Yankees and Austerity Look Strange Next to Each Other

Winter Meetings get underway with Yankees still on the sideline

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    It's hard to wrap your head around the prospect of the Yankees pinching their pennies.

    We've been waiting and waiting for the baseball offseason to really start rolling and it looks like the time has finally come.

    Jose Reyes is going to Miami and the Winter Meetings got underway Monday in Dallas, which should mean a flurry of moves heading our way in the next few days. It's always a fun time of year in these parts, mostly because the Yankees are usually right in the thick of the bidding for the best players on the market.

    This year isn't playing out that way, though. Attempts to link the Yankees to free agents like C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle have fallen flat, trade chatter hasn't materialized and this weekend brought a report that nothing's going to change.

    Joel Sherman of the Post wrote Sunday that the Yankees are going the austerity route this offseason in order to keep spending down once we get to 2014. The new CBA has the luxury tax going up sharply that season for repeat offenders like the Yankees, something that would wind up costing them millions of dollars.

    It seems odd that the Yankees, owners of diverse and profitable revenue streams everywhere you look, would be all that worried about the increased cost of doing business, although there is a big benefit (17.5 percent tax versus 50 percent) to dropping under the threshold for just one year before going back to the old way of doing business. That, plus an admittedly underwhelming free agent market, would explain why its so quiet around the Yankees.

    Tied into that is the fact that the team has several big contracts coming up -- Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and, should he keep playing past this season, Mariano Rivera -- and a potentially interesting crop of starting pitchers hitting free agency next year. Austerity now might be a cover for big spending tomorrow.

    A bluff would also work as an explanation, however. The Yankees have played down their willingness to make moves in the past before winding up with the likes of Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Rafael Soriano when everyone was looking in a different direction.

    With two international players of intrigue -- Yu Darvish of Japan and Yoenis Cespedes of Cuba -- available, the Yankees could be sending smoke signals out with the intention of spending as little as possible to grab them under the noses of teams that think they aren't competing with the Yankees. There's also the possibility that they have their eye on a particular free agent or trade target and want to make sure the price is where they want it to be, so it's not like we should take a story obviously leaked by the Yankees without any grains of salt.

    We'll keep watching, of course, but it is looking more and more like our baseball offseason is going to be about the shortstop who left than about the players coming to town.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.