I’m going to be honest with ya’ll. I’ve been sitting on my computer, scrolling through various Yankees’ stat pages, for the past hour, and I haven’t a clue what to write about. It’s been long enough since the end of last season that trying to squeeze any more content out of 2016 is pointless—I’m pretty sure I’ve written about every player on New York’s 40-man roster several times over. At the same time, we’re still a month away from even spring training, so it’s too early to begin looking forward to next season in any detailed sense.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m out of ideas. There isn’t much more to write about the Yankees, and while I could blame my lack of creativity, I’ll instead shift my bitterness toward New York, where a hell of a lot of…nothing has been happening for several months now. Perhaps the worst part is that this isn’t a new feeling for us Yankees writers and fans: we were subjected to an even worse case of neglect last season.
While this winter certainly has been brutal, the Yankees went all of last offseason without signing a single free agent. We were somewhat rescued by trades for Aaron Hicks, Aroldis Chapman, Starlin Castro, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green, but the inaction was still suffocating. This season, Hal Steinbrenner thankfully decided to hold off building a twelfth yacht and instead sprung for Aroldis Chapman and Matt Holliday, but save for those two signings and the early-offseason trade of Brian McCann, the front office has been idle.
Yes, GM Brian Cashman is a prolific trader and nothing short of a straightjacket will stop him from continuing to swing deals in the future, but he’s been uncharacteristically quiet for months now and all of New York is suffering. The lack of transactions are made even more notable because of the Yankees’ current position in the league: they came into this offseason with glaring holes, and suitable fixes to these weaknesses on both the free agent and trade market.
Not lacking in resources (in trade chips and money), the Yankees should’ve been far more active this winter. The rebuilding argument could be made—that the Yankees aren’t going to make win-now moves yet because, well, they aren’t trying to win now—but after signing a closer in Aroldis Chapman to a record contract, nobody can logically say the Yankees aren’t expecting to contend as soon as next season.
With that in mind, the Yankees lack of action has become just as confounding as it does annoying. After two quiet offseason, especially for the large-market and notoriously open-pocketed club, one has to wonder if this is the new normal. And, along the same lines of thinking, if that’s such a bad thing. The Yankees have quite clearly been burned by larger free agent deals in the past, and after a massive spending spree prior to the 2014 season, the team has shied away from dishing out many large contracts. While Aroldis Chapman acts as the exception to that statement, he’s been the only expensive deal from the past two seasons, which is notable considering the Yankees’ track record.
Ownership has been very vocal about trying to get under the luxury cap and keeping their payroll light for…flexibility, which, as much as this grumpy writer hates to admit it, isn’t the worst idea in the world. Especially now, when the Yankees’ future is in flux. This does, again, make the Chapman signing a rather confusing outlier, but there’s also an interesting rationale that could be lying behind that deal, allowing the Yankees to toe the line between competing and rebuilding while still fielding an interesting team.
The Yankees could very easily completely turn on this quiet strategy and begin dishing out obnoxiously large deals when next offseason rolls around, once they’re more sure of their team’s young talent and the premium players available on the free agent market, but that’s hardly a given. So, for now, just as the Yankees are in an awkward (though enviable) spot, fans are also left in an uncomfortable (though far less enviable) position. We’ve been spoiled by active offseasons, and this change of pace is far from welcomed, but it’s impossible to tell if the lack of action is permanent or not, and whether that’s the right move.