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When the Yankees don't get their man

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The Yankees missed out on Yoan Moncada this week and they've missed out on free agents they've wanted before. The results haven't always been disastrous.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Yoan Moncada is with the Boston Red Sox. You know, in case you forgot. The Yankees' "heck of an offer" came up short, reportedly by around $7 million and they lost out on a player they desired, this time to their most heated rivals. Getting outbid or outplayed while chasing a free agent isn't something the Yankees have dealt with much over the past 25 years, but they haven't always come out on top. Here are a few players who they coveted and couldn't land and a look at how things worked out after.

Greg Maddux - 1992

The 1992-93 MLB free agent class was about as stacked as it gets, with names like Kirby Puckett, Barry Bonds and David Cone all up for grabs. The Yankees had just completed their first run of four straight losing seasons in franchise history and with suspended owner George Steinbrenner nearing reinstatement they were seeking to change that. They set their sights on the National League's 26-year-old reigning Cy Young winner, who'd wowed in '92 with a 2.18 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP over an outlandish 268 innings. Maddux would be just what was needed for a rotation that had been headlined by Melido Perez and Scott Sanderson.

But it wasn't meant to be. On December 9th, Maddux spurned the Yankees' five-year, $34 million offer for a deal worth $6 million less from the Atlanta Braves. The Bronx wasn't exactly a must-go destination at the time, and Maddux preferred to stay in the NL and join a ready-made winner. The Yankees responded a day later by signing Toronto lefty Jimmy Key, who proved to be an excellent choice, finishing in the top four in Cy Young voting in '93 and '94 and winning the decisive game six of the 1996 World Series - ironically enough by defeating Maddux.

How different would things have been if Maddux had taken the dough? While Key was sitting out most of the '95 season with shoulder surgery, Maddux was putting up one of the most dominant years of all time. If he'd done that in New York, the Yankees' dynasty might have started a year sooner. Buck Showalter instead of Joe Torre might be among the cast of thousands immortalized in Monument Park.

Roger Clemens - 1996

Roger Clemens was at a valley, not a peak when he reached free agency post-'96 at age 34. He wasn't actually on the downswing, of course - his 7.2 fWAR season was third best of any pitcher that year - but by mid-90's logic 10-13 won-loss record meant "D-O-N-E Done!" Even Boston GM Dan Duquette called the coming years the "twilight" of the Rocket's career. Nevertheless, Clemens had his suitors. As reigning World Champs, the Yankees didn't need him, but scooping up a lifelong Red Sox and a longtime Steinbrenner favorite had its appeal.

The Yankees offered Clemens four years and $32 million, but he chose a three-year, $24.75 million contract from Toronto instead (it did include a fourth year option that brought its value beyond the Yankees' deal) due to reprehension about living in New York. The Yankees, as they'd done after Maddux turned them down moved quickly to their next option, inking David Wells instead, who turned in two solid seasons that included five playoff wins and a perfect game. A couple of years later, it turned out that pitching for the Yankees had been Clemens' dream all along, and the two pitchers were traded for one another just before spring training opened in 1999.

Would one of the greatest teams of all time have been the same if it had included Clemens instead of Wells? Clemens won back-to-back Cy Youngs during his two seasons in Toronto but he never seemed completely comfortable in New York. His Yankee years were strong - he was worth 21.2 fWAR in five seasons - but they also paled in comparison to what he did everywhere else.

Daisuke Matsuzaka - 2006

In 2006, Daisuke Matsuzaka was the best pitcher in Japan and the apple of most MLB GMs' eye. When the gyro-ballin' righty was posted by the Seibu Lions in November, the Yankees were naturally interested. In those days, the process of bringing over a NPB player who hadn't yet reached free agency was a blind auction for a posting fee paid to the Japanese team followed by an exclusive negotiating rights period for the winning bidder. The Yankees entered a healthy bid, believed to be between $32 and $33 million, which would have easily been a record, but they misread just how far other teams were willing to go. New York finished third while the Red Sox came away victorious with a $51.1 million winning tender, nearly quadruple the previous high, paid by Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. Before Moncada, this may have been the last time Boston beat out the Yankees for a player both teams were chasing.

Getting denied the privilege of spending over $100 million total on Matsuzaka was a blessing in disguise for Brian Cashman and the Yankees. Dice-K was decent enough during his first two seasons in Boston, earning a combined fWAR of 7.2, even as he struggled to control his walk rate. Over the next four years, though, injuries and ineffectiveness turned a promising future into an epic flame-out as Matsuzaka made just 55 starts and never managed an ERA under 4.69.

Unfortunately, the Yankees channeled their frustration over not getting Matsuzaka into a winning bid on Kei Igawa, the next best Japanese pitcher available that off-season. Although he did it for half the price, Igawa made Matsuzaka's career seem legendary, posting a 6.66 ERA in 71.2 total innings in the majors while becoming AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre's all-time wins leader.

Cliff Lee - 2010

The Yankees whiffed on Cliff Lee not once, but twice in 2010. In July, they made the 2008 Cy Young winner, who'd stymied their high-priced offense in games one and five of the 2009 World Series a trade-deadline priority, offering top ten prospect Jesus Montero for what would have been a rental. The deal fell through when Seattle demanded Eduardo Nunez - yes that Eduardo Nunez - as a throw-in, rather than the supposedly injured David Adams. In a decision that cost the Yankees at least a trip to the 2010 Fall Classic - it was Lee, pitching for Texas, who blocked their path there - Cashman refused to pay the price.

Undeterred, the Yankees were after Lee again when the off-season rolled around, joining the Rangers and Phillies as the most aggressive bidders. Ignoring the fact that Lee was 32, the Yankees offered seven years and $154 million, but the lefty accepted two years and $30 mil less guaranteed from Philadelphia to return to the NL on a team he'd previously enjoyed.

Lee continued to be outstanding during his first three years back in Philly, but he made just 13 starts in 2014 and at 36, he's oft mentioned as a possible salary dump. If he'd taken the Yankees' offer, he'd be yet another aging player on their roster with three years left on his contract at over $20 mil per.

Jorge Soler - 2012

Among the Yankees free agent misses the one that mirrors the Moncada situation most closely is that of Jorge Soler. In the final months before MLB's current international spending cap system kicked in on July 2nd, 2012, Soler was a 20-year-old Cuban outfielder with imposing size and rare raw power. The Yankees, along with the White Sox and Braves made bids in the $25 million range (sound familiar?), but on June 30th, Soler chose the Cubs and their nine-year, $30 million offer.

In 183 minor league games, spread out between 2012 and 2014, Soler has hit .300/.375/.525 to go along with 29 home runs, and he added five more round-trippers in 96 plate appearances in the majors last year. Had the Yankees signed him, they'd now have a top-25 prospect banging on the door. With Soler, they might not have rushed to sign Carlos Beltran to play right field, and all their talk about getting younger would have a lot more juice. Not going the extra mile to close the deal seems regrettable now. Will we be saying the same about Moncada in two years?