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The Yankees' odd approach to free agency and homegrown players

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If only the Yankees would've been pro-active and locked up David Robertson and Robinson Cano before they both hit free agency during their primes.

We'll miss you D-Rob.
We'll miss you D-Rob.
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The past two seasons have seen the Yankees lose home grown stars David Robertson and Robinson Cano via free agency. Even more unfortunate, it appears from reports that the team really made no effort to bring either back. In the past there was an organizational urgency to re-sign homegrown players such as Rivera, Williams, Jeter and Posada, whereas now they assign a dollar value on the player and if they exceed it, the team walks away. In this article we’re going to look at a couple of homegrown players that have left and a couple of free agents that they’ve signed that were considered overpays.

Robinson Cano

The Yankees signed Cano as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2001 for a $100,000 signing bonus. It wasn’t until he reached Double-A Trenton in 2003 that he began to get prospect buzz throughout baseball as he appeared in the All-Star Futures Game. Cano was called up to the big leagues in 2005, where he took the starting second base job from Tony Womack, ending the season second in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. In just his second season in the big leagues, he was named an All-Star. From here Cano continued to ascend as not only the best second baseman in the game, but also one of the elite hitters. In 2008, the Yankees signed Cano to a four-year extension, worth $28 million including two team options worth an additional $27 million. In retrospect, the team should’ve made a much better contract offer in 2008, to lock up the budding superstar. In reality the Yankees offer was never competitive as they reportedly offered a seven-year pact, worth $175 million, while Seattle offered a 10-year contract worth $240 million.

David Robertson

Robertson was a Yankees draft success as he was drafted in round 17 of the 2006 draft, agreeing to a $200,000 signing bonus. Robertson flew through the system in 2007 as he jumped from Low-A Charleston all the way up to Double-A Trenton. Robertson received his first taste of the majors in 2008, while spending most of the season with Triple-A affiliate Scranton-Wilkes Barre. From the 2009 season on, Robertson became an important cog in manager Joe Girardi’s bullpen. After Mariano Rivera’s retirement, he took over the role of closer, where he continued his elite level performance. Sadly, at no point of his career did the Yankees make any effort to sign him long-term.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Nothing against Jacoby Ellsbury, but the Yankees came out of nowhere to sign him to a seven-year and $153 million contract and it’s been widely viewed as quite the overpay. After losing Robinson Cano to Seattle, the Yankees struck a deal with Ellsbury as it has been speculated that the Yankees didn’t want word of Cano’s defection to make them appear desperate and drive up market prices. To his credit, he’s known for defense, base stealing and having a solid batting average. His first season in pinstripes was successful as he had a 3.6 WAR, highest of all of the everyday Yankees players. Time will tell how this one works out.

Carlos Beltran

The Yankees signed Carlos Beltran last offseason and stretched to give him a three-year contract worth $45 million. Of the other teams looking at Beltran, only the Yankees and Royals appeared willing to give the third year. It already appears that the Yankees will regret this contract as Beltran lost significant time and effectiveness due to an elbow injury.

In closing, I don’t have a problem with the team not matching Robertson’s or Cano’s contracts. My issue is with the lack of proactivity in preventing them from getting to free agency to begin with. Spending time and money to acquire and develop talent, only to let them get to free agency in their prime and walk away seems like a waste. What will happen if the trio of Jacob Lindgren, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge make it and succeed in the Bronx? Will we relive the past two free agency periods again or will the Yankees have learned their lesson? Time will tell, but I’m hopeful that the Steinbrenners and the front office will catch up with the times and keep control of their building block players. There are a few reasons that the dynasty teams were so successful and one of them was not letting good homegrown stars go.