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Why I’m not expecting much from Hal Steinbrenner

The owner recently agreed to a proposal which could lower the CBT threshold.

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New York Yankees Introduce Masahiro Tanaka

We’re in a new era, folks. I suppose that we have all sensed that for a while now, but it’s still disappointing to see it happening before our eyes. The last few days have brought Yankee fans a flurry of emotions. As fans have probably all have seen already, it’s been reported by Matthew Roberson of the New York Daily News that the Yankees prefer to not shell out the contracts that might be required to get free-agent shortstops Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. Just hours before that report, Evan Drellich and Lindsey Adler brought us other disappointing news.

This isn’t too shocking, but Hal Steinbrenner was a supporter in the owners’ offer to the MLB Players Association which would lower the CBT threshold. Steinbrenner is one of seven owners on Rob Manfred’s labor policy counsel, making his stance and influence on these discussions extremely important. While that group includes owners from other small and mid-market level teams, it is obvious that Steinbrenner’s influence reigns high up on the totem pole, given the Yankees’ status in the league.

In a perfect world, Steinbrenner would’ve had the Yankees’ competitive edge in mind throughout these negotiations — that means keeping the CBT and luxury tax where it stands right now (or in the CBA which is set to expire in December). However, it’s become apparent that Hal’s desires lie with the rest of the owners. In a world where the CBT threshold is lowered, the Yankees would lose the one thing which puts them above all others when it comes to player acquisition, and that’s their deep wallets.

In 2021, only the Dodgers went above the CBT threshold and had to dip into the luxury tax. If the threshold was lowered to $180 million, seven teams — including the Yankees — would have had to dip into the luxury tax as well. Given the Yankees’ and Steinbrenner’s actions in recent years, there is no reason to believe that this would not have a negative impact on the Yankees’ willingness to outspend other teams in free agency or acquire high salaried players via trade.

Moves such as acquiring Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole would almost certainly be less likely to happen. Could this be why their interest in Carlos Correa and Corey Seager isn’t burning hot? Well, not exactly. The players were not at all enthused about this proposed structure, for reasons I’ve already pointed out. It can’t be ruled out anyways though since it’s in the best interest of the owners, and evidently Steinbrenner, to keep all options open in the case that the MLBPA is willing to take concessions on the CBT/luxury tax to receive benefits elsewhere.

You may be thinking, is it not weird that there is a report from The Athletic about Hal Steinbrenner, but no other owner? To that I’d say if the owner of the biggest market in the sport comes out in favor of a proposal (perhaps even leading the charge) which would decrease his team’s competitive advantage, then you better believe that there is going to be a report about it. That’s especially true when said team has swung through hoops trying to avoid paying the luxury tax multiple times in recent seasons.

Again, we’re in a new era now. Hal Steinbrenner has made it clear to fans that winning is not the main priority. To me, this all started with passing up on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The odds are in favor that this team will also pass up on Corey Seager and Carlos Correa. I know, I sound spoiled. They signed a generational pitcher to a $300 million deal! That may be the case, but they still have avoided spending elsewhere because of it ... even when they are in a prime position to acquire some of the league’s best position players.

It’s about time that we change our expectations for the Yankees and their spending habits. I’m sure they’ll still sign and acquire great players, but in situations that seem like no-brainers, it might not actually be anymore. It’s not as simple as there being an obvious need and them signing the best free agent available anymore.