So we have now learned that the Yankees may not have even made an offer to Patrick Corbin. This is reported by Pinstripe Alley among others:
This makes me wonder what the Yankees are doing or thinking.
The Yankees need a starting pitcher. There was a quality young left-handed starting pitcher out there. This pitcher was coveted by numerous teams hoping to compete for a pennant in 2019. The Yankees were said to be in this mix. This pitcher was said to be a difference maker…
When Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals, word initially leaked that the Yankees were just out-bid in years and dollars (which for a team with the Yankees wealth and “desire” to win is frustrating enough).
But now it seems that the Yankees may not have even made an offer to the player.
We always hear of the Yankees' interest in building a championship team. This desire to win is now tempered with the caveat that the team has to stay within a very strict budget. For the last many years we have heard about the luxury tax being this giant thing that prevented the Yankees from acquiring certain talent. “We need to get under the tax,” the Yankees said again and again. But with that came this hope, maybe even seen by some as a promise, that once the team finally got under the luxury tax, and reset it, that they would once again spend to acquire the necessary talent to win.
And now we see reports that they may not have even made an offer to the best free agent pitcher available this off season.
Until recently, when we started hearing about the luxury tax, and except for the years when CBS owned the Yankees in the late 1960's and early 1970's, the Yankees motto (at least since the 1920’s) has always been to acquire the best necessary talent in order to win. Within this, everyone knew that winning wasn't guaranteed, but the fans also knew that the Yankees were willing to spend from their vast wealth to build and sustain championships. There was always the sense that the effort and the resources would be there from the franchise. Part of being a Yankees fan is this expectation that the Yankees will do whatever it takes financially to build a championship team.
That is, until the last few years when we, as fans, were told to care more about the taxes the team paid than in watching them acquire the best players who were available. The Yankees, we were told, need to watch their spending. They can’t afford to pay too many players after all.
An important note must be made here - According to Forbes, the Yankees are baseball's most valuable franchise (with a value of $4,000,000,000.00) ranking as the fifth most valuable sports franchise in the world. The next most valuable baseball franchise in the world, the Los Angeles Dodgers, rank 14th overall and have a value of $3,000,000,000.00. (I put the zeros in the numbers because they help to tell the complete story. We are talking a ton of money. The Yankees franchise has a net worth that is one billion dollars more than the Dodgers. A billion dollars. Billion. In addition, according to today’s “Live Chat” on River Ave Blues, the Yankees revenue a few years ago was reported at $560,000,000.00.)
There have always been times when the Yankees have been out-bid on players, even in their most wildly spending years. But, until this new austerity period, the Yankees were at least always players in the free agent game. There was the sense that they were trying.
It looks now like the Yankees aren't even really playing in the game.
If they didn't make Patrick Corbin an offer, I think they need to explain the reasoning to their fan base. I think the fans need to hear the reasons and the truth. The fans need to know why (if the reports are correct) the Yankees didn't even make an offer.
The Yankee fan base also needs to hear the truth from ownership. Are they interested in being aggressive in the free agent market or aren't they? If not, the fans need to be told why not.
As a Yankee fan, I'd like to know why the Yankees feel the need to be so thrifty. We all know that premier talent is going to cost a lot.
Also remember, the Yankees, baseball's most wealthy franchise, asks their fan base to spend exorbitant prices for everything related to their team. (According to this article, from CBS in 2016, which is well within this new austerity period, Yankee Stadium ranks as one of the most expensive places to watch a baseball game.)
The Yankees love to sell their fans on their great history - a history, from Babe Ruth on that has included, as a major component of their success, acquiring big name talent.
Except for the CBS years, this was always part of the Yankee image and the Yankee lure. Yankee fans (spoiled as they may be) are sold and have been brought up on this image and idea. "We are the most successful franchise." "We are the team that cares the most about winning." "We are the team that acquires the greatest talent." "The best baseball players come through the Bronx." Yankees fans are told that this is what the franchise is and what it represents. Much of that $4,000,000,000 franchise worth comes from perpetuating this image. It is this approach that made many current Yankees fans... fans.
It seemed that the Yankees' bottom line was always about spending whatever was necessary to build a winning team year-in-and-year-out until about 2014 when the fans started hearing about how much the luxury tax was hurting the team - a team that, according to Forbes, is worth $1,000,000,000.00 more than the next most valuable baseball franchise. Let's just ponder on that for a moment. A team that is worth a billion dollars more than the next most valuable baseball franchise, who built their reputation and success primarily on being the big spenders, and sells that imagine on a daily basis to their fans, started saying, "We need to hold the line on costs - even at the expense of winning championships.”
The fifth most valuable sports franchise in the world, had been telling its fans year-after-year that it needs to watch it's costs, while asking those same fans to pony up more and more of their own money to support the team. It’s an interesting dynamic.
These are now the poverty stricken Yankees, or so it seems. And the fans, during all this time have stood patiently by - all the while looking with great anticipation to the 2018-19 off season when the Yankees would presumably become The Yankees again.
Now it seems that these Yankees might be so financially strapped that they didn’t even make an offer to the pitcher that by all accounts they need and by all accounts was the best free agent pitcher on the market - a pitcher that many think will be a difference maker.
The next few weeks are going to teach the fans of this franchise a great deal. We are going to see if the Yankees care more about winning or controlling costs. If the Yankees pass up this opportunity to acquire the likes of Bryce Harper or (and) Manny Machado, if they don't improve their starting rotation, if they continue to build the team on the hopes that they can field a winning team while not spending big, we will know that the bottom line for the Yankees of today is the financial bottom line of the owners and not the quest for championships.
If the Yankees want to try to win, while trying to pretend they are a mid-market team, that is their prerogative. But if they do that, they might wish to also advertise that fact to the fans. If the Yankees want to play like a smaller market-like team, then they should go all the way and also price the tickets and concessions like those teams as well. If this becomes the case, the Yankees should also stop advertising about the 27 World Championships claiming that the current Yankees are part of that tradition. They wouldn't be. All of that winning came when the Yankees operated with a different approach (paying for the top players, or acquiring the top players from poorer franchises that couldn't or wouldn't pay them).
The Yankees like to talk a good game about their history and all their championships. This might be the new post-championship era. If the new thrifty Yankees wish to honor their history, there are other ways than by propping up Ruth and Reggie and the rest. That might be a different business model than the one the team is currently projecting.
Maybe in 2019, the Yankees can all celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 team. (They were a 5th place team that went 80-81.) Or maybe this is the year to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the 1909 Highlanders. That team went 76-75 and also finished in fifth place.
Maybe the Yankees would even like to adopt the old Highlanders uniforms as sort of a retro look. "They didn't spend big and neither will we." In that era, the Red Sox were also the best team in the American League, this could really work!
Or, the Yankees could start to remember that their financial might is the thing that can (and often does) set them apart. The Yankees could once again be The Yankees - the Evil Empire, the team that focuses on acquiring the best talent - always.
Harper and Machado are out there. Corey Kluber is supposedly available. The Yankees talent window is open now. Their best chance for success is now. Will they build on the core they have now? Are the Yankees all about winning?
It'll be interesting how this all plays out...