Baseball is back– and the Yankees are back to their old ways

The New York Yankees’ old ways are nothing new to baseball.

The Yanks gave out nearly $500 million in free agent contracts over the offseason. It began with the signing of Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal, the biggest contact ever given out to a free agent catcher. Not bad for a 30-year old who has seen a steady decline in every statistical category the last three seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

The Yankees then scooped up Jacoby Ellsbury from division-rival Boston Red Sox with a seven-year $153 million deal. It continued with the signing of Carlos Beltran (three years, $45 million) and the Grand Daddy of them all — signing Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka for seven years, $155 million, the richest contact ever given out to a free agent pitcher. Throw in contacts for free agent signings Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, too. The $500 million offseason is similar to the $400 million offseason the Yankees had in 2008.

Major League Baseball is changing and the Yankees are not.

Spending big in free agency does not always translate to success. Young players are revolutionizing baseball like never before. Bryce Harper (21), Mike Trout (22), Yasiel Puig (23), Freddie Freeman (24), Manny Machado (21), and Chris Sale (24) have all become household names and All-Stars before they even reached their 25th birthday.

Superstars are budding everywhere. However, the Yankees refuse to follow the trend. They are baseball’s oldest team, with an average age of 31-years young.

McCann, Brett Gardner and Ellsbury will be the youngest players in the Yankees lineup this season at 30. The Yankees built a dynasty in the 1990s because they chose to build from within. They churned out superstars like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano and more recently, Robinson Cano, by developing from within their farm system.

For the first time in 15 years, the Yankees don’t have the highest salary in the league. The Dodgers have a league-high $235 million payroll this season; the Yankees are second at $203 million (golf clap?).

Spare me. The Tampa Bay Rays have put together a team that contends every year by operating with one of the lowest payrolls in the league. With a payroll of just $57 million this season, the Rays have one of the best pitching staffs in the league with David Price as their ace, and the likes of Evan Longoria of Wil Myers leading their lineup.

Aging/former superstars litter the Yankees’ roster. Derek Jeter is 40 and has announced that this will be his final season in pinstripes. Ichiro Suzuki is 40 and just a shell of the dynamic leadoff hitter he once was. The team’s best pitcher last season, Hiroki Kuroda, is 39. The list goes on and on.

The good news?

Coming off a season in which they missed the postseason, even with their age and lack of youth, the Yankees are a playoff contender and World Series hopeful once again. But please, general manager Brian Cashman and team owner Hank Steinbrenner, change your ways. They’re getting old.


Around the Diamond

  • Ready to Emerge- Washington Nationals

The Nationals have best pitching staff in the majors, fronted by ace Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has yet to throw 200 innings in his career, but has endured innings limits and injury in his four years in the majors. However, Strasburg has 2.96 ERA in his career and if healthy, Strasburg can emerge as a Cy Young winner. Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, and newly acquired Doug Fister will be major arms on the mound. Their lineup will be led by Harper, who at just 21 is already a five-tool player that opposing pitchers fear. Outfielder Jayson Werth and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will bolster the lineup around Harper. Despite missing out on the playoffs last season, Washington was the best team in baseball over the last two months – going 26-12.


  • Ready for DeclineTexas Rangers

Injuries to ace Yu Darvish and starting pitchers Matt Harrison and Derek Holland have depleted the Rangers pitching staff. Free agent addition Joe Saunders will be pitching for his fifth team in five years. Converted relievers Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross will also be in the rotation. Wait, who? Don’t worry. Colby Lewis is finally healthy – except he had an ERA of 18.00 in the spring. Ouch. The Rangers have one of best offensive lineups in baseball with new accquisitions Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, plus proven veterans Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, but with an uncertain pitching staff the Rangers may be “just a bit outside.”


  • Ready for the PlayoffsKansas City Royals

The last time the Royals made the playoffs, George Brett was on the team (yes, that angry pine tar guy). That was 1985. This may finally be the year that the Royals will be playing through October. First baseman Eric Hosmer is one of the best young bats in the game and Billy Butler and Alex Gordon should continue to put up consistent numbers in the middle of the order. The difference this season will be pitching. James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie will be quality arms in the front of their rotation and Greg Holland (45 saves last season) should be one of league’s top closers once again.


  • Team that has hit rock bottom –Ready to keep digging- Houston Astros

The Astros set a franchise record by losing 106 games in 2011. Then they set it again in 2012, losing 107 games. Then again last season, losing 111. Should we expect 115 this season? Definitely. They made a splash similar to that of a pencil dive when they signed pitcher Scott Feldman to a three-year, $30 million deal in the offseason. With a salary of $10 million a year, he’s the highest-paid player on the Astros (the Yankees have 10 players that make $10 million a year). Feldman has a 4.62 career ERA. Last season, the Astros finished last in the American League in hitting. They had the worst ERA in the league and committed 125 errors, last in the league. When a team can’t hit, can’t pitch, and can’t field – they don’t win. They will start stockpiling more No. 1 draft picks and are closer to signing Tracy McGrady than contending for a playoff spot.


World Series: Nationals over Red Sox

AL Cy Young: David Price

AL MVP: Prince Fielder

NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg

NL MVP: Bryce Harper