The hungry Yankees of old are back
The New York Yankees want to be good soldiers. The Yankees want to fit into baseball's economic scenery. They even spent the past four years pruning their payroll with the idea that they would finally get below the cutoff for baseball's luxury tax.
But the Bombers can't help themselves. More than anything, the Yankees want to win. And when they don't win -- well, the Yanks are going to make their presence felt.
The Yankees have made their point this offseason.
As if it wasn't hard enough for the Yanks to swallow missing the postseason for the second time in 19 seasons, they soon saw the evolving face of their franchise, Robinson Cano, take a free-agent path out of town, as Seattle outbid New York.
The Yankees didn't whine. They didn't sulk.
The Yankees answered loud and clear, and never was the message louder or clearer than earlier this week when Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million deal, which includes his right to opt out after four seasons. And that's after the Yanks also signed three other big free agents in catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. It has been a $465 million spending spree this offseason.
Oh, and don't think there wasn't a little added joy over outbidding the Los Angeles Dodgers -- the game's latest big spenders -- for Tanaka, or being able to lure Ellsbury away from archrival Boston.
Surprised? Don't be. The Yankees have high expectations, and they will pay the price. This offseason is reminiscent of five years ago.
In the aftermath of a third-place finish in the American League East in 2008, the only other time the Yankees missed the postseason in the last 19 years, the Yanks hit the free-agent market hard, investing $423.5 million in contracts that included pitchers A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, outfielder Nick Swisher and first baseman Mark Teixeira.
In October 2009, the Yankees celebrated the 27th World Series championship in franchise history.
The Yankees took a more conservative approach during the next four years. Yes, they still had holes to fill. It's hard to get too much help from a farm system in which the top prospects are consistently dealt for proven talent. And don't overlook the fact New York has lost numerous first-round Draft choices as compensation for signing free agents, which takes a toll that can't be placed on scouting and player development.
In that four-year period, the Yanks didn't give any free agent more than a two-year deal. A year ago, their big additions were free agents Lyle Overbay (one year, $1.25 million) and Travis Hafner (one-year, $2 million), along with Vernon Wells, acquired in a deal with the Angels, who were so anxious to move him that they agreed to pick up a hefty portion of his contract for the next two seasons.
This year, New York did an about face. The Yankees were back to their old ways, at least in terms of the offseason.
The challenge will be to see if the Yanks can regain those winning ways. The AL East is a challenge. Even with what New York has done this offseason, there are plenty of observers who will still pick Boston and Tampa Bay in the AL East.
The Yankees, however, aren't necessarily done.
They have made major additions, but they still have areas of concern. New York would like to add a proven infielder in light of the health questions facing Derek Jeter and Teixeira and the suspension of Alex Rodriguez. The Yanks know they need protection in the bullpen in light of Mariano Rivera's retirement.
Rest assured, the Yankees are assessing their options. They have already made a big enough investment into what's ahead.
They aren't going to start counting pennies now.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.