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Every day until Opening Day, Baseball Prospectus authors will preview two teams—one from the AL, one from the NL—identifying strategies those teams employ to gain an advantage. Today: the front offices of New York (Yankees), New York (Mets).

Previous team previews: Giants | Royals | Dodgers | Rays | Padres | Astros | Rockies | Athletics

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

PECOTA Team Projections
Record: 80-82
Runs Scored: 691
Runs Allowed: 702
AVG/OBP/SLG (TAv): .246/.315/.397 (.265)
Total WARP: 25.3 (6.9 pitching, 18.4 non-pitching, including 0.0 from pitchers)

The Yankees moved a lot of stuff around this offseason. They traded with the Braves, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Pirates. Smaller, player-for-cash trades were also made. Chase Headley, Andrew Miller, Chris Young the Outfielder, Stephen Drew, and Chris Capuano were signed to major-league contracts. David Robertson, Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki, and Brandon McCarthy left via free agency. And Derek Jeter retired to start a website. Again, a lot happened, but nothing big happened. The big splash that many thought the Yankees would make—signing Yoan Moncada—was not made; the 19 year-old Cuban signed with the Red Sox, the highest bidders.

With an already bloated roster (seven players making more than $15 million a year and another three players making more than $9 million, whose total remaining salaries equal about $618 million), Brian Cashman was going to have to be creative if he was going to put a competitive team on the field. Why was he going to have to be creative? Why could he not just spend more money? As Howard Megdal excellently wrote for Capital New York, it appears that ownership is not interested in further increasing payroll, believing that a team can win championships without a $200 million payroll.

Assuming ownership enforced this limit, what the Yankees did this offseason was very interesting, maybe even unusual. Why? It was unusual because management finally seemingly acted in accord with the constraints being placed on them by ownership. Whereas past offseasons have often looked like unfinished masterpieces, this offseason looks like management knew that there were not going to have enough resources for a masterpiece to begin with. Rather than adding stars where they can, management spread around what little (relatively) resources it had. Two “low-budget” tactics appeared to be used:

Spending where you’ve already spent

For starters, the Yankees spent where they already had money spent. They filled some holes (middle infield) and did so on the cheap, while spending more resources on depth by acquiring players at positions where they were already somewhat committed, namely third base, first base/designated hitter, corner outfield, and bullpen. In the Yankees’ case, adding players to increase depth at these positions makes sense—in fact, it seems painfully obvious—given that banking on a year’s worth of production from Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran (entering their age 39, 35, and 38 seasons respectively) would be foolhardy. However, when it comes to cost, especially player’s salaries and contracts, people do not always act rationally. More specifically, it easy to get caught taking sunk costs into account.

We have seen the Yankees disregard these costs in the past. Only last season, after a an offseason of spending on superstars and adding little depth, the Yankees were forced into giving at least 75 starts each to Ichiro, Yangervis Solarte, Brian Roberts, and Kelly Johnson. This resulted in 2.2 WARP over 1,249 plate appearances. Moreover, this was all done knowing that the team would be starting aging veterans such as Alfonso Soriano, Beltran, and Jeter. The results, as we know, were not good. So while signing Chase Headley in order to move Alex Rodriguez into a depth role, trading for Garrett Jones, adding Chris Young, and bolstering the bullpen seems obvious and boring, the Yankees are at least taking depth more seriously by coming to terms with the inane budget constraint and ignoring sunk costs.

Specialists at bat, generalists on the mound

The second low-budget strategy the Yankees employed this offseason seems to be acquiring hitters with platoon splits in Jones, Young, Drew, and Didi Gregorious (the exception being the switch-hitting Headley), while adding pitchers with limited platoon splits in Miller, Capuano, and Nathan Eovaldi. While Ichiro, Roberts, Solarte, and Johnson might be better all-around players than Young, Gregorious, Drew, and Jones, the latter group each hits opposite-handed pitching much better than same-handed pitching. In a vacuum, this is not better or worse, but come the late innings and throughout the season, having the option to gain platoon advantages is a positive for the manager and team. The Yankees will probably not be using strict platoons (given Joe Girardi’s tendencies), but their 2015 roster is set to do so. The right-handed hitting middle infielder (Brendan Ryan or Jose Pirela) that wins the backup middle infielder job will likely spell one of the left-handed middle infielders against lefties if only occasionally. Additionally, the Yankees will be able to employ quasi-platoons at DH and outfield using Rodriguez, Jones, and Young if necessary, while providing above-average pinch hitters in the late innings.

The flip side of this is acquiring pitchers that show relatively small platoon splits. This might only be coincidence, but it could also be an attempt to improve against the league-wide increase in platoon use. If it is the case, then like the offseason acquisitions seen on the hitting side, we see Yankees’ management trying to get more bang for their buck in this bizarre, financially-constrained Yankees world.

Again, this is not a discussion of the merits of these financial constraints (note the word inane above); rather, it is taking a look at a management team that might be learning to deal with these constraints a little better than they had done so previously. It also may be pointing to a quiet rebuild, as seen by their prolific spending on international prospects and avoidance of free agents attached to draft-pick compensation. While we cannot know, at least we have some theories to observe.

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backwardgalaxy
3/20
As a Yankee fan, I can understand not wanting to hand out any $150mil contracts this off-season, but I honestly cannot imagine any excuse for how they didn't get Moncada. If he turns into a stud who kicks our butts 18+ times a year for the foreseeable future, it's really going to be hard to watch.
Muboshgu
3/20
I'm with you on that. I'm also a Yankee fan, and I find the back-and-forth between wanting to avoid the luxury tax and then the pre-2014 spending binge frustrating. Either go for it to win or get under the tax, but don't waffle like this. Just thinking about Moncada hurts, and he hasn't even played in A ball yet. I do think Cashman did a great job of diversifying assets this offseason.
hyprvypr
3/20
As a fan who enjoys the Yankees only because I want a villain, a team to despise and root against, I am glad to see the years and years of spending resulting in an old, injury-prone, overpriced team hamstrung into the future and penny pinching for a time being because of their reckless and despicable win at all costs approach. I'd prefer a salary cap so we don't revisit 2000-2010 era spending, but an ownership imposed cap is good enough. Now go build a team like just about everyone else - with good coaching, smart scouting and shrewd trades/signings.
sbnirish77
3/20
A few days ago I noted that over the last 5 years the Yankees averaged 91 wins and the Giants averaged 87 wins and most of the articles here at BP worshipped SF's approach and killed the Yankees. Glad to see just another confirmation of that view here at BP. I guess if you think the production of the group (McCann, Beltran, Tex, Arod, Sabathia, Nova) would be equivalent this year to their production last year, I might see how one could take an 84 win team to an 80 win team. The analysis for most other teams would note that players with career worst years or players with zero contribution due to injury would be due for some regression and an improved performance and contribution to a team's bottom line. But not here. The assumption here at BP is that those players just didn't simply have a bad year but are incapable of playing any better. ALL OF THEM. I think that's very narrow minded. Even if half of them are as lousy as last year, an improvement in the other half would indicate an improvement in the team, to say, 88 wins. That total in a division that isn't quite what it was two years ago is at least competitive. The only way the Yankees have any kind of success is that the players above come back to something at least halfway decent. Acquiring a bunch of bit players in case they don't come back so they win 82 wins instead of 80 is the REAL sunk cost. Acquiring Headley to play 3B instead of ARod at the cost of playing Drew at 2B instead of Prado is the real lunacy. Acquiring Garret Jones as insurance on Tex is a waste of money. Acquiring Evoldi in case Sabathia can't go might be OK but the Yankees aren't going to win anything without Sabathia. So spending money on about 6 plan B's before the year starts really has NO effect on whether the Yankees make the playoffs or not. Ultimately they will finish where they will based on the recovery of the names above. Will Tex, MaCann, and Beltran turn the page to years gone by? NO. Will they be better than last year as a whole? YES. Rather than seeing their performance, along with that of the pitchers last year as a floor, BP views it as the norm to be repeated. If any other team had 6 players that performed in their 10th percentile you wouldn't be projecting that same level of performance this year.
crperry13
3/21
Since your entire rambling diatribe seems based on the idea that old players, far past their peak, can be expected to perform equivalently to last season, well...
qwik3457bb
3/24
Well, Nova isn't past his peak, and both Sabathia and especially Beltran were hampered by injury, it seems likely to me that the Yankees will see better years from each of them. Tex, A-Rod not getting better? That seems reasonable to me. McCann? Maybe, but I don't think so. All 6 not getting better? Not likely.
rogerb
3/21
To me, it defeats the strategy to not have gone the extra 8 million or more it would have taken to get Moncade. Not getting Moncada shows me the Yankee ownership just doesn't get it.
jfranco77
3/23
I agree with this. For all the money it would have cost to get him, his actual salaries would have been the same as any rookie. That's the kind of cheap production the Yankees need. And yes they would have had to pay the 100% tax ... but not the 40% luxury tax they are already paying everyone else. Let's not forget, the Yankees already paid a lot of taxes with their J2 signings, AND already lost their ability to sign expensive Latin American players next year in the process. I can't imagine the Yankees don't understand this from a technical perspective, but I agree that they just don't GET it.
qwik3457bb
3/24
I agree. Not signing Moncada was an unforced blunder. Even if he winds up busting.