When the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008 for the first time in 14 years ownership decided to make a splash. That off-season the team committed a total of $423.5 million to Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and AJ Burnett to an already existing group of star players. The plan worked perfectly. New York won the World Series that very next year and made the playoffs in every season trough 2012. When the team missed the postseason again in 2013 the front office doubled down on the big spending strategy.
This time they committed $438 million to Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran to an already aging roster. Unfortunately for Yankee fans the plan didn't work this time. New York missed the playoffs again in 2014, lost the wild card game in 2015, and missed postseason play again this past season. For those of you counting at home that's three of the past four seasons the Yankees haven't participated in the MLB playoffs.
At the 2016 trade deadline the front office was able to, for the first time in years, make progress at building the next great Yankee team. More than anything else the roster was finally able to get younger. Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira retired. General Manager Brian Chasman traded Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller for a haul of top prospects. The moves not only shed payroll but the now baby Yankees surprisingly played better than they had all season. From August 1st through the end of the season they played their best baseball of the season, finishing seven games above .500 during this time.
The biggest development for the franchise during this time was the play of rookie catcher Gary Sanchez. The 23-year-old came in hot and became the first player ever with at least 11 homers and 31 hits in his first 23 MLB games. Overall in just 53 games Sanchez hit 20 homers with a .299/.367/.657 triple slash line. Although it was a small sample size his .657 slugging percentage would have been the highest in all of baseball had he played a full season. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting but would have run away with the award had he played even half of a full season.
Now the franchise has a big decision to make. Early this off-season the team has been tied to several big name free agents such as Chapman, Beltran, and Yoenis Cespedes. Of the three Cespedes would be the biggest mistake New York could make. Realistically the Yankees aren't ready to compete for a championship in 2017, and signing Yo to a five year deal would limit payroll flexibility when the team is actually ready to make a splash.
It's tougher to argue against signing Chapman and Beltran, but for different reasons. Chapman has said he wants $100 million, which would double Jonathan Papelbon's record $50 million deal as the highest ever for a reliever. $100 million is insane but if the asking price comes down it's tough to argue against building a dominant bullpen led by Chapman and Dellin Betances after we saw how relievers were used during these past playoffs. Beltran, meanwhile, could be a fine short term signing. He could provide power, leadership, and be used as trade bait once again should New York be out of contention come July.
Last winter the Yankees were surprisingly the only team to not sign a single free agent. The plan for the past couple of years has been to wait out these giant contracts, shed payroll, get younger, and wait for the insane 2018 free agent class to make a splash. Now the front office has a lot of money to play with but it would be wise for them to stay patient. The spending spree after 2008 made sense because there was already a championship team in place. The current edition of the Yankees is much like the roster that missed out on the playoffs in 2013 in the sense that it isn't ready to compete. Yankee fans got a taste of the future this past season. It would be in their best interest to wait to add reinforcements until 2018 when Sanchez and company are ready.