The Yankees have taken a very passive approach to the offseason. They've watched as Jon Lester and Brandon McCarthy signed elsewhere and left the Winter Meetings empty-handed while other teams made a flurry of trades. The Yankees need to build up their rotation, no matter how they want to do it, so it now makes perfect sense for them to go all-in for Max Scherzer. The problem is that they might not even be able to:
At first glance, there's no way that this can be right. It's long been rumored that the Yankees have been quietly focusing their efforts on landing Scherzer since before Lester signed. However, when discussing missing out on McCarthy, Brian Cashman "figured the market would take him at a level that we couldn't play on," which should at least make you wonder what level that is exactly. The Yankees have always had the money to get the players they want, and even if they didn't really want McCarthy, it's very odd to hear that kind of talk coming from them. That's what you expect a small-market team to say when their homegrown ace signs elsewhere, not the New York Yankees discussing a mid-rotation starter. If 4/$48 million ended up being too much for McCarthy, what does that mean for Scherzer?
When everything is said and done, the former Cy Young winner is going to have a contract in the six-to-seven year range worth north of $180 million and could easily hit $200 million. That's a lot for anyone, but will it be too high of a level for the Yankees to play on? At this point the alternatives are James Shields and maybe a trade, but if they're also unwilling to give up any of their best prospects, it seems like the Yankees are resigned to a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia–all of whom have injury concerns–and basically no one else.
The Yankees have to upgrade their rotation, even if it's just to compete with the Red Sox and Blue Jays and all their moves this offseason. Does this mean that they'll let Scherzer go somewhere else or just that they won't compete for him against their terms? Either way, it means the Yankees will be bad, but the distinction is important if we're supposed to have any faith in this organization going forward.