‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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This isn’t like the Yankees, leaving available talent of various types out there for the rest of Major League Baseball.
Just two weeks before the July 31 trade deadline, Yankees GM Brian Cashman came out and said he probably won’t make any moves, major or minor. For a team noted for bringing in outside talent for the stretch run, from Johnny Mize in 1949 to David Cone in 1995, the Yanks have historically sought to strengthen themselves by either grabbing a fading star as a glorified rental, or a younger talent who could not only help them out in the present, but the future, too.
Not this year, though. Despite a rotation that could certainly use a Cole Hamels to fill the spot left open by Andy Pettitte’s fractured leg. But the Phillies’ star, 11-4 with a last-place team and coming off eight innings of one-run ball Sunday against Colorado, probably won’t get as much as a phone call of inquiry from Cashman, if media reports are accurate.
The Yanks are hardly this generous under normal circumstances. They may fail to actually complete a high-profile trade in certain years, but they’re usually in there pitching, or swinging as the case may be.
So what’s up here?
In other words, the economy has finally struck the Yankees.
Hal Steinbrenner, no chip off the old, free-spending block of his late father George, wants to drop their MLB-leading payroll to the $189 million luxury tax trigger that takes effect in 2014. That would represent a major drop from the $203 million and change of 2011, and even the $196 million ESPN counted up for this season.
Add to that the desire to lock up two tried and true veterans in Robbie Cano and Curtis Granderson before they become free agents after next year. Though Cashman said no plans have yet been made to negotiate with either player yet, common sense tells us that signing them to fat extensions after this season will let the franchise avoid losing them or signing them to even fatter free-agent contracts in 2013.
Not that either is a bargain now, with Cano making $14 million and Granderson $10 million. But considering they’ve pounded out 46 homers between them so far, those dollar numbers are going to rise significantly no matter what.
With Alex Rodriguez pulling down $30 million, Mark Teixeira at $23 million, and Derek Jeter at $15 million, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Yanks are going to have to shed some salary after signing Cano and Granderson to stay around Hal’s desired budget. Nick Swisher could go after this season, for instance.
With Hamels up for free agency after this year, and after the kind of year he’s having, that $15 million number this year is also bound to rise.
This may set the old man to rotating in his crypt, but the Yanks probably can’t fit a guy like Hamels under Hal’s budget. And losing him in upcoming free agency, thus making him a half-year rental, would bring them nothing since the new CBA has eliminated compensatory draft picks for those situations.
The current standings makes it easy for Cashman to lie back, however. The Yanks not only have the best record in baseball, but having stretched the AL East lead over Baltimore to eight games, they are now threatening to shatter the division race entirely.
Getting CC Sabathia back from three weeks on the DL tonight against the Blue Jays will only make things harder for opponents. And with Joba Chamberlain starting to throw minor league rehab innings, it’s possible they might see him by the stretch run.
As for the offense, fleet Brett Gardner could also come back soon enough from the elbow strain that has kept him out since April 18. But really, that would just pile on to an embarrassment of riches that comprise their lineup.
Really, who needs speed when hitters No. 1 through 9 regularly jerk baseballs over fences?
Assuming Cashman isn’t smoke-screening, the Yanks will sit out this trade deadline unless a real bargain comes along.
Just don’t expect it to happen every year.
Call this one their one gift of charity toward the rest of baseball.
Yankees fans, are you satisfied with the current club? Be heard in the comments below…