It’s being reported today that the New York Yankees have signed free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira. For much of the last few weeks, their rival (and my favorite team) the Boston Red Sox were rumored to be a front runner in negotiations. It all changed in a matter of a couple of hours when the Yankees made a run and got their man.
The latest signing got me thinking, what is the price of a World Series Championship? With this signing, the Yankees have committed to spending $423.5 million in the last month: $161 million for pitcher CC Sabathia over 7 years, $82.5 million for pitcher A.J. Burnett over 5 years, and $180 million for Teixeira over 8 years. The aforementioned ESPN article notes that the New York Yankees now have the four highest-paid players in Major League Baseball: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Sabathia, and Teixeira.
This past season the Yankees paid a high price (resulting in a $26.9 million tax luxury tax) which resulted in them not making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. The absurdity of the situation has columnists suggesting that they sign Manny Ramirez who may command $25 million a year.
Some quick thoughts:
- The Economy is against the Yankees – The Yankees just spent a lot of money for a new stadium. Ticket prices are through the roof. On one hand, the Yankees are giving the fans a product truly worth watching. On the other, the average fan may be priced out the stadium. In this economy, I would expect people think twice about spending more to go a baseball game. Likewise, corporations are looking everywhere to cut expenses. I imagine at the top of that list you’d find the raised ticket prices for Yankee games. Plus, we know that Lehman isn’t going to be buying any tickets for it’s clients.
- Big Budgets Don’t Equal Success – I think the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last year showed that it’s possible to compete on a lower budget. Then again we already knew that a big budget doesn’t necessarily make a successful final product. It sure helps improve the odds, but there’s a reason why I own Clerks on DVD and not Waterworld or Pearl Harbor.
- Do You Believe in Karma? – As a Red Sox fan, I have mixed feelings about this. I remember when the Red Sox were positioned to get Alex Rodriguez only to have the deal fall through and the Yankees pick him up (despite having their franchise shortstop in Derek Jeter). The year was 2004 and the Red Sox went on to win the World Series. The Teixeira signing almost directly parallels that one. I’m never one to put a lot of value in karma, but it make me wonder.
- Am I in Denial? – It’s quite possible that Red Sox would be worse off with Teixeira. If the Red Sox got Teixeria they would have looked to move Kevin Youkilis to third base and trade Mike Lowell. Lowell has been a very good player for the Red Sox. I don’t think the Red Sox mind their chances with him at third base. In a couple of years when he’s 36, the Red Sox may look to replace him by moving Youkilis to third base and bringing up a star prospect such as Lars Anderson to play first base. So while a bird in the hand (Teixeria) is better than a bird in the bush (Lars Anderson), it may turn out that the Red Sox get 90% of value of Teixeria for 10% of the price (rookie contracts are cheap). That’s a business decision that’s hard to argue with.
- How Many People Would Take This Offer? – Though it’s ridiculous to think about, and I’m never one to be violent, but with the Tonya Hardings in the world, I have to bring it up. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there was a bounty put out there on Yankee players. I’m going to start the conspiracy theory even before it happens. If something were to “happen” to one of the Yankees players this year during a hard slide, I wonder if the instigator would be praised in some circles as The Man Who Saved Baseball. This is the same world where you can join the Bernard Pollard fan club because he injured Tom Brady. That was in a sport where at least each team has the same resources – the Yankees have shown that’s not the case.