THE BLUE JAYS have caught up to the Yankees this month by following the Bronx Bombers' old playbook. Over the past three years Toronto has dealt more than a dozen prospects for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, third baseman Josh Donaldson, and starters R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and David Price, while signing catcher Russell Martin to an $82 million free-agent deal.
Brian Cashman has chosen a different approach. For the third straight trade deadline, with a playoff spot in the balance, he has hoarded his increasingly deep well of prospects and made only minor deals—even letting aces like Price, Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels find their way to AL rivals. By keeping pitcher Luis Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge and shortstop Jorge Mateo, all top 100 prospects, Cashman is taking a long-term approach designed to improve New York both on the field and on the balance sheet. Of the Yankees' top 11 position players this year, just one was a farm product, which is how you end up paying $218 million for an aging roster battling for a wild card.
Cashman can see the end of the line: first baseman Mark Teixeira (left), outfielder Carlos Beltran and lefty CC Sabathia (depending on a vesting option) come off the payroll in 2017, DH Alex Rodriguez in '18, and catcher Brian McCann and third baseman Chase Headley in '19. Cashman can see a time when the Yankees are no longer coughing up $20 million to $30 million a year in luxury-tax money. The only way to do that, though, is to have young talent ready to play.
Transitions aren't easy. New York may miss the postseason this year and again next year—almost the entire roster is still signed for 2016—which would mean four straight seasons without October baseball. At the end of this cycle, though, is the prospect of what the 1990s Yankees had: a young homegrown core supplemented by, rather than reliant upon, free agents. Cashman's approach requires patience, and it pays off in pennants.