Busting The Budget In The Bronx

Jacoby Ellsbury is taking his talents to the Bronx in 2014. (Getty Images)

Jacoby Ellsbury is taking his talents to the Bronx in 2014. (Getty Images)

So. Busy day.

The New York Yankees, in a thorough repudiation of the “Plan 189” they’ve had everyone in the local media — as well as everyone even slightly covering them — sold on for about nine months now, have just signed former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7-year, $153 million contract. There’s a reason you don’t believe anything that comes out of the front door of that organization when it comes to money, and it has a lot to do with how Bubba Crosby wasn’t ever really anyone’s center fielder.

First, the dirty biographicals: the Yankees now have Ellsbury, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, and Ichiro Suzuki under contract next season for a combined $35.75 million, plus whatever Brett Gardner makes in arbitration. If one of these pieces is moving for help somewhere besides the outfield, DH, or DL, it’s going to be Gardner, because Gardner’s the only guy in that quintet with any value left to anyone. But he’s also the best center fielder of the lot – yes, including Ellsbury – and quite frankly, he’s the best all-around player the Yankees have for those three spots in the field in 2014. It’s understandable that the Yankees don’t want to just hand the starting center field job to a guy who only had 37 PA in 2012, but Jacoby Ellsbury is hardly a vast upgrade in durability – he played 74 games in 2012, and 18 games in 2010. And only one of these two guys is in line to make over $21 million for the next seven years.

So Soriano and Wells have some sort of platoon or rotation through the left field and designated hitter spot, with Gardner picking up starts in left, in center, and probably even at DH like he did last year. This has to happen because Ichiro Suzuki is the only one of these five gentlemen capable of faking the arm for right field. Put Vernon Wells there and see what happens if you’ve got a hankering for it, but that’s what the Yankees are looking at: three guys for one outfield spot and a DH, unless they trade one of those old left fielders off and eat the rest of the money. That’s how Ellsbury affects the current roster, assuming he manages to play every day. Silly, but not the end of the world.

But there’s going to be a lot of financial breakdowns over the next few days about just how thoroughly this shatters one of three things:

  1. The Yankees’ plan to spend less than $189 million dollars in current year salary in 2014 so as to fit under the luxury tax;
  2. The Yankees’ ability to re-sign superstar second baseman Robinson Cano;
  3. The Yankees’ attempt to even pretend that they’re not spending Alex Rodriguez’s salary before it’s off the books.

The only way a reasonable organization would spend Rodriguez’s salary at this juncture – more than a month away from the independent arbitrator’s judgment on his appeal – is if they either don’t care if he is later reinstated and they’re taken over the luxury tax threshold, which gets us back to torpedoing Plan 189, or if they’re already stone-cold certain the arbitrator is going to uphold Rodriguez’s suspension.

One is forced to conclude that a reasonable organization would see that earmarking that money in the budget for another player before the end of the appeals process would be take the appearance of collusion between the Yankees and MLB on the matter straight past “clear” and into the realm of “grandstanding,” so we’ll assume that’s not what they’re doing.

Likewise, there’s no reasonable way to conclude that the Yankees are out on Cano. The fact that the Yankees say they aren’t out on Cano is irrelevant – nothing that comes out of the front office can be trusted, something that needs reinforcing every couple years. The reason New York is still chasing the best free agent on the market (besides the very fact that he’s the best free agent on the market) is that the Yankees aren’t about to break the bank for a center fielder and then let the best second baseman in the history of their franchise walk, because that’s even crazier than openly colluding with the league to keep Rodriguez suspended while a federal court case looms.

Since neither of these two alternatives makes any lick of sense, we can only conclude that the Yankees have torpedoed their self-imposed budget for the various petty reasons Yankees ownership has always – always – torpedoed these self-imposed budgets: they want to win and they can’t help themselves.

That’s fine. That’s good, even. The Yankees are saving a number of other teams, the Seattle Mariners foremost among them, from themselves with the Ellsbury contract. This is the role they’re supposed to serve. And yes, it’ll work out for a couple years – these contracts almost always do – and then there will be another protracted round of belt-tightening and posturing and muttering in the local rags bemoaning that slacker Ellsbury weighing the Yankees down and stopping them from making moves.

And then they’ll sign Delino DeShields, Jr., to a $200 million contract. Welcome back the Yankees. This is what they do.

39 thoughts on “Busting The Budget In The Bronx

    • Ellsbury is very overrated. He has no arm. UZR of 13 is lower than leader at uzr20. In August he had only 35 RBIs as he never drives in runs. He freezes with men on base and rarely gets ball out of infield. Any fly balls always go to center field so he will not hit any homers into RF porch as he has a perfect swing so all his singles are thru the pitcher’s legs. He usually grounds out to first and second most of the time. He is Asian so has fragile bones. He is not worth $22 million a year for 7 more years. Yikes. Yanks are insane. Vernon Wells???Gardner is their only decent player unless Cano does return.

      • Um…..Jacoby is Native American…. but you knew that. Especially since his swing is so “perfect” that he can only hit singles through the pitcher’s legs…

    • And this is why baseball remains a joke amongst true sport fans. The league remains decidedly uninteresting in the fact that only a handful of teams are permitted to compete for the best players due to economic disparity. Until you level the playing field (ala the NFL) and ensure that all teams have an equal chance (not just the Yankees and Red Sox) then average fans such as myself will turn away. Besides, how anyone can root for teams that year in and year out are composed of nothing but high priced mercenaries is beyond me.

      • Ray B – you got one thing right. You sound average. Average intelligence, average job, average house. Thanks for breaking the news that true sports fans think baseball is a joke. I’ll be sure to relay that to all the millions of devoted baseball fans.

      • dumbest thing I’ve heard all day..not even 5 years ago the Rays with one of the lowest payrolls were playing in the WS…baseball is no longer a sport where the team with the most money to spend wins…obviously you don’t have a clue about “moneyball”…recruiting young, cheaper talent, to be able to compete with old fading talent…the yankees were in the top 3 highest payrolls and didn’t even make the playoffs..IDIOT!!!

  1. Why to so many of you idiots write columns like this when you know nothing you are saying is true? Obviously this is not what is even going to happen. Winter meeting are not even here yet and yankees are already getting players. The outfield will not end up with soriano, Wells or ichiro in the outfield(at least at the start of the season). So stop pretending you think this is accurate information you’re writing and list the truth. Only thing I agree with you about is Gardner is better in the field than jacoby. Give me a break!

    • Ah, a savant! OK, jack, who in their right mind takes on Ichiro, Wells or Soriano? Name a single team that would want any of them on their ability alone, never mind their ridiculous contracts.

      • Ichiro would be the hardest to move, but wells costs nothing as the Angels have picked up the tab, and Soriano I think has some value when you look at the season he had last year, but hopefully he can have a decent year and stick with us and we can move wells…have gardner, ellsbury, and soriano with ichiro as backup..and yes i know wells costs us nothing to keep, but we also get nothing from him except losing a spot on our 40-man roster

  2. This reads like more drivel from a Yankee-hater. As a Yankee fan, I see that I know more about the Yankee situation that the author of this piece. You have sacrificed accuracy for the sake of speed. The current plan is Gardner in left, Ellsbury in center, and Soriano in right. Both Wells and Suzuki will be lucky to make the team. Also, it has been common knowledge that the Yankees plan to spend as if all of A-Rod’s money is off the payroll and to exceed 189 million if his salary ends up counting. They are emphasizing winning over savings.

    • It’s a good thing for the anonymous expertise of Al, or we might never know what the Yankees are going to do. I personally think he’s right…they’re going to cut Wells and Ichiro and just eat those salaries because y’know, that’s good business. They won’t make the team.

      I could have agreed with most of what you were saying as the plan makes sense overall (except I’d switch Ellsbury and Gardner, but that’s just me). The whole common knowledge thing…yeah, it’s common knowledge because AL HAS SHOWN US THE LIGHT. ALL HAIL AL.

      I’m no expert either, and I’m not a Yankees fan (I’m a Jays fan), but come on….don’t be a pretentious ass, and don’t act like you have some sort of divine knowledge. You don’t.

  3. Blah blah blah. They are still way under the $189 figure. Rodriguez isn’t coming back. Do your research before you pop off

    • After this last season, I think they could care less if they are at 250 million. They are going to buy whomever they choose, just because they can, and they have billions to do it with. And nothing else has to be said, as they have already shown me where they are headed, to a star studded new team, no more old jokers, and just home run or strike out hitters like Granderson whom never did really anything for NYY baseball. They are going with speed, OBP and some average power, to make a complex team with several options, that is why they will probably get Choo instead of a Beltran type and we have not even started talking about pitching, this is going to be a banner year in their activity, they have thrown the gauntlet down. No 189 million, that is history and they will sign Cano. Period.

  4. Wells isn’t even a factor here. They’ll release him in spring training. He’s done, gassed, way past gone (and most of the money owed to him has already been picked up by the Angels). As for Suzuki, they will bend over backwards to keep him on the roster – not only because he’s due $6M, but he’s a viable fielder and still manages to pull off the occasional big hit. Soriano will be the regular DH. (What that means for Jeter is tbd.)

    Ellsbury is not that bad a signing when you consider he’s 30. If the last two years of his deal are losses (value-wise), by then the Yanks will have cleared all the other big contracts that currently agitate the sportswriting community. In other words, it won’t be an albatross, just a cost of doing business.

    By the way, it’s not like they paid Ellsbury 200M. Now what happens if they pay Cano that? Will professional writers suggest the Yankees were fleeced? Either way the Yanks are open to criticism with Cano.

    • They’ll pay him tree fitty. Cano sucks. Boo Cano. Guy can’t even hit. He a bum, man. He a bum.

      (Cue Yankee fan indignance and rhetoric in 5…4…3…2…)

      • Hey Adam, I’m a Sox fan and your a Jays fan…lets pretend its still 1991 going into ’92. We havent won those 5 Worlds Seriouses combined yet and that Evil Empire still sucks! Btw, I think I can score a good deal on greenies at my local Pilot/Flying J, that is if Browns owner Jimmy Haslam hasnt been indicted or forced to sell. Am going to need to stay up late again venting spleen on that ‘relative morality-all drugs are PEDs’ crowd! We shouldnt be allowed to have this much fun…speaking of which, I am thinking about starting a blog fantasy league along the lines of MMA/UFC. Wonder if Tomas Rios would be the commish?:)

    • I agree with you. Wells is deff not a factor anymore , he didn’t even do that well for the yankees this season. I really think they should keep Ichiro , well because he can still run for his age and can still hit. Cano wanting 300 million 10 years , that’s just bull crap. Who knows if he’s even going to be good when he’s 35 , I think he should just settle for a 7 year deal like the yankees want. Cano just wants money. Again , I have a question. Where the heck will cano go if he doesn’t stay with the yankees? He will have to stay on the yanks on yankees terms.

  5. Could this writer be any more arrogant or condescending? Sounds like a bitter fan of another team. Yes! The Yankees have their money. No, they are not staying below 189 million, because after an 87 win season, and a reminder they are expected to win that division every single year, they realized they need to patch the holes and they have the money. Rodriquez contract, (The rest of it) should be settled as a fraudulent deal by Rodriquez and dumped and he should be banned from Baseball, and as far as Cano, they will sign him for 200 million, probably for 8 years.
    The Yankees also yesterday made a move for a 2nd baseman, by the way, that hit 22 home runs last year. Not too shabby, and that is a back up if Cano goes south.
    I mean, where else is Cano going to go, he does not want to be on the West Coast, Boston Has Pedroia, and he is stuck, he will get his 200 million after he stops crying about 300 million and he deserves it.
    Now my concern is for 3rd and I think they can go for just defense in that position, and there are many, many players that they either have or can get for that position.
    Your article is ridiculous. You sound like a bitter baby.

  6. hey cashman we need pitching pitching go get paul maholm . matt Garza. barry zito or ulberto jimenez.period and you see the diffrents.

  7. I clicked on this because I wanted to see what people were saying about the Ellsbury deal. Then I saw who the writer was and didn’t even read it. Let me know when Will Lietch has something to say, then I’ll come back and actually read it.

  8. One of two things, you really, really, really hate the Yankees or you wrote that DREK to see how many replies you could get. You got my reply, score one for you.

  9. Yankees will regret this signing three or four years from now. It’s one to over pay and another to give 7 years deal to players in their 30s.

    • Ellsbury would score at a remarkably high rate, leading off with walks and singles, steal second and score runs without a base hit to bring him in, bunt and sac fly. Putting high pressure on the opposing starting pitcher, many times right from the beginning. Him and Gardy in the line up, perhaps back to back (although you want to separate lefties in the batting order), watch out. speed kills!!

  10. Best second baseman in Yankees history? Wow. Rings in October are the only thing that counts:
    Jerry Coleman, 1949-57–4 World Series rings
    Bobby Richardson, 1955-66–7 Pennants and 3 World Series rings
    Tony Lazzeri, 1926-37–6 Pennants and 5 World Series rings, plus 7 seasons of 100 plus RBIS.

    I love Robbie, but he’s a malingerer. And his choice in agents shows that it ain’t about baseball for him. It’s about dollars. Nice knowing you. Hope you like Seattle.

  11. Year 1, Jacoby plays 110games.
    Year 2 Jacoby plays 35 games
    Year 3 Jacoby plays 100 games
    Year 4 Jacoby doesn’t play – season ending injury in spring.
    Year 5 Jacoby plays 75 games
    Year 6 Jacoby plays 100 games
    Year 7 Jacoby plays 15 games
    Yankees extend J to 8th season – only to find out he’s already retired in Year 6.

  12. kuroda on one year deal go get to other starters I mean two starters nova is not even a number two starter is fifth starter maybe sent him to the bullpen he gives a lot of homeruns period theres a lot of starters like Garza .ubaldo.malhom. halladay. Santana. johan Santana .come on cashman be real also need a closer. I think tanaka wont be ready this year maybe Steinbrenner wont let this past they need advise if is was alive.

  13. Some of you ny fans are just too precious. That article is fair enough. Yankees have money, can spend it, will spend it, deal with it. Even if they pay 200M+ for Cano and have another year paying luxury tax, maybe in 2015 they will go under 189M, or not.
    What matters is not sitting around twidling thumbs in October…

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  15. “…the Yankees have torpedoed their self-imposed budget for the various petty reasons Yankees ownership has always – always – torpedoed these self-imposed budgets: they want to win and they can’t help themselves.

    I’d expect this kind of analysis from a ‘talking-out-of-his-butt’ fan, not a sportswriter. The Yankees spend the money b/c when they miss the post season their revenues take a drastic hit. Ticket revenue went down aprox. $60m in the Bronx btwn ’12 and ’13. (Viewership was also down significantly.) A third place finish has become unacceptable to a spoiled fanbase which has no recollection of what it was to root for the 1965-1975, 1979-1992 versions of the Yankees, and thus ownership has to feed the hungry beast. Is it the right approach? Probably not. But I’d rather root for a team that spends wildly than a thrifty one.

  16. I’d like to offer what I call (OIO) one idiots opinion. I have been a Yankee fan since 1947. I grew up in the South Bronx and played High School baseball on the site of the current Stadium. I also spent several years as a TV sports anchor. While none of the above qualifies me as an expert, it does give me a little different perspective. Deals are made for only ONE reason, in hopes that it will lead to a championship. Instead of castigating New York or Seattle for their seeming fiscal frivolity let’s wait a couple of seasons and re-evaluate the transactions. If I were Seattle I’d bring back fan favorite Ichiro. It would help fill the seats. While is not the player he once was, he’s still as good as anyone they currently have in their outfield.