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The New York Yankees Are No Longer The Evil Empire, and That’s A-Okay

The New York Yankees were once known as a team that would always spend big money on big name free agents. This past offseason showed that those days are over.

Throughout the years, the New York Yankees have had a reputation for being the “evil empire” of baseball, but why? It is because of their 27 World Series Championships, the most in not only baseball, but all of professional sports? To a certain extent, yes. But the big reason for that is because of their greedy reputation. Specifically, their reputation of always spending the big money to bring in the superstar players.

It all first began when the late and great George Steinbrenner first started taking advantage of free agency by bringing in players like Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, and Goose Gossage. This philosophy continued throughout the 2000s as well, when the Yankees would acquire players like Mike Mussina, C.C. Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira. With how much the George Steinbrenner Yankees took advantage of free agency, baseball always expected them to nab the big-time players when they hit the open market.

Well ladies and gentleman, after this past offseason, we can safely say that those days are over. The New York Yankees no longer have that philosophy. The 2018 season had three big names available on the free agent market, those being Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Patrick Corbin. Everyone expected for the Yankees to sign at least one of those players. In fact, some even believe the Yankees could potentially sign all three. Instead, not one of those three ended up in Yankee pinstripes.

Early on, it appeared the Yankees were going to be big players for former Arizona Diamondbacks left handed pitcher Patrick Corbin. Corbin grew up a Yankees fan, and the Yankees themselves were looking for starting pitching. It seemed like a match made in heaven. However, the Yankees pulled out of the Corbin sweepstakes when they found out the money Corbin was going to command. The Yankees were willing to go to five years, $100 million, but not to six years. Therefore, Corbin signed with the Washington Nationals for six years, $140 million.

This trend continued with the other two big name free agents. Brian Cashman himself said the Yankees were never in on former Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper. Therefore, Harper ended up signing with the Philadelphia Phillies for 13 years, $330 million. On the other hand, the Yankees seemed to flirt with Manny Machado throughout most of the winter. But once again, when the Yankees and Machado met, the latter wanted to top Giancarlo Stanton’s 13 year, $325 million contract. The Yankees were then out of the Machado sweepstakes and he signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years, $300 million.

See a pattern here? The Yankees a new philosophy when it comes to spending their money. In this new age of baseball analytics, the Yankees are able determine what type of contract a player is worth. They know what money to spend on what player and they won’t deviate much, if at all from that. The one exception has been trading for Giancarlo Stanton, and the Yankees taking on the majority of his massive contract. However, the Yankees ultimately had to make that move, as they ultimately acquired him for little to nothing in terms of assets. Aside from that, the days of the Yankees being the “evil empire” and just throwing money at all the big name free agents to solve their problems are no more.

A lot of Yankees fans are not a fan of this philosophy and the offseason in resulted into. Some may call them “cheep,” as since Major League Baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, they should be able to spend as much money as possible. Number one; the MLB does have a luxury tax threshold, which functions very much like a salary cap. The more you pay over the threshold, the more money you are giving to other teams in the league. Why would you just blatantly give other MLB clubs an advantage like that when it’s not necessary for you to do so?

Number two and more importantly; despite they’re new philosophy, the Yankee are still spending money. They currently have the third highest payroll in the MLB at just above $209 million, $237 million after the luxury tax. They’ve just spent it in areas of need, instead of on the big names. The Yankees gave their rotation a big boost by acquiring James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners as well as resigning J.A. Happ.  They’ve strengthened their bullpen by resigning Zach Britton and signing Adam Ottavino. They’ve signed their potential replacement for the injured Didi Gregorius in Troy Tulowitzki. Last but not least, they signed DJ LeMahieu, who brings batting title offense and gold glove defense to a team that needs both of those things.

Furthermore, the Yankees have placed a very large focus in spending money on another aspect of the team. That is keeping the young, homegrown core they have together. Just recently, the Yankees locked up two of their most important players. The first was their ace pitcher Luis Severino for four years, $40 million, therefore buying out his arbitration years. Next up was center fielder and free agent to be Aaron Hicks for seven years, $70 million. Not only that, they are reportedly looking to extend Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius before they hit free agency in 2019.

Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that next year will be the first arbitration year for sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Not long after that, arbitration will be coming up for guys like Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Expect the Yankees to look to extend those guys when the time comes for them to do so. The majority of the players on the Yankees are very young and approaching, or already in their primes. Therefore, it’s very wise for the Yankees to keep their young core together for as long as possible.

The George Steinbrenner Yankees that were notorious for being the “evil empire,” and throwing big money at big name players to solve their problems are a thing of the past. Instead, the Yankees have now found a new and more efficient way of building a championship contending ball club. They are focusing on keeping their young core of players together for the long haul, while also spending in areas of need in order to support their core. It’s a philosophy that general manager Brian Cashman believes will not only bring World Series championship number 28 to the Bronx, but many more championships going forward.

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