We've all grown accustomed to the Yankees doing business like the scion of a billion-dollar fortune.
No cost is too great if it means making life a little bit easier. The smallest imperfection must be addressed with millions of dollars and should that fail to solve the problem, well, just throw a little bit more money that way to make everyone feel better.
Hal Steinbrenner grew up in that mode of doing business, but the times are a-changing at Yankee Stadium. The new Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement imposed harsh penalties for teams that cross the luxury tax threshold of $189 million in payroll starting in the 2014 season and Steinbrenner wants the Yankees below that mark.
"I'm looking at it as a goal, but my goals are normally a requirement," Steinbrenner said. "Is it a requirement with baseball that we be at $189 million? No, it’s not a requirement. But that is going to be the luxury-tax threshold and that is where I want to be."
It's not going to be easy to get there without some pruning. The Yankees already have $74 million committed to three players (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez) for the 2014 season, they'll need to sign Robinson Cano and/or Curtis Granderson when they become free agents after the 2013 season and, in addition to replacing/re-signing other players, they need to account for the $6 million bonuses they lavished on A-Rod for several milestone homers he could hit that season.
Hal can thank his brother Hank for that last fly in the ointment, but it's clear that the only way for the Yankees to get down to that number is by eschewing the kind of expensive solutions they've relied on in the past. That will mean going with younger players in many instances and those players will experience the kinds of growing pains that used to lead to rash decisions to replace them with more established and expensive alternatives.
The onus will be on Brian Cashman to be nimbler than he's been in the past when it comes to assembling rosters, although he's gotten off to a good start in recent years by putting more value on developing players for the Yankee roster instead of just using them as trade chips. And it's not like there's no precedent for this approach in the fairly recent Yankee past.
When the Yankees won four titles in five years between 1996 and 2000, they did it with a roster that was a healthy mix of organizational products under cost control with veteran acquisitions sprinkled in for good measure. There's no reason that approach can't work again for the Yankees, especially when you realize that the Yankees will still be operating with a bigger budget than what's available to many of their competitors.
That will lead to hard decisions, including the Cano/Granderson free agencies, but the end result should be a healthier Yankees organization than the one that stumbled so often in the late years of the Torre era. It might also mean swallowing a down year now and then while waiting for players to blossom into the kind of foundation pieces that the Yankees found after the miserable early 90s.
It's not the Yankees we're used to watching, but it's the Yankees we're going to be watching very soon.