The Return of the Evil Empire

In 2008, the New York Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995, ending the second longest playoff appearance streak in Major League Baseball history. That off-season, the Yankees did what they’d always done when they were struggling: spend lots and lots of money. They made a few key pickups: CC Sabathia to a 7 year, $161 million deal, AJ Burnett to a 5 year, $82.5 million deal, and Mark Teixeira to an 8 year, $180 million deal, as well as trading Wilson Betemit to the White Sox for Nick Swisher. The team went on to win over 100 games the following season and win the World Series against an elite Philadelphia Phillies team. But all of that was under the rule of George Steinbrenner, to whom money was no issue, and who would go through any lengths to win.

Now the Yankees are faced with a similar situation. They had an awful year last season, relying on aging veterans, most of whom were well past their prime, and as a result, were plagued with injuries all season, and missed the playoffs for only the second time in 18 years. But with the death of George Steinbrenner and the looming luxury tax penalty, which, if the Yanks paid more than $189 million in salary to their players this year, would force them to pay the equivalent of half the amount of money that pushed them over the tax. Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, the two sons of George, who now have control of the Yankees and are free to run the franchise as they please, had stated that they would be aiming to fall under that $189 million this year to avoid paying that giant amount of money and have their luxury tax rate reset, leaving them free to break the bank next year.

Wanting to fall under the $189 million didn’t stop the Yanks from making some big moves. Robinson Cano, their star second baseman, started by requesting a giant contract: ten years and $300 million. They signed all star outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston to a 7 year $153 million contract, causing Cano to sign with the Seattle Mariners for ten years and $240 million. The Yankees, needing a big bat to replace Cano, proceeded to sign star catcher Brian McCann from the Braves to a 5 year $85 million contract. They also made some small signings to patch up their infield, which lost Cano to free agency, would potentially lose Alex Rodriguez to a massive suspension, and had two major question marks at first and short, with both Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter coming off major injuries that caused them to miss most of last season. They signed Matt Thornton from Boston to add a lefty to their bullpen. Finally, they signed Carlos Beltran, pushing them right up against that luxury tax threshold. The signings the Yankees had made showed that they were going for their classic “spend money and win now” approach, but with all the money they spent on these stars, there was still a giant hole in their team: pitching.

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