When Commissioner Rob (“The World Series Trophy is just a piece of metal’’) Manfred’s brilliant 99-day lockout was ending, the New York Yankees’ roster had some filling in to do.
They needed a shortstop and they needed a first baseman. They needed some other parts but those two vacancies stuck out. And there were plenty of candidates available.
The free agent market offered scrumptious possibilities. At shortstop, they could choose Carlos Correa or Travis Story, both high profile stars. At first base, there was Freddie Freeman, a former MVP, and Matt Olson, soon to be swept out of Oakland in that team’s fire sale.
Take your pick, Yankee fans. They were there for the taking. The Yankees, however, decided to pass on the expensive options and decided to shop elsewhere.
What in the name of George Steinbrenner were they thinking?
At shortstop, they imported Isiah Kiner-Falefa from Minnesota, about 48 hours after the Twins had acquired him from Texas. He makes about $5 million this season, chump change compared to the Monopoly money that Correa and Story wanted.
For first base, the Yankees re-signed Anthony Rizzo for two years and $32 million, passing on the $162 million contract that Freeman got from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Welcome to the Brave New World of Yankee baseball.
Hal Steinbrenner loved his father but that doesn’t mean he has to follow the patriarch’s policy of whipping out his checkbook and spending Yankee dollars without thinking about how many zeroes he enters in the price.
Those days are over. The Yankees are still hurting from the pandemic’s empty stadium 2020 season when revenues took a major hit. Those cardboard cutouts in the stands don’t pay for tickets or hot dogs or beer or souvenirs. Then there is also the annual $80 million or so in bonds payments to New York City for their fancy new Yankee Stadium. Don’t forget the huge contracts for Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole and the pending contract extension for Aaron Judge, and there is always the luxury tax for going over the payroll limit.
It is enough to make the chancellor of the exchequer’s head spin. And Hal Steinbrenner is the Yankees’ chancellor of the exchequer.
So Correa went to the Twins and Story went to the Red Sox and Freeman went to the Dodgers and Olson was traded to Atlanta. And the Yankees, with the third highest payroll in baseball, took a pass on the big names and turned their team into the Nearly New Shop.
It brings to mind the old Depression Era song: “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime’’