SBD/December 4, 2013/Franchises

So Much For Saving Money: Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury Agree To Seven-Year, $153M Deal

Ellsbury represents the Yankees' second big contract already this offseason
The Yankees have agreed to a seven-year, $153M contract with CF Jacoby Ellsbury, and while the team "might still construct a roster with a payroll less" than $189M, the luxury tax limit, it also is conceivable that the club could "just blow past the $189 million mark and grab every free agent they want," according to Tyler Kepner of the N.Y. TIMES. Late Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner "might have been driven to do it by his insatiable -- irrational? -- competitive nature," but current Yankees General Managing Partner Hal Steinbrenner "might do it because it is good for business." The "most rational way to rebuild the Yankees is probably to hang back for a while and reconstruct a skeletal farm system." However, the absence of "dynamic, major-league-ready prospects is forcing this spending spree," which includes the five-year, $85M deal for C Brian McCann. Attendance "dropped and television ratings divebombed last season, when a creaky Yankees roster missed the playoffs." The team’s business model "depends on stars, and although McCann and Ellsbury have relatively low national profiles, they will jolt a lineup and help the Yankees win." And "only winning -- or, at least, the promise of winning -- will sell high-priced seats and attract TV viewers again" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/4). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes, "The Yankees are back to being the old Yankees. Budgets be damned." The Yankees "built a dynasty when they never cared about something so frivolous as a budget." Now, on the heels of "an injury-plagued, playoff-less 85-win season, they're making sure they're again the bullies of the neighborhood." The Yankees are "back in the business of star power" (USA TODAY, 12/4).

EMPIRE RECORDS: MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince wrote if the McCann deal "was an inkling, then this was an outright announcement that the Yankees we know and love or loathe -- the ones prone to backing up the Brink's truck into the driveways of MLB's best and brightest -- are officially back in business." That $189M budget is "still in reach, but suffice it to say it's gasping for air" (MLB.com, 12/3). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote under the header, "The Damn Yankees Strike Again." The Yankees "are always going to be the Yankees," as they "couldn't even get McCann to a news conference in the Bronx on Thursday before cutting a deal with another free agent that makes the catcher's catch look like lunch money." The Yankees "made two monster deals, with more to come, after scaring their fan base to death with so much talk about payroll restraint this offseason" (ESPNNY.com, 12/3). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said, "They are the Yankees. They didn’t make the playoffs last year. Their archrival won the World Series. So the Yankees, as they always do, had to do something, and they really upgraded their outfield." The question is where the team will be with Ellsbury "after five or six years of this deal." Kurkjian: "What are his legs going to be like at that point? But again, the Yankees don’t worry five or six years from now. They worry only about right now because they didn't make the playoffs" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/4). In Boston, Nick Cafardo notes Ellsbury is "a big pickup for the Yankees, at least for the first few years." But what will Ellsbury "be like five or six years into the contract?" The Yankees "really don’t have to worry about that because they have the funds." They "hoodwinked baseball into thinking they were going to stay under" the $189M luxury tax threshold and are spending about $240M on Ellsbury and McCann (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/4).

ACTING LIKE THEY ALWAYS HAVE: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes the Ellsbury deal is "exactly what happens when the Yankees finish out of the playoffs even in a two-wild card world, and attendance is down, and television ratings are down." They had to "do something, whether they end up under the $189 million threshold everybody in town was obsessing about, or not." Lupica: "So they do what they do. They don’t just pay, they overpay" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/4). Also in N.Y., Bill Madden writes, "I'm just not sure what the Yankees are trying to prove here." This "reckless, show-their-financial-might signing by the Yankees makes no sense, other than being another example of the Yankees’ intention of buying their way out of a situation in which their player development department has been bankrupt for years" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/4). In Providence, Tim Britton writes this is a "risky move for the Yankees, who continue to tie up their payroll long-term in players who are into their 30s." The "risk of such long-term deals is apparent just by looking around the rest of New York's outfield" and seeing Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 12/4).

NEXT ITEM ON THE LIST: In N.Y., David Waldstein notes even with the addition of Ellsbury, the Yankees "would still have money to bring back Robinson Cano and stay under their stated goal" of $189M for their payroll. However, Cano would "have to accept the club’s current price" of seven years and about $170-175M. If the Yankees bring back Cano, it "could mean they will not have enough money to add a free-agent pitcher other than Hiroki Kuroda, who is deciding whether to come back to the Yankees" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/4). In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes the Yankees "still need starting pitching," but if the budget "is no longer an obsession, what the franchise really needs is to walk a straight line to Robinson Cano and sign him" (Bergen RECORD, 12/4).
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