that's just from the guys who could play. Even with Mariano, Feliciano and Pineda unable to play (Mariano had eight innings, but still) and the team paying for A.J. Burnett to be elsewhere, the guys who did play regularly exceeded the overall payroll. No small feat when that payroll is over $200 million, even if that is what they're supposed to do.

Yes, there are players who are more than overpaid. Yes, they could probably stand to get younger overall to maximize the bang for their buck, so to speak. Younger doesn't necessarily better, though; in fact, it's usually the opposite. For as old and overpaid as they were, they did win 95 games and provide a surprising amount of value. If the expectation is a championship every year, things are bound to look like a failure more often than not. The way it ended wasn't pretty, but given the starting roster and everything that happened during the year, it's hard to be too disappointed with the team as a whole.

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