Hey, did you hear? We're totally in a recession! It might even be a global recession, so don't get too excited, Toronto people. FOX Sports reporter and erstwhile pixie Ken Rosenthal must know we're in a recession because he's linking the tough economic times with the Yankees failure to offer arbitration to any of their free agents:
As recently as a month ago, the Yankees seemed certain to offer salary arbitration to free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu. If Abreu accepted, no problem: The Yankees would retain their No. 3 hitter for another season, albeit at a cost of $16 million to $18 million.
Prior to the economic meltdown, teams actually considered such deals good business, rarely hesitating to overpay players if the commitment was only for one year. Well, the days of such largesse are over -- at least in certain cases, at least for the moment.
Rosenthal is wrong. The days of Yankee largesse towards free agents is far from over, and their attitude towards their own free agents is driven entirely by the new collective bargaining agreement that allows teams to negotiate with their own players far past the old December deadline. Before this year, if a team didn't offer arbitration to a player or sign him by December, they'd lose all negotiation rights with that player until May. Now? They can still make offers all off-season.
Besides, Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman isn't citing the economy as a reason for not pursuing Abreu or Andy Pettitte. Here's Cashman's statement regarding the Yankees attitude towards Abreu and Pettitte, via Peter Abraham:
"The determination we made today was to make sure that we control what amount we'd be spending at least in the event that we're fortunate enough to bring those players back. We did not want to put ourselves in a position of having that determined by a third party without knowing what that figure would be. We wanted to be able to control the cost that we would allocate for every position on the club."
The key term in that statement is 'control'. He's a buyer in a buyer's market, and if he can't bring back Abreu, it's a decent business decision. They've got Xavier Nady, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui signed to play outfield in '09 with Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher as possible backups.
"Even though we wanted draft picks if we lost anybody, by offering arbitration we would lose out ability to determine a final cost. So by doing so, we chose to go a different direction, not offer arbitration and we'll still stay engaged with the entire free agent market including those two players."
The important phrase here is 'determine a final cost'. Cashman knows that he can still sign Pettitte and Abreu later on for a lower price than arbitration would have allowed, and yet still come out higher than almost every other team in a contract offer. He can outbid the Seattles and Arizonas of the world because, despite those seven luxury suites that remains unsold, the Yankees have a ton of money to spend. Times may be tough in other professions but rich baseball teams are still living high on the hog.