It's late 2007. The Yankees have developed a formidable lineup, one that features the MVP of the league, Alex Rodriguez, a 24 year old Robinson Cano, and an extremely productive core of Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter. After Alex Rodriguez was re-signed to a mammoth 10-year $275 million deal, and Posada reached his own new contract, the team still had a good amount of work to be done in the rotation. Chien-Ming Wang was the lone starter below a 4.00 ERA, but after allowing 12 runs in 6.0 innings during two ALDS starts, the Yankees were no longer confident in their ace. Mike Mussina and Kei Igawa were busts, and the team didn't want to hand a 45 year old Roger Clemens $20 million. Andy Pettitte was re-signed for the 2008 season, but the biggest starting pitcher free agent that year was Carlos Silva. The Yankees were in a desperate position where their only real shot-term answer in the rotation was to trade their top pitching prospects for Johan Santana. But the organization rolled the dice with their pitching prospects, thrusting a 22 year old Phil Hughes, a 23 year old Ian Kennedy, and 22 year old Joba Chamberlain into the rotation. They also played with a ton of depth, hoping to catch lightening in a bottle, between Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, Dan Giese, Carl Pavano, Igawa, and Alfredo Aceves. In the end, it didn't work. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since the strike in 1994.
What followed was a string of moves that looked like a poorly planned reactionary response to their awful season. The team signed CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and traded for Nick Swisher. In the end, the team admitted that this wasn't just luck that they landed in a strong 2008-2009 free agent class with so much money. The team gambled on Sabathia being their future left-handed ace, and knew that the they could replenish other needs with all the money coming off the books. The risk of putting so many young players on the field in 2008 didn't work out, but it certainly paid off the following season. Obviously the team would go on to win the 2009 World Series, and then reach the playoffs for three more years before this dreadful 2013 season.
I remember a few times, reading NY beat writers say that the Yankees would not pull a 2008-2009 spending spree this offseason. In fact, I might have said it myself a few times. Even if the club had some money to spend, the Alex Rodriguez situation would prevent them from striking early. On top of that, they wouldn't have enough money to re-sign Cano and add other pieces due to the constrictive budget. After the Brian McCann signing, I feel quite different.
The team needs a starting pitcher, and the team needs a second baseman, but they didn't need a catcher. The backstop position was probably the area where they had the most depth. If the organization was going to roll out another team where they would again roll the dice with young players, the group of Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli, and J.R. Murphy could have worked. Would it have been good enough for a "championship caliber team"? That's doubtful, but someone out of that group would have been an upgrade over the mess that was Chris Stewart. The move to sign Brian McCann so early this offseason not only proves that the organization wants to return to the playoffs immediately, but that the budget is indeed secondary. This was not luck running into so many free agents with so much money to spend, it was the plan all along.
Like when the Yankees rolled out Rasner and Ponson for 35 games in 2008, the team rolled out Stewart and Romine behind the plate in 2013. Like when the Yankees gambled that Sabathia would be waiting in the 2008 offseason, it looks like the team made that same gamble with McCann this winter. He's a perfect fit, a left-handed slugger, a pitch framing expert, and a guy with a ton of positive experience catching young and inexperienced pitchers.
Though the team could still fly under the $189 million budget, the organization has taken a risk. If Rodriguez is suspended, the budget is doable, but if he's not, well, who cares, they're the Yankees. But it looks like the team will indeed go all out. This signing was a confirmation that they aren't just blindly trying to get below the $189 million luxury tax threshold, but that there is indeed a plan. The 2013 season really was a bummer, but perhaps it'll all be worth it for the spending spree that the organization is about to go on. If it is indeed history repeating itself, fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.