The Yankees are apparently more inclined to make a big splash among the marquee free agents of the class of 2013 than was initially believed. Of course that could all just be posturing, and the specter of the luxury tax threshold and some recent long-term contract mistakes damper the excitement of the Yankees jumping into that pool. But back in the groovy days of the 1970's money was no object to George Steinbrenner, who took full advantage of the advent of free agency to throw a boatload of American currency at Catfish Hunter. He would look to do the same thing when the premier slugger of his age, Reggie Jackson, became free of his original contract in 1976. While his team was already the reigning American League Champion, an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series had "The Boss" looking to give the lineup more pop.
Not surprisingly, even before the superstar slugger hit the market Jackson was causing a stir regarding his future. When it became clear that A's owner and legendary skinflint Charles Finley had zero interest of giving Jackson a raise after the '76 season, Jackson threatened to sit out the entire year. Rather than deal with the headache, Jackson was shipped off to the Baltimore Orioles for the season. He had a typical season for himself, hitting 25 homers and leading the league in slugging. He would go into the offseason as the crown jewel of the free agency class, with 281 career homers and an OPS+ of 150.
Jackson would have no shortage of suitors as teams showed zero concern for his bombastic personality while coveting his legendary power. The Los Angeles Dodgers, in a move they would come to regret, made no play for Jackson in spite of supposedly being Jackson's preferred landing spot. The San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos both made Jackson offers in excess of 3 million dollars. The Yankees, meanwhile, never made an offer that topped either of those proposals. But Steinbrenner wined and dined Reggie and convinced him that the bright lights of New York City would be much more befitting the veteran. So in what would be a rarity throughout the history of free agency, the Yankees signed a superstar at a discount as Jackson agreed to a five year deal for three million.
Jackson, of course, would prove to be well worth the money. He was the perfect cleanup hitter for the Yankees talented lineup, and he helped the team to win two championships and three pennants over the life of his deal. He sported a fearsome .281/.371/.526 slash with 144 home runs in five seasons. This is to say nothing of his impressive postseason exploits which earned him one of the most famous monikers in all of sports history. Needless to say, it's highly unlikely that a new acquisition of Mr. October's caliber is available to the Yankees this year. But that won't necessarily stop the Yankees for overpaying one like they are.
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