Apparently CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett weren't enough. Mark Teixeira put pen to paper today and inked an 8 yr/$180 million contract. Total value of those three free agent contracts: a tidy $424.5 million. Does money buy happiness, or at very least World Series Championships?
The Yankees, who haven't won a World Series since 2000, have made this off season their own personal trip through the mall. While teams such as the Astros headed to Sears and JC Penney for bargains, the Pinstripers went down to Sak's Fifth Avenue with a limitless credit card. Is this irresponsible spending? Maybe. Has the team shown a clear commitment to winning, at least in the short term? Sure.
Holes do exist for the 2009 Yankees. Such as:
- Who will play Center Field? $250 million for a payroll in 2009, and no true centerfielders on the major league roster. Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher may be able to fake their way through the job, but Xavier Nady cannot. Brett Gardner and The Melk Man both project to be average players in center field. It's doubtful that either will be in the outfield on opening day.
- How good is Mark Teixeira? Tex replaces Nick Swisher at first base, and Swish goes to the outfield pushing Melky out of a spot. Tex and Swisher combine for 10.6 Wins above replacement, outproducing a Swish and Melk combination of 9.9. At an average of $22.5 million a season, he represents the fourth Yankee to make more than $20 million per year on average, joining ARod, Derek Jeter and the aforementioned CC Sabathia. Although he is the second best first-baseman in the game (with all due respect to Lance), his OPS+ the past two years is 150.5. Carlos Pena, who will make $9 million next year, averaged 149.5 for his OPS+ the past two years...just saying.
- Tex will be a Yankee until he's 36. He's not a versatile defensive player, so he will be entrenched at first base the entire time, most likely. Nick Swisher doesn't offer the skills that Tex does, but he at least can play multiple positions. This is important for an older team like the Yankees. Suppose that Manny Ramirez had been signed instead. He would've been on the team's payroll for only three years, and would have left first base wide open. Swisher is a capable first baseman, and Jorge Posada is already a first baseman playing catcher. Manny was far and away the best hitter in baseball in 2008, in terms of Win Probability Added. Bill James also projects Manny to out-OPS Tex next year, albeit by .001 (.956 to .955).
New York has made the biggest splash(es) of the off season, but it definitely doesn't ensure that they will have the best chance to win the World Series next year. While it makes a great deal of sense in the short term, the long term implications of the signing leaves the Yankees with an aging roster facing a great deal of decline across the board in the coming years.