New York baseball fans awoke this morning to the news that one team in the city had agreed to shell out $140 million to keep its franchise player, while the other New York team had refused to shell out $17 million to keep its starting catcher.
Only, this did not follow the script. Overnight we saw the New York Mets agree to a seven-year, $140 million deal to keep star third baseman David Wright while the New York Yankees were refusing to match a two-year, $17-million offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Russell Martin.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates!
In what world do the Mets spend $140 million and the Yankees refuse to spend $17 million in the same day? Another way to ask the question is, in what world do the Yankees actually get outbid by the Pirates for a free agent?
A world in which the Yankees are being led by a man -- Hal Steinbrenner -- whose first priority is to live on a budget. Steinbrenner is dead set on getting the Yankees under the $189 luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season, even if he has to lose starting players to the Pirates to do it.
How else do you explain Martin telling the New York Times that the Yankees "told him they did not have the money to meet his contract demands."
The Yankees, quite obviously, have the money. To get under the Steinbrenner budget, however, they no longer have the ability or willingness to spend it.
Of course, you can make the argument that spending significant money on Martin, a 30-year-old who hit .211/.311/.403 with 21 homers and 53 RBI and has had four consecutive seasons of offensive decline, is not smart. That might even be correct.
Still, the Yankees now have a collection of light-hitting, defensive-minded backup catchers on their 40-man roster.
- Austin Romine, 24, has played nine career big-league games. He played only 31 minor-league games last season, hitting .243, after missing most of the season with a back injury. If the season opened today, Romine might be the starter.
- Chris Stewart is a journeyman who played 55 games for the Yankees a season ago. He hit .241 and has a career .217 average. He has never played more than 67 games in a season.
- Francisco Cervelli was the Yankees' backup from 2009-2011. He lost that job to Stewart a season ago and hit .246 at the Triple A level.
- Eli Whiteside is a 33-year-old journeyman the Yankees recently signed. He has a .215 career average over parts of five big-league seasons.
Not a real starting catcher in the bunch.
Pinstriped Bible asks the pertinent question:
The Yankees can't really go into 2013 with a trio of, Chris Stewart, and can they? We'd all better hope not.
Putting aside questions of Wright's worth to thefor the next seven or eight years, this signing is a welcome balm to the deepest psychological wound in the Mets' fan psyche--our fear of the franchise player. Considering the Midnight Massacre, Doc's arm exploding, Straw falling off the wagon, the issue of which hat Piazza will wear to the Hall (if he even goes), and most recently Reyes, Mets fans have had little reason to believe in greatness as something not fleeting or borrowed.