Wednesday, December 11, 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—By now, you’ve probably heard a little bit about the Yankees’ attempt to get their payroll under $189 million. They’ve been talking about it for two years, trying to structure their roster in a way that enables them to avoid the luxury tax in 2014. But the Quest for 189 wasn’t just about money.
Behind it was also an idea, a notion that the Yankees shouldn’t have to rely quite so heavily on high-priced free agents to win. If Hal Steinbrenner had his way, by now the Yankees would have evolved into a more balanced blend of young, cheap, rising stars and older, pricier, established veterans.
“I just feel that if you do well on the player-development side, and you have a good farm system, you don’t need a $220 million payroll,” Steinbrenner said early in spring training 2012.
But in 2013, that ideal has become increasingly elusive. And this winter, whatever visions Steinbrenner had of turning the Yankees into a different kind of winning team have been just about shattered.
Because the Yankees had no top prospects on the horizon, the only way they could reinvigorate their roster to the necessary degree was to turn, once again, to the high end of the free-agent market. And because they have done so, they are making it more difficult to improve the weakness that left them in such a position to begin with.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran may help the Yankees return to the playoffs in 2014. But under the free-agent compensation rules in the collective-bargaining agreement, they will also cost the Yankees their first three draft picks next June.
The Yankees will forfeit their first-round pick along with the two compensation picks they would otherwise receive for losing Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson to free agency. As a result, their first pick figures to be somewhere in the mid-50s overall.
That’s significant because the probability of drafting a quality major-league regular falls dramatically after the first round. In July, Baseball America published a study of every draft between 1988 and 2008. It found that 39.1% of players taken in the first round (excluding those who didn’t sign) played at least three years in the majors. But in the supplemental round (between the first and second rounds), that rate fell to 15.8%. And from the sixth round on, the rate is just 3.1%.
A cynic might say that the Yankees probability of taking a player in the first round who played for at least three years is only 3.1% anyway, so what’s the big deal?
Next entry: USA Today: Yankees Targeting Justin Masterson