Steinbrenner says the future is now for young Yanks
PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Baby Bombers mean a lower payroll but higher expectations for the New York Yankees.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner believes the Yankees' youth movement will pay off this season, and not just with a reduction in spending. He anticipates an abundance of precocious talent will return the Yankees to the postseason.
''I always think I have a playoff team,'' Steinbrenner said Thursday at Major League Baseball's owners' meetings. ''A lot of things have to go right. I get it. But I think the potential is there if things do.''
New York missed the playoffs last year for the third time in the past four seasons. But catcher Gary Sanchez, right fielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Tyler Austin joined the big league team in August and helped stage a late ran at a wild-card berth.
First baseman Greg Bird is back from shoulder surgery that sidelined him for all of last season. New York also has acquired several top prospects in trades, including shortstop Gleyber Torres, outfielders Clint Frazier and Rashad Crawford and left-hander Justus Sheffield.
It means a new look for a franchise that long relied heavily on high-priced thirtysomethings.
''We know from our fans this is as excited as they have been in a while,'' Steinbrenner said. ''Maybe it's because we did not do a good job for a number of years getting kids from Single A all the way up to the varsity club. ...
''Every spring training brings new hope. But this one feels different, and there's no doubt the kids are a part of it.''
Last year the Yankees cut payroll to roughly $224 million but still paid about $26.5 million in luxury tax. Payroll will be further reduced this season and next by relying on youth and losing some big contracts.
''It's going to allow me to get down to where I think no team should have to be (at the most) to win a championship, which is right around the threshold,'' Steinbrenner said. ''But these young players are going to have to pan out. That's going to be part of the equation.''
On other matters:
- Former slugger Alex Rodriguez is expected to make a significant contribution during two appearances at spring training in an instructor role. ''He clearly wants to be a part of it,'' Steinbrenner said. ''I think you'll see him toward the beginning and then toward the middle. He's such a good teacher and mentor.''
- Some fans were disappointed the Yankees reacquired reliever Aroldis Chapman, who signed a $86 million, five-year contract. Chapman was suspended for the Yankees' first 29 games last season under baseball's domestic violence policy stemming from an October 2015 disturbance involving his girlfriend.
''He admitted he messed up,'' Steinbrenner said. ''He paid the penalty, right? Sooner or later we forget, right? That's the way we're supposed to be in life. Obviously he is a special player. It's a lot of money for a reliever.''
- Steinbrenner acknowledged uncertainty about a thin rotation that will include Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. Among those competing for the other two spots will be Luis Severino, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Chad Green.
''It will be an interesting March,'' Steinbrenner said.