Back in my college days, Sunday highlighted the week. After three straight days of partying in which I probably drank a keg of Natty Light on my own, I’d sleep until noon, throw on a pot of coffee, and read the Sunday sports columns. For some reason, I actually admired them back then. How naive we are in college. I eventually stopped reading those guys, because they brought nothing insightful to the table. In their stead, I frequented Deadspin, thinking Will Leitch was different. Again, I was naive.
Leitch has since left Deadspin for New York magazine. He still writes in the same Gawker Media style but his subject matter more resembles Mike Lupica than Drew Magary. His latest column deals with the Yankees and Matt Holliday, and he states in no uncertain terms that the Yankees need him. Yes, need. If only Brian Cashman had Leitch on speed dial.
It’s not that Leitch makes a terrible case. Holliday would look “downright gorgeous batting fifth, behind A-Rod.” There’s no doubt that Holliday would make the Yankees lineup stronger in 2010. Leitch makes that case clear, but in doing so he neglects to note the negatives of signing a player to a multiyear contract. In Holliday’s case, I believe the negatives outweigh the positives.
Leitch’s basic argument is that the Yankees should forget sentimentality and let Damon and Matsui walk. They’re older players, and the money used on them could go towards Holliday. The problem, unacknowledged by Leitch, is that both Damon and Matsui figure to land short-term deals, while the Yankees would almost certainly have to commit five years to Holliday. At, say, $18 million per season, that puts the Yankees commitments at over $110 million for 2013, plus Derek Jeter at presumably another $20 million.
Even worse, that $130 million would be spread among just six players: Jeter, Holliday, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. If the Yankees intend to keep their payroll around $200 million for the next few years — and there’s little indication that they plan to raise it — that would mean just $70 million for the other 19 players on the roster. That will be tough with both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in their third and final arbitration years. If those two pan out, the Yankees could then have over $150 million committed to just eight players.
Towards the end of his unconvincing argument, Leitch wonders, “If you’re not paying for someone like Holliday, why do you have the money?” The answer, of course, is to pay A-Rod, Sabathia, Jeter, Teixeira, Burnet, Rivera, Posada, Cano, Swisher, and Marte, all of whom are under contract for 2010, and who make a combined $165 million. Again, unless the Yankees commit to spending more than $200 million on payroll — not just in 2010, but for many years down the road — adding Holliday to that ledger is not responsible. It is simply too much money committed to too few players.
As an idea, I love Hallday playing left for the Yankees. Practically speaking, I can’t see it happening. He’s a good player, maybe a great player, but the Yankees can’t just sign every good to great player who hits the market. They made three huge commitments last off-season, knowing that it would hinder their future spending. But they saw the three guys they wanted and pounced. That limits their flexibility this off-season. Perhaps in another off-season, without so many dollars committed to future payrolls, the Yanks would pounce on Holliday. But in the winter of 2009-2010, it doesn’t appear that the Yankees have the room.