With a lockout looming, MLB’s hot stove has suddenly caught fire. We’ve seen an unprecedented streak of high-profile deals and signings, ranging from Max Scherzer to the Mets, to Robbie Ray to the Mariners, to Kevin Gausman to the Blue Jays. The most momentous move yet came down this afternoon, as the Rangers and Corey Seager agreed upon a 10-year, $325-million contract.
Up until now, the bevy of signings didn’t seem to mean that much from a Yankee perspective. Sure, it was concerning to see the club doing so little as the rest of the league whipped itself into a frenzy, but for the most part, the names that came off the board weren’t the Yankees’ rumored top targets. We all knew entering this offseason that Seager and Carlos Correa were the biggest prizes, and it became quickly apparent that Matt Olson was a top trade target for the Bombers. As long as those names stayed in play, the Yankees could still be in business.
That line of thinking just detonated on the spot. The Rangers have Seager, along with new second baseman Marcus Semien, swiping a prime piece right out from under the Yankees’ noses. The Yankees have been dealt a blow, and it’s fair to wonder at this point if they care enough to respond.
The Seager deal is massive, no doubt about it. At $325 million, it just eclipses Gerrit Cole’s deal as the second-largest free agent contract ever signed. It’s also just about in line with expectation. Earlier this month, MLB Trade Rumors forecasted $305 million across 10 years for the 28-year-old. Moreover, three seasons ago, Manny Machado managed to secure $300 million over the same term. Assume a four-percent inflation rate of salaries, and $300MM in 2018 is roughly equivalent to $335 million today. Basically, Seager got himself a pretty standard-issue mega deal, if such a thing exists.
That standard has proven to be too much for the Yankees to meet. As of now, the Yankees either must sign Correa (or perhaps one of the lesser shortstop options, Javier Báez and Trevor Story), or essentially admit that they did not feel much urgency to act this winter. Letting Correa follow Seager to a team outside the Bronx would leave the Yankees with a shallow pool of free agents, and trade targets like Olson and Luis Castillo, to choose from. Those options pale in comparison to what they could have done with the market’s top talents.
The Yankees are by no means doomed. There remains a long winter ahead of us, and they surely will acquire someone between now and Opening Day. Just as importantly, the team that they have on hand still has plenty of talent, with an enviable core of Cole and Aaron Judge at its foundation. It’s just that the team had obvious holes, and a perfect free agent market to address those holes. Instead of making the obvious move, they’ve stood pat.
We’ll need more time, perhaps the whole offseason, to get a full picture of what the Yankees’ plan here is. But with each passing day, it becomes more apparent that the plan may not be a good one. With luck, the Yankees will have an ace up their sleeve, a move they’ve yet to make, that will push the team over the top. At the moment, however, you couldn’t be blamed for assuming the Yankees have no plan other than to twiddle their thumbs.