While the Yankees and Johnny Damon were batting contract proposals back and forth in the early part of the offseason, Brian Cashman was adamant that the Yankees had a payroll ceiling that would not budge just to bring a World Series hero back to the Bronx. Many scoffed at the notion that the shopaholics could quit cold turkey, but Damon's in Detroit and the Yankees didn't bow to any pressure to change their budgeting plans.
Will they show the same restraint come the last week of July? It's one thing to pass up a steak when your belly is full after feasting on the Phillies, it's quite another to pass it up when you're four back of the Sox and a game behind the Rays with an outfield that isn't producing as many runs as you'd like. That's when it's really a test to stick to your diet and that's when we'll find out if Cashman and the Yankees are as fiscally conscious as they claimed all winter.
There's ample reason to believe that they will stay the course. The payroll for this season is just under $210 million and they aren't likely to make any deal that balances or cuts costs. They might be the Yankees, but there's still a limit to their largesse. What's more, any deal for a player who will make a major difference would wind up committing them to payrolls that match or exceed that number for the forseeable future.
Let's say, for the purposes of this exercise, that the Rays' season has gone south and they are looking to maximize their return on pending free agent Carl Crawford. Such a deal would not only come with a pricey new contract for the talented left fielder, it would also come with demands of prospects or young veterans like Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes to make it happen. Those younger players can fill slots more cheaply than free agents going forward and replacing them and replacing the players they'd be replacing would not be cheap and would send an already high payroll into the stratosphere.
The Yankees dealt away several good prospects this offseason to land Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez, prospects that severely eroded the base that the team would have to deal from this summer. That makes it less likely they'd pull of a deal without being forced to give up uberprospect Jesus Montero and it would leave the foundation of their roster exposed as age makes injuries and decline more likely.
All of this will be moot if the Yankees feel forced into making a move by catastrophe. If something season-ending happens to CC Sabathia, all bets are off. Barring that development, though, this looks like a year where the Yankees stay at the dance with the guys that took them there. There's been rumors of this in the past, but this is the first time the Yankees have actually acted like a franchise with a blueprint that didn't involve wildly chasing every shiny object crossing its path.
Given the talent on hand, it's hard to feel too troubled by that change in thinking.