By The Numbers: The Yankees' winter shopping spree (so far)
Hours after they officially announced the signing of catcher Brian McCann, word broke that the team had reached agreement on a seven-year, $153 million deal with former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a pact that also includes an option for 2021 as well. Then, later that night, several sources reported that the Yankees were close to signing Kelly Johnson – a second baseman by trade who can also play third and a little bit of outfield – to a one-year deal worth around $3 million as well.
Add in a few Minor League signings, and it’s clear the Yankees have a complete re-load in progress, but numerous questions still abound. Will the Yankees re-sign Robinson Cano? Are Carlos Beltran and/or Shin-Soo Choo still on the radar? And what’s going to happen with the Masahiro Tanaka saga?
With the Winter Meetings still a few days away, anything can happen, but what we do know is that two of the biggest fish in the free agent ocean are now in pinstripes, and the latest edition of By The Numbers takes a look at the spending spree so far.
269: So far, 269 is the number of millions of dollars the Yankees have committed over time to their big two acquisitions; McCann’s five-year, $85 million deal includes a sixth-year option that could raise the value to $100 million, while Ellsbury’s option for 2021 would bring his total price tag to $169 million.
.277-26-97: Per Baseball Reference, Brian McCann’s career totals average out to a 162-game average line of a .277 batting average, 26 homers, and 97 RBI. That line is a huge improvement over the production of last year’s Yankees backstops (who posted a .213-8-43 line), and in addition, posting those totals on the 2013 Yankees would have put McCann second in all three categories behind Robinson Cano.
.297-15-71-55: Likewise, Ellsbury’s career numbers led Baseball America to a 162-game average of .297 with 15 homers, 71 RBI, and 55 stolen bases. He was slightly higher in average last year (.298) and slightly lower in steals (52), and while his nine homers and 53 RBI were much lower than the projected totals, don’t forget that it was just two seasons ago he had 32 and 105.
4: Worried about speed on the basepaths? Well, Ellsbury’s addition gives the Yankees outfield a total of four of the last six AL stolen base crowns – he was tops in 2008, 2009 and 2013, while Brett Gardner tied for the league lead in 2011 – and his 2013 total of 52 was just five less than the combined 57 that the Yankees’ top three base thieves (Gardner, Ichiro, and Jayson Nix) swiped last season.
5: While McCann and Ellsbury mania runs wild, let us not forget the Yankees also re-signed Brendan Ryan to a two-year contract with $5 million guaranteed and a mutual option for 2016. Whether Ryan plays mostly shortstop, slides over to second or third to replace a departed Cano or suspended A-Rod, or simply serves as depth, he is an important piece of insurance given what happened on the left side of the Yankees’ infield last year.
16: As for the potential signing of Johnson, not only is he also key insurance for either Cano or A-Rod, but he’s also a lefty hitter who has popped 16 homers in each of the last two seasons with Toronto and Tampa Bay, respectively. That kind of lefty pop could play well in Yankee Stadium, and with an intimate knowledge of the AL East over the last two seasons, he could be very valuable.
3: The Yankees have also doled out a half-dozen Minor League deals so far, and three of them are technical ex-Yanks (in three different categories) returning to the fold; RHP Jim Miller was re-signed after spending most of last year at triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, RHP Brian Gordon – who made two starts for the Yankees in 2011 and served last year as closer at Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate – was signed and could be possible bullpen depth, and utility man Russ Canzler, who was on the 40-man roster for about a month last winter, is back and looks primed to get a true shot to earn his pinstripes this spring.
1: Ryan and McCann are official accounted for, so the additions of Ellsbury and Johnson would leave the Yankees just one open spot on the 40-man roster. However, that doesn’t mean in the slightest that there is no wiggle room; for example, with Ellsbury on board, one or all of Ichiro, Vernon Wells, and Zoilo Almonte could become expendable, and with the slew of middle infield signings at both the Minor and Major League levels, the team could also designate recently-acquired infielder Dean Anna for assignment and try to sneak him through waivers.
189: Does the recent spending spree mean that the Yankees’ desire to keep the payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold is now more of a fantasy than a potential reality? With the three Major League signing so far, the team’s AAV payroll for 2014 is already flirting with $130 million, and with a handful of arbitration eligible players left to get raises and a couple holes still to fill, that remaining $59 million is going to have to go a long way if the Yankees are to avoid the tax in 2014.
2008: And finally, the last number we bring is one of hope, 2008. It was five years ago that the Yankees last failed to reach the postseason, and that winter, they committed more than $400 million to CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett. The following season they won the World Series, so for now, Yankees fans surely hope the cycle repeats itself in 2014.