HOUSTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Convinced Yankees fans are ready to embrace a new generation of Baby Bombers, owner Hal Steinbrenner watched Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge hit home runs in their first major league at-bats last weekend
“I was emotional. It doesn’t happen often,” he said Wednesday. “I’m very excited about this.”
Progress shown by catcher Gary Sanchez, Judge and Austin persuaded Steinbrenner to approve the trade of Carlos Beltran to Texas and the decision to release Alex Rodriguez, who was owed $27 million more by the Yankees through 2017. Steinbrenner also green-lighted the trades of relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
Those moves were strenuous, given he is a son of George Steinbrenner, the most aggressive pursuer of stars after the free agent era began in 1976.
“It’s kind of been my DNA, right, to absolutely not trade anybody at the trade deadline. If anything we’re normally buyers, right?” Steinbrenner said Wednesday at baseball’s quarterly owners’ meeting. “So I had to overcome a little bit of DNA issues I think in that regard.”
But, he says, revenue sharing and the luxury tax have changed baseball’s economic landscape, meaning the Yankees can’t outspend other teams to fill every need with free agents.
“It’s a different world than it was 15, 20, maybe even 10 years ago,” he said. “There’s a lot of teams out there that now have the wherewithal to spend money on the free agents. … There’s a lot of competition, where my dad, there was less.”
The Yankees are a changin’, dropping the age of their roster as they retool in the post-Derek Jeter-Mariano Rivera era, trying to win their first title since 2009. New York started eight players 26 or under Sunday, the first time that happened in 49 years. Steinbrenner said watching fan reaction on social media and seeing how many sponsors wanted to meet young first baseman Greg Bird during spring training were a sign the team’s fan base was ready for a rebuild.
He praised 32-year-old Brian McCann, who has two years remaining on his contract but has lost playing time to Sanchez in the last two weeks.
“It was always the case that Sanchez at some point was going to come up and hopefully come up to stay,” Steinbrenner said. “So we’ll cross that bridge in the offseason when we come to it, but McCann’s a great player, too.”
Despite the pivot, don’t expect the Yankees to go totally young, not with the need to sell tickets and attract television viewers for their YES Network.
“I’m not naive. This is New York City. Our fans want marquee players, too, and I wanted marquee players because they’re good veterans and they’re good mentors, in many cases, so that’s always going to be there,” Steinbrenner said.
Outfielder Clint Frazier, shortstop Gleyber Torres and left-hander Justus Sheffield were acquired in recent trades and joined a minor league system that already included touted infielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder Blake Rutherford.
Steinbrenner expects the trio brought up this month to be joined next year by Bird, the first baseman who missed this season following shoulder surgery; pitcher Luis Severino, who struggled this year and has been sent to the minor leagues three times; and pitcher Bryan Mitchell, who has been sidelined with a toe injury since spring training.
“One or two of these guys may have to go back down. Who knows? It’s not an uncommon tale, right?” Steinbrenner said. “But sooner or later we expect them all to be here for good.”
Despite shedding veterans, the Yankees (61-59) remain on the periphery of contention for a playoff berth.
“There’s no white flag here for me. There was no surrender,” Steinbrenner said. “If you had seen me get rid of (Michael) Pineda and (Nathan) Eovaldi and (Brett) Gardner, then you could probably make a case.”
He praised general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi.
“Joe can do nothing about the lack of run production. That’s been the problem this year — it’s the inconsistency and the underperforming with the offense, 80 percent of it as far as I’m concerned, particularly in the middle of the lineup.”
Rodriguez’s deal to become a senior adviser through 2017 allows him to create a schedule that doesn’t interfere with family time and will allow A-Rod to broadcast. Steinbrenner admitted there was tension created by the decision to bench A-Rod.
“The last week was unfortunate at times,” he said, “but we all got through it.”
Rodriguez said he won’t play for another team this season. Steinbrenner said if Rodriguez decides to play for another team next year, he would be welcome to return to the Yankees as an adviser after that.
“It’s intended to be a very flexible situation,” he said.
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