Heading into the 2009 season, the Yankees were in a state of transition. Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain had all emerged from the farm system, but the Yankees had a third place finish and a bloated payroll of contracts expiring at the end of 2008.
There was a lot of money coming off the books and New York acted accordingly. Mark Teixeira, AJ Burnett, CC Sabathia and Damaso Marte were all signed to multi-year deals amounting to $435,500,000 in 2009 dollars spread over 23 years of service time. Andy Pettitte and a slew of other players were also signed that winter, but all of them either not longer than a year, not to the majors or having been simply resigned by New York.
What’s interesting is looking at the seven winters since; how the Yankees have targeted free agents and how the organizational views to big dollar amounts at extended deals has changed since. There will be a huge spending winter sometime between next winter and the beginning of 2019 as money will start to flow off the books just like it did seven years ago. But with the Yankees still vilified as the big spenders, still rumored in almost all major contract negotiations and still sporting a payroll well over $200 million (likely to end up around $220 million after arbitration is completed), there’s an important distinction between myth and reality, taking advantage of resources and practicing restraint.
Here is a look at all of the multi-year signings the Yankees have completed from players coming from a different team since winter going into 2009:
None. The two biggest deals that winter were signing Nick Johnson to a one year deal and yet again resigning Andy Pettitte. No Free Agents from another team signed to multiple years.
Pedro Feliciano (2 years- $8 million)
Rafael Soriano (3 years- $35 million)
We’re up to five years and $43 million for two relievers who really only ended up playing for two seasons (the latter was a year Soriano stepped in big time for an injured Mariano Rivera). Soriano did opt out his third year, so technically the committal this winter ended up being four years and just over $31 million.
The most money spent here was on Hiroki Kuroda, who turned out to be pretty important and cost $10 million. But, he was only signed to one year, a savvy deal made by Brian Cashman.
Ichiro Suzuki (2 years- $13 million)
Kind of crazy to think the Yankees went four years without signing a player longer than three years and made no lineup changes at all until Ichiro. It paints a picture of why the team would end up missing the playoffs in 2013 and 2014. Ichiro’s commitment brings the totals to seven years and $56 million, but a total of around $45 million paid out.
Brian McCann (5 years – $85 million)
Jacoby Ellsbury (7 years – $153 million)
Masahiro Tanaka (7 years – $155 million)
Carlos Beltran (3 years – $45 million)
Matt Thornton 2 years – $7 million)
In Derek Jeter’s final season the Yankees decided to develop a new core, committing to 24 years (even longer than the 2009 winter) and $445 million. That brings our total to 31 years and $501 million, with about $490 million actually paid out. Keep in mind, Masahiro Tanaka has an opt out as well, which could substantially diminish these totals.
Andrew Miller (4 years – $36 million)
Chase Headley (4 years $52 million)
Headley technically breaks the rules since he was a Yankee in 2014, but being a trade deadline player in a walk year and getting extended for four years seems noteworthy enough to include. This brings our totals to 39 years and $589 million with $578 million paid out.
Seven years ago New York spent $435 million dollars in commitments totaling 23 years on players from other teams with multi-year obligations. In the seven winters since, they have committed 39 years at a rate of about $578 million. Adjusting for inflation, the numbers in 2009 more equate to just under $483 million, meaning the Yankees have spent about $95 million more in commitments over the past seven years combined than they did in that one winter. And even more astonishing, they spent roughly $880 million in the winter heading into 2009 and 2014 combined compared to just $133 million in the other five winters in play combined. Essentially, by today’s standards, the Yankees have not bought a single A-list FA value in five of their past seven winters combined.
This isn’t a plea to cry poor for New York. Some creative money adjusting doesn’t change the fact the Yankees spent $880 million in two winters, most of which is still on the current roster. But it is important to note Cashman strikes at very specific times and it tends to be in bunches. Almost half the time he won’t even sign a player to a multi-year deal all offseason.
That’s why this winter should come as no surprise. Cashman’s MO is trading any prospects who aren’t top tier, long-term promise and spending when money comes off the books. That’s why the goal of $190 million in payroll will be realistic over the next few years, in addition to another nine digit shopping spree sometime soon. Restraint and opportunity has been Cashman’s strategy for the past seven years and the numbers are there to prove it.