Major league baseball has officially changed the name of the disabled list to the injured list, and unfortunately, we have seen a heap of Yankees players testing out the new list sooner than anyone would desire. We knew from that outset that the team would be without Didi Gregorius until at least midseason, and some of us might have forgotten Jordan Montgomery would miss most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery. Considering the starting rotation’s performance down the stretch and the injury to Gregorius, the Yankees’ front office decided to import multiple players to cover the holes.
By the end of the offseason, the Yankees committed just about $300 million in total spending when combining re-signed players, contract extensions, free agent contracts, and increases in salary through arbitration. In other words, the team took on Manny Machado money.
Of course, Machado himself is what made this offseason unique in the first place. It’s rare to see even one of the top players in the majors available via free agency at the age of 26, let alone a second with Bryce Harper. Fans were calling for the acquisition of Harper or Machado, along with starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. The Yankees made the decision to go another direction, and with all the injuries that have occurred thus far, their strategy appears to have paid off in some ways.
Currently, ten Yankees are on the injured list, with an 11th likely heading there in Troy Tulowitzki. With $300 million, the Yankees were able to put themselves in a position to weather that injury storm, by strengthening not only the starting rotation, but the bullpen and lineup.
We will never know what exact budget the Steinbrenners gave to Brian Cashman, this year and going forward, but we do know where the current payroll stands. With the most recent signing of Gio Gonzalez, who still has the option to attempt to provide his services to another team if he so chooses, the Yankees’ payroll is estimated to be just under 227 million according to roster resource. Adding either Machado or Harper’s annual average salary would bring that number to about 257 million.
It’s no secret the Steinbrenner family could afford that amount if they wanted to, what with revenues exploding around the game. For better or worse, the reality is that they have chosen to put a seemingly firm cap on how much is spent on player payroll, evidenced by the team’s endeavors to stay under the luxury tax threshold last year, and its efforts to avoid the harshest luxury tax penalties this year.
This has led to an aversion to large contracts, and the signing of smaller ones, emphasizing financial flexibility in the future. Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton were both signed for no more than four years and both improve the bullpen. DJ LeMahieu has been brought in for two years, and the Yankees won the courting of Tulowitzki to cover infield depth. The Yankees traded for James Paxton and re-signed J.A. Happ, and do still have Gonzalez percolating in the minors. The addition of Machado or Harper, given the apparent budget set by the team, would have rendered multiple of these depth signings infeasible.
The beginning to the season has been brutal to an extent that no one could have foreseen, but the Yankees will still have every chance to survive a rough start, in part because they spread their resources around to augment multiple areas of the team. Even with Dellin Betances down, the bullpen is still excellent. Even with the unfortunate injury to Miguel Andujar, LeMahieu may be more than up to the task at the hot corner. Gonzalez may provide an interesting pitching option if either Luis Severino or CC Sabathia take longer than expected to return. In a perfect world, it would be tremendous to have either Harper or Machado propping up what has been an impotent lineup thus far, but given their self-imposed restraints, the Yankees’ offsesaon plan is already bearing fruit.