Brian Cashman: Tanaka expenditure was 'the cost of doing business'
With that signing, any thoughts the Yankees may have had about keeping the 2014 payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold have been all but dashed, but as general manager Brian Cashman said in his Wednesday conference call, that mantra has always been a goal and not a mandate - and the signing of Tanaka is proof positive that in the Bronx, the goal of winning a World Series title means more than its cost.
"I think Hal Steinbrenner has spoken to that on a number of occasions, that (the $189 million threshold) was a goal, but it would not come at the expense of making the championship-caliber efforts that our fans are used to," Cashman said, "and I think there's an exclamation point that's been made today that our work was not complete in terms of trying to put together a team people could talk about as having a shot at playing into October. We've done a lot of work with Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and now Tanaka, so I think our fans can recognize Hal and Hank Steinbrenner mean it when they say they intend to put a team on the field that can compete on a yearly basis."
Many have already compared this winter's spending spree to the one that netted CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett after the 2009 season; that expenditure netted a World Series title in 2009, and although the amount of dollars spent this offseason already tops the 2008 number, Cashman intimated that the team might not be done yet - but they will be a lot more frugal about any other additions between now and Opening Day.
"I think clearly a lot of heavy lifting needed to take place this winter and it has, but I think we're always looking to improve," the Yankees' GM said. "I don't think it's realistic to think that there will be any more heavy lifting that will take place, but I also don't want to say that were not going to try to improve ourselves; we'll just have to do it in a much cheaper way going forward."
Tanaka ended up edging out Jacoby Ellsbury for the biggest "base" deal of the bunch but he may be the biggest risk, as the other acquisitions at least have proven MLB track records. That said, though, the Yankees general manager noted that whether it's baseball or any other sport, America or any other country, premium product is always going to mean premium cost.
"It's the cost of doing business. I think that no matter what, when you want to acquire some of the best talent in the world, wherever it comes from, obviously the best talent costs a lot of money," Cashman said. "You can point to players here in MLB, or in football or with soccer transfers - there's a lot of good players and a lot that don't work out, but one thing that's consistent is that on a yearly basis, the efforts of clubs to try to improve themselves creates a bidding environment that produces large contracts for rare talent."
A 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA, as Tanaka posted last season, certainly screams rare talent, regardless of whether the feat was accomplished in MLB, Nippon Professional Baseball, or the fictitious California Penal League from the movie Major League. But, with many believing that there are still question marks at several spots despite the "lesser" signings of players like Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Matt Thornton, Cashman reiterated that it takes only one man to physically lift the Commissioner's Trophy but 25 (or more) to earn it.
"We've obviously tried to address areas of need in as many ways as possible. It's a 25-man roster and there's a lot of areas that needed improvement, and ownership has stepped up to allow us to secure a lot of players that should make our fans excited that 2014 is going to be rather different than 2013," he said. "This particular free agent market was deeper in some areas than others, so we've tried to gravitate to secure as much impact talent as we could get if it fit, and that led us to Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann and now Tanaka. We certainly wish it could've included Robinson Cano, too, but it didn't work out."
All of the new talent, plus two superstars in Teixeira and Derek Jeter returning after missing almost all of 2013 due to injury, equals a huge improvement on paper - but with all those moving parts added to the fact that someone (possibly David Robertson) has to replace the greatest closer of all-time in Mariano Rivera, Cashman knows that the chemistry is much more important than the ingredients.
"How it collectively comes together remains to be seen; I just know that we needed to add more talent, and we've done that and we're excited by it," Cashman said, "but we need everyone to stay healthy. We experienced a rash of injuries last year that I don't think anyone has ever experienced, so we just hope that everyone stays healthy and maximizes their potential, and if that's the case, we'll feel really good about how 2014 should play out."
So then, if all that does play out, can this spending spree lead the Yankees to ring No. 28, just like 2008-09's led to No. 27?
"How different (2014 is from 2013 is something) I think we'll have to let the play on the field determine. The AL East is the toughest division in baseball; we have the current World Champion Red Sox, and there are four other teams that want to take that away from them. That isn't even counting all the other great teams in the American League like Texas and Detroit and Oakland, but hopefully we've pushed ourselves to the point where we can be included back into conversation with the better teams in the AL."