The New York Yankees on a budget? You better believe it! And you better get used to it, Yankees fans. Hal Steinbrenner made it clear on Thursday that the days of the Yankees spending wildly are over.
"I'm a finance geek. I guess I always have been," Steinbrenner said. "That's my background; budgets matter and balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player development side and you have a good farm system, you don't need a $220 million payroll. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent."
Budgets and balance sheets matter? To the Yankees? Yes, this is definitely a new day.
The luxury tax threshold will be $189 million in 2014, and Steinbrenner made it clear his goal is to be below that number by that time. The Yankees' payroll is currently around $210 million, per various estimates. Steinbrenner added that "my goals are normally considered requirements."
So, how is a Yankee fan to feel about this?
In all honesty, I think this is an effort Yankee fans should feel good about. It isn't like a $189 million payroll would mean acting like, oh, the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals. Steinbrenner simply does not want to pay the luxury tax, and he is right when he says "I'm just not convinced we need to be as high as we've been in the past to field a championship-caliber team."
Maybe this means the Yankees won't throw 10-year contracts at players they will have to carry well into their 40s (cough, cough Alex Rodriguez). Overspending on players who are on the back sides of their careers has been a hallmark of the Yankee business model for decades. A smarter, more streamlined Yankee organization that hands out fewer bad, long-term contracts and keeps its money rather than handing out so other teams can use it to beef up their rosters should be bad news for other big-league teams.
We have seen lots of evidence of how the Yankees plan to do business over the past couple of seasons. Short-term free-agent signings like pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and designated hitter Raul Ibanez. Pulling off a trade for Michael Pineda, a young pitcher who could turn into a front-line starter and whose contract is controlled through the 2016 season. Refusing to throw massive dollars at unproven Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish via the posting process. Not caving in to whatever Derek Jeter wanted in contract negotiations a year ago.
Will the Yankees still be willing to spend when they have a need, particularly in-season for a player who would likely be a short-term rental? That will be interesting to see and will tell us a great deal about whether the new Boss shares his father's commitment to winning, or whether being good and under budget -- although maybe not World Series champion good -- is good enough for the new Yankees.