The New York Yankees have always spent big. But it’s starting to cost them.
The Yankees have now missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Why? The team's player investments haven’t produced.
And, due to a combination of increasing age and injury history, it doesn't seem likely those investments will be paying any future dividends.
Earlier this season, we examined how the team’s highest-paid players were performing relative to their contracts using Fangraphs WAR and True Value to measure just how much bang the Yankees were getting for their buck.
Now that it’s over, let’s take a look. The results will have fans shaking their heads.
It’s probably not the best time to point out that baseball-reference’s Pythagorean win-loss had the Yankees at 77-85. The team had a run differential of minus-31 -- 633 runs for, 664 runs against -- which is why manager Joe Girardi gets a lot of credit. The Yankees went 84-78 in 2014.
1B Mark Teixeira, age 34
2014 salary: $23.1 million/WAR: 0.7/True Value: $3.9 million
(2015 salary: $23.1 million)
We find this interesting: Teixeira played 123 games in 2012 and hit .251/.332/.475 in 524 at-bats. This season, he also played 123 games and hit .216/.313/.398 in 508 at-bats. Injuries have obviously played a factor. At this point, the Yankees would gladly take the 2012 version of Teixeira in 2015. But will they get it? He’s signed through 2016.
SP CC Sabathia, age 34
2014 salary: $23 million/WAR: 0.1/True Value: $0.8 million
(2015 salary: $23 million)
In his last 40 starts, Sabathia has posted a 4.87 ERA while giving up 282 hits and 38 home runs in 257 innings. If he regains his health, perhaps he can be an innings-eater at the back-end of the rotation. Can he be anything more? He has a vesting option of $25 million ($5 million buyout) in 2017 that kicks in if his left shoulder doesn’t let him down.
SP Masahiro Tanaka, age 25
2014 salary: $22 million/WAR: 3.2/True Value: $17.5 million
(2015 salary: $22 million)
If Tanaka (13-5, 2.77 ERA) gives the Yankees 30 or so starts, he easily would’ve exceeded his contract in his rookie season. But ... injuries. And who knows how he’s going to hold up going forward. Will he eventually need Tommy John surgery? He’s signed through 2023, but can opt out after the 2017 season.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury, age 31
2014 salary: $21.1 million/WAR: 3.6/True Value: $20 million
(2015 salary: $21.1 million)
Ellsbury’s first season in pinstripes was mostly a success. He hit .271/.328/.419 while also stealing 39 bases. For much of the season, he had to hit third. Ellsbury held up physically, which was a plus. He just has to keep it up. He’s signed through 2020 and has a 2021 club option worth $21 million ($5 million buyout).
C Brian McCann, age 30
2014 salary: $17 million/WAR: 2.3/True Value: $12.8 million
(2015 salary: $17 million)
McCann is a hitter fans can be optimistic about because of his power and affinity for the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. McCann hit 23 homers, but batted just .232/.286/.406. The hope is he’ll be more comfortable and have a bounce back year in 2015. McCann has a $15 million club option for 2019 ($5 million buyout).
SP Hiroki Kuroda, age 39
2014 salary: $16 million/WAR: 3.5/True Value $19.2 million
Kuroda (11-9, 3.71 ERA) is the only Yankee on this list who outperformed his salary. He stayed healthy, making 32 starts, and was pretty consistent. Is he finished playing baseball?
RF Carlos Beltran, age 37
2014 salary: $15 million/WAR: minus-0.5/True Value: minus-$2.7 million
(2015 salary: $15 million)
Beltran had a disastrous season, struggling with injuries and hitting just .233/.301/.402. Can he come back healthy and be as productive as he was in his two previous seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals? He’s signed through 2016.
SS Derek Jeter, age 40
2014 salary: $12 million/WAR: minus-0.1/True Value: minus-0.3 million
Yes, it was a storybook sendoff. But overall, Jeter’s 2014 season was a forgettable one from a performance perspective. He hit just .256/.304/.313.
2014 salary: $148.2 million/WAR: 12.8/True Value: $71.2 million
Simple math shows that the Yankees overpaid for this group of players by a total of $77 million. It is all the more incredible that they somehow finished with a winning record despite the injuries to their starting rotation (made only 77 starts combined) and the lack of production from their batting order (seven of their nine spots in the order finished with an OPS below .700).
Going into next season, the Yankees owe Teixeira, Sabathia, Tanaka, Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran and Alex Rodriguez ($22 million) a combined $143.2 million. And GM Brian Cashman, assuming he’s brought back, as expected, hasn’t even addressed replacing Jeter or re-signing David Robertson, Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley, among a bevy of things on his to-do list (revamping farm system, perhaps finding another power bat/proven starter, etc.).
Question: How many of those players do you feel good about going forward?