Big Moves, Big Bucks, and the Big Elephant in the Room

Slowly but surely, we are seeing the New York Yankees going back to their big-spending roots, and as a fan, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Signing catcher Brian McCann was the best first step they could have made. Signing outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was another good step, despite the already-crowded outfield. Even signing the big-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran was a smart move, considering how badly they needed a big bat in the lineup.

But they need more. Our starting rotation is, well, not as great as it could be. CC Sabathia is still a fine pitcher, but he is in decline and his power numbers are nowhere near where they used to be. Ivan Nova has the potential to be a lights-out pitcher, but he is inconsistent in his starts. You do not know if you are getting a shutout game from him or a messy start. Lastly, we have Hiroki Kuroda who is a great pitcher, but his stumble during the latter half of last season is a bit concerning. And don’t even get me started on our bullpen. There are a few young pitchers in the minors who could be helpful, but they need more.

Who they need is Masahiro Tanaka.

The lights-out pitcher from Japan would be a great asset to the team, hoping of course that he would provide the high-caliber pitching he is known for. He could give the rotation the dominance they as a group have the potential to acquire. But this hype could be all for nothing if he is not posted.

And then, of course, there is the elephant in the room: the hard-hitting, polarizing, and always-embattled elephant, Alex Rodriguez. He is why the Yankees are in a bit of a limbo. You see, the Yankees are hellbent on not going over the $189 million luxury tax threshold (although I remain unconvinced that they will make that happen) and A-Rod’s salary is eating $25 million of it, not to mention he has some pretty sweet incentives on the table, too. It is hard for the Yankees to make any more moves unless they know if his suspension will be upheld. I personally do not think he will have to serve all 211 games, but it will be probably be near 75-100 games. Needless to say, I think the Yankees need to prepare to pay at least some of his salary.

A-Rod’s possible suspension is also hindering their need to sign infielders. After the fallout of an offer made to Omar Infante, it’s hard to see where the Yankees stand. If A-Rod is there for some of the season and stays healthy, they don’t need to go out and get a full-time third baseman. If he is gone for the whole season, that changes things because they will need a full-time player, who will want to be making a full-time salary. Would it be better if A-Rod is not in the line-up? Hard to say. It’ll be better financially if the Yankees want to stay under $189 million, but it is difficult to tell is his replacement would be a better hitter or fielder.

The other issue is Robinson Cano’s somewhat surprising departure. His bat and fielding kept the Yankees alive last season longer than expected. The Yankees, having learned from the whole A-Rod debacle, were not willing to offer ten-years on a player over 30, which makes sense. Could they have upped the financial ante? Totally, but they made it clear they were not going to wait around for Cano to make his choice. Signing Ellsbury so quickly might have pushed Cano away, but all that says to me is that he was looking for financial motive, not a lasting legacy. Now, the Yankees need a second-baseman to fill his spot, and that will not come easy or cheap.

The Yankees will have a good chunk of their players coming back from injury, such as Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, which will help a lot. They are slowly but surely filling in the holes in their line-up, but have a long way to go. Staying under the $189 million cap will be nearly impossible if A-Rod is suspended for the whole season and completely impossible to stay under the cap if he is not. Frankly, it was a hard to goal to begin with, but they need players more than they need to stay under the tax threshold. So, Yankees, get your checkbooks ready because you have some work to do.