The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

WSJ: Hal Steinbrenner Talks Free Agents, Payroll, Empty Seats

Hal Steinbrenner gave a rare press conference yesterday and it was fascinating in how his comments have been taken to mean two very different approaches from the Yankees going forward.

First, on the matter of the $189 million goal that the Yankees have set for themselves for 2014:

We will always field a championship-caliber team. Is our goal 189 next year? Yes. But only if I’m convinced that the team I see we put together is a championship-caliber team.

This suggests that they will exceed $189 million if the 2014 roster just cannot compete otherwise.

However, he also notes that the $189 goal is not a one year goal:

I don’t see it being less of a goal. I believe that you don’t have to have a $220 million payroll to win a world championship, and you shouldn’t have to.

There’s more at the link, but it is an interesting mix between good news (the Yankees would be willing to exceed $189 million if they think that the 2014 team needs it) and bad (the Austerity 2014 plan will be an ongoing plan).

Update: Here’s my take on the interview [SG]

Question: Are you concerned about some of the things you saw in the playoffs last year – fan anger, empty seats, etc.?

Steinbrenner: “I’m surprised to hear that there’s anger if you see what we’ve done this off-season. Like I said, we’ve signed three or four of the top free agents on the market, because we’re going to continue to field a championship-caliber team. I’m a little surprised to hear that. The empty seats in the playoffs were due to a variety of reasons, quite frankly. The schedule, Stubhub, things like that. A lot of tickets being available shortly before the game. We didn’t know we were going to be in it. Obviously we went to Game 5 in the first series, you got the next game the day after, so it was challenging. … I’m a little surprised to hear about the anger. But look, all I can continue to tell everyone is our commitment to the fans is never going to change. We will always field a championship-caliber team. Is our goal 189 next year? Yes. But only if I’m convinced that the team I see we put together is a championship-caliber team.”

Seriously?  Are you going to blame Stubhub this year when attendance is even lower.  You probably won’t have to worry about not selling out in the postseason at least, so that’s a non-issue.

Question: Will $189 million be less of a goal in future years once you get under in 2014, since the luxury tax rate goes down once you’re no longer a repeat offender?

Steinbrenner: “I don’t see it being less of a goal. I believe that you don’t have to have a $220 million payroll to win a world championship, and you shouldn’t have to.”

So much for the hope that this was a short-term thing to get under the luxury tax threshold as a reset.

Question: Do you foresee reaching an extension with Robinson Cano before he hits free agency next winter?

Steinbrenner: “Again, I’m not a big believer in extensions, but there are exceptions to every rule. We’ll see what happens. There’s been no real significant dialogue as of yet.”

So he wants to maintain a $189M payroll in perpetuity, but he won’t sign players to extensions.  So what’s the plan then Hal?  Let everyone play their six years and leave? 

I found this interview really disappointing.  Steinbrenner comes off as out of touch and unaware, and he only mentions Manny Banuelos and Michael Pineda as possible low-cost alternatives in 2014 while either ignoring or not realizing the offense is likely to be in pretty terrible shape as well.

I’m really hoping the idea is to get the team into the position to sell it now.  I suppose the alternative could be worse, but I’m not liking what I’m seeing and hearing from this Steinbrenner.

--Posted at 6:13 am by Brian Cronin / 42 Comments | - (0)

Comments

Page 1 of 1 pages:

Hal’s message seems to be: if we’re smarter, we should be able to achieve a similar result without spending as much. But winning is still paramount.
I don’t think there’s anything in that we wouldn’t agree with, in principle.
But it tells us nothing whatsoever about the essential underlying question: after 2014, where is the standard for a “championship caliber” team set?  If Hal feels the 2014 team is as likely as 3 or 4 other teams to win, is that a “championship caliber” team?  If an additional free agent would make the team the clear favorite, does this mean they sign him? Or that they don’t sign him?
Even if you take everything he said as The Truth, it really tells us nothing.

agreed, Wombat.  What is this spate of agreement I have with you?  Do you really want to be in agreement with a jailbird?

SSS, Mel.
The regression is sure to be a bitch.

Dammit, Steve Swindal.

Hal’s message seems to be: if we’re smarter, we should be able to achieve a similar result without spending as much. But winning is still paramount.

Yet he believes extensions to be a bad idea. That certainly doesn’t sound smarter. Look at what the smartest organization in baseball (Rays) are doing. Extensions early and often.

The Yankees can be very competitive at a 189 payroll, but they don’t have to. It’s not like the team is hurting for money. And if they refuse to sign extensions, remaining competitive at 189 will be difficult.

There is a big differnce between $189m and $220m. Because of the current ARod, Teix and CC contracts, we are in a bit of a pickel. But looking at payrolls of other teams, I AGREE that $220m should not be necessary to field a championship team.

So maybe we are at $200m a year, or $205. Maybe they time it so they dip under the limit every third year if it resets the clock.

To date, the Yankees have lost an insane amount on Taxes and loss of revenue sharing. I agree there is no reason that we can’t be dominant by simply exceeding our competitors payroll by 20%, instead of doubleing it.

George was good about spending BIG dollars… but no so good about being smart with his money. The Yankees will never be frugal with their money ($189m might still be the highest payroll in the league), but I’m all for spending a bit less by spending smarter.

A team doesn’t need to spend $200m+ to field a winner.  But. They will not be able to continue trading away young talent for expensive veterans.

If the correction is a shitty season or two, so be it.

Maybe signing Arod to a billion dollar contract wasn’t such a good idea, eh Hal?

I’m really hoping the idea is to get the team into the position to sell it now.  I suppose the alternative could be worse, but I’m not liking what I’m seeing and hearing from this Steinbrenner.

See, I thought it was mostly good.  His goal is to stay under the tax each year, but he’s willing to go over if the team needs to, in order to be competitive.  If your standard for a good owner is that they spend $220M a year every year, but only do so on smart contracts…well, you’re going to be highly disappointed.

Really for me to boil it down…they want to stay under $189M because that should be enough to win.  In order to do so, they need the younger players to step up and produce.  But if necessary they’ll go over $189M here and there.

[1] Agreed, and really we won’t know what his standards are until we’re actually confronted with it.  My guess is that the times you’ll see the team go over $189M is if there is a smart acquisition an some contracts are expiring in the next year.  For example, I think Teix will have 1 year left on his contract when Andrus is a FA.  So go over for that year to get Andrus on an 8-10 year deal (he may be worth it given his age), but the next year they won’t sign a $20M first baseman.  They’ll either bring up a kid, or move someone in there.

[6] But he also said that there are exceptions, and they already made one with Cano once.  And they tried with Martin the previous year.  Honestly, how many players are Tampa locking up in these long term, cheap contracts?  What, Longoria and Moore?  Who else am I missing?  I think (again) we’re overreacting; even the teams like Tampa who do this, are still only doing it with certain individuals, ones who they feel very strongly are worth it. You can find lots of examples of teams that have tried to sign players to long term extensions early to save money, where it’s maybe backfired (Philly and Howard, possibly Colorado and Tulo).

Again, actions will speak louder than words.  But I think this stance is 100% correct.  Mainly we’ll see what happens when players like Heathcott, Williams, etc start to graduate.  They’re the players that you hope have ROY level first years, and then sign long term.

Maybe signing Arod to a billion dollar contract wasn’t such a good idea, eh Hal?

Again, wasn’t Hal.  He was involved, but at that time, George still had final say, and Hank was being groomed to replace him and had a much bigger say.  The ARod contract was one of the reasons that Hank was replaced by Hal.

[10] But look at when the Rays are locking in their young players. The Yankees are waiting until they are estabished stars. Using Howard is a terrible example, because the Phillies not only paid him like a free agent they also drastically over-paid. Tulo is still signed for cheap enough that the contract isn’t hurting the Rockies.

If the Yankees want to be able to scoop up big Free Agents (when available) and stay under 189, they need to start being more aggressive with their extensions. I don’t think they should be extending everyone. But they should be taking some risks to sign the players they think will be long term, high value contributors.

Say Austin debuts next year and hits .270/.340/.450 in ~300 AB. The Yankees should be watching his early 2015 performance and looking at signing him to a team friendly long term deal.

Another slight advantage of signing extensions early is that it lets you put some of the AAV from the later arbitration years or free agent years on the first three years.

For some optimism, he made his comment about extensions in questions about Cano and Girardi. A useful reporter would ask if he would consider an extension for a player like Gardner.

[1] I agree that Hal’s message is “if we’re smarter, we should be able to achieve a similar result without spending as much. But winning is still paramount.”

My problem is that Hal didn’t explain what changes he was going to make so that the Yanks would become smarter.

[14] The only quote we have in relation to running the team “smarter” is that he doesn’t like extensions. Yay!

[15]
But wouldn’t that really be in relation only to “just as smart?”

[15] I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

Hal is being smart like Fredo. He’s smart, you know ? He can take care of things.

I wonder if one of the reasons they’ve been slow on extensions, and waiting until the player is in their last year before they try at all, is also because the stupid contracts placed pressure on them to stretch everyone else out as long as possible. In other words, milk the cheaper contracts longer, but increase the risk that the player figures he may as well go FA since he’s only a year or less away anyway. Give me more security sooner and I’m more likely to go for it.

Maybe signing Arod to a billion dollar contract wasn’t such a good idea, eh Hal?

Had it not happened we’d still be looking back all the way to 2000

[18] The phallus of the predetermined outcome?

[18]
I think you’re presuming both (i) that instead of signing A-Rod to that ridiculous contract, they might have been able, in the absence of competition at that level, to sign him to a more reasonable one, and (ii) that, had they not signed him, they would not have done something comparably or more productive with the money.

Snuggles, the Rays are doing it with a ton of #1 overall picks.  Longoria and Price are much better bets than what the Rays will be drafting now.  If they continue to give out those contracts in year 1, is that still a smart strategy when the players are far less likely to pan out?

(19)(20)Of course the same logic can be applied to you all having now the benefit of knowing what followed after A-rod’s Mvp season of 2007. It’s easy to evaluate after the fact.  Who could know all that then when they had to make a decision- that his hips would turn into mush. He had just completed one of the best seasons by a Yankee since 1956 and registered his second MVP as a Yankee.
His 2009 postseason heroics would in my hunble opinion have been nearly impossible to have been duplicated by anyone else.  I will concede that its possible he would have signed for less money but that is also postgame speculation.

[21] I don’t think the Yankees should be doing exactly what the Rays have done in extending players with little to no MLB experience. But I do think that they should be looking at a players first year or 2 and making moves to extend players they believe will be impact players.

Like I wrote earlier, if Austin comes up in 2014 and hits well, the Yankees should watch his 2015 season closely and think about a long term deal. Keep in mind that when the Rays do this, they are locking down franchise players. If the Yankees choose to extend/lockdown a young player, it’s not as big a deal to the brand. So while the Rays could never trade away Longoria (Same with the Rockies and Tulo), the Yankees would have more flexibility.

If the Yankees brass wants to be able to go out and sign or trade for big name players and remain under 189, they have to start (in some ways) acting like some of less wealthy teams.

I was just thinking about A-Rod’s 2007. Isn’t it weird how we didn’t even really seem to appreciate what we were seeing at the time?

I will concede that its possible he would have signed for less money but that is also postgame speculation.

Joeln… well, it’s speculation,sure, but hardly post-game - but as I recall it was pretty universally speculated before the contract was even signed.

[24] After looking at Bonds again yesterday during the steroid discussion, everything looks mediocre.

[26] Bonds’ numbers are crazy. It sucks knowing they were tainted. Another insane year to look at from a “clean” player: Frank Thomas’ strike shortened ‘94. He OPS’d 1.217 and slugged .729 in 113 games!

Or just the first 7 years of his career, when he didn’t post an OPS+ below 174.

Not trying to be annoyingly cynical, but does Thomas’s outspoken anti-PED stance mean he was clean?  I’ve lost count of the number of anti-gay preachers and politicians who were subsequently outed.

[28] No, but he’s among the players commonly accepted to be “clean.” Take that as you will.

Searching for Babe Ruth on Fangraphs I found this Notgraphs post: Rare Footage: Cross-Dressing Ruth Fondles Sorority Girls, Taunts Overweight People.

Different era indeed.

[29] So Canseco named everyone but him?

It’s somewhat surprising to me that not a single ex-player of any repute came forward during or after the Era and said, “These guys are believed to be clean, these guys are believed to be dopers, I think the former should get credit for not cheating”, if just for the title alone: _Ball Zero_.

Blue Jays sign 41-year-old catcher Henry Blanco, beating the Yankees to the punch.

[32] There’s gotta be a 43 year old out there that still wants to play.

Mel’s boy Milton Bradley is still a FA.

Can someone at least invent a juicy rumor.

Totally o/t, and I’m not a football fan, but two crazy games today.

“Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams who have been watching Javy Vazquez‘s recent winter ball outings in Puerto Rico. Bob Nightengale says he’s throwing 92-95 mph and scouts are raving.”  Say it ain’t so Mo.

Well at least it’s some kind of rumor.

The third time’s the charm?

I would totally respect Cahsman’s balls if he brought Vazquez back again.  I’m not sure I would like the move, but still, enormous balls.

38 true dat

Vazquez hitting 92 is a great pitcher. Odds of him hitting 92 if he was signed by the Yankees? 5%, if that.

I think Javy should want to come back to prove himself.

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