Throwing bad money after good
The Yankees emerged from the winter meetings as the big winners having landed
With Sabathia in place, the 2009 Yankees rotation projected as Sabathia,
Rather than committing five-years and $82.5 million to Burnett (at an average annual salary of $16.5 million), the Yankees should have looked for shorter-term, more cost effective alternatives.
Such less expensive, short-term deals would have allowed the Yankees to maintain the flexibility in their rotation that would have allowed the conga-line of starting pitching prospects in their organization to work their way up to the major leagues. Behind Chamberlain and Hughes are
With Sabathia, Wang, and Chamberlain already in place, the Yankees would only need two of the other nine pitchers listed above to pan out as back-end starters in order to field a young, cost-controlled rotation in the wake of shorter deals to pitchers such as Pettitte, Sheets or Looper. Instead, they've committed a rotation spot to an aging, injury-prone Burnett for the next five years (he'll be 36 in the final year of the deal) and are paying $82.5 million for the privilege. That's bad business.
To make matters worse, the investment made in Burnett is desperately needed on the other side of the ball. The Yankees are coming off a season in which they were eighth in the American League in runs scored and are losing 62.4 runs over replacement (per VORP) with the free agent departures of right fielder
The Yankees have made some modest attempts to reload by trading for
The money spent on Burnett would have been better spent on offers to hitters such as
Of course, the ideal solution to the Yankees' production problems would be
After landing Sabathia, the Yankees should have focused on chasing Teixeira or cheaper alternatives for improving the lineup, then reacted to the resulting signings by fleshing out the back-end of their rotation with short-term signings and working to trade one or two of their aging or overvalued veteran bats. Instead, they got carried away and gave Burnett a contract they're almost sure to regret, possibly as soon as the All-Star break (
Still, even after the Burnett signing, chasing Teixeira is not out of the question for the Yankees. With big contracts including those of Giambi, Abreu, Pettitte, Pavano, and the retired Mike Mussina coming off the books, the Yankees still have, by my math, $23.5 left over from their 2008 payroll, which is very close to the average annual salary Teixeira's is likely to make under his next contract, which is likely to resemble Sabathia's and its $23 million annual average.
Would the Yankees dare hand out another nine-figure deal after spending $242.5 million on a pair of starting pitchers? Stay tuned.