The New York Yankees have had a shrewd offseason and this week they put the finishing touches on the roster. The Yankees go into camp with no glaring openings, barring injury. One would think that since they are a team with a $200 million plus payroll that should be an obvious statement. But we know all too well that a large payroll doesn’t always equate to winning the World Series. What has become a new theme is filling the end of the roster with various role playing veterans. The Yankees have been able to find these players and sign them to inexpensive contracts. The players still have something left to contribute and more importantly have the desire to win a championship, which is the Yankees’ goal year in and year out.
General manager Brian Cashman has been around long enough to know how to assemble a championship team. He’s done it four times. To outsiders, it has always seemed that the Yankees merely outspent the rest of the league to get the best players. While there are many insanely high salaries on the team, the most successful Yankees teams came down to how well the role players and younger players performed. Seldom were they carried by one of the highly paid stars.
When the Yankees had depth throughout the roster they prospered. In recent years the development of young players in the system has paid dividends to the Yankees’ fortunes. Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson have all been important players in recent years. They were often led by some of these players for periods of time in specific seasons. Their contributions as a whole were felt daily.
They have also found role players via the free agent market in recent seasons who have complemented the starting squad as replacements for days off or for extended periods due to injury. Last season it was Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones. This year Jones and Chavez are back and Cashman added the left-handed hitting Raul Ibanez to be the other side of the DH platoon with Jones.
The DH position is primarily going to be a platoon between Jones and Ibanez mixed in with the occasional off-day for Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and maybe Mark Teixeira. The signing of Chavez allows the Yankees to rest A-Rod and he may even get a few at-bats at DH depending on the pitching matchup. When measuring the signings we can look at them individually, but the signings of Jones, Ibanez and Chavez should be viewed as a collective. See their 2011 stats below.
Ibanez’s stats are against right-handed pitching only as I do not see him getting many, if any, at-bats against southpaws. I generated this WAR figure using the simple WAR calculator provided by Lewie Pollis from Wahoo’s on First. His true WAR from 2011 was -1.3, but was significantly hampered by his awful example of fielding which thankfully will not be an issue in NY. I’m guessing the Yankees told Ibanez to leave his glove home. So, the WAR figure above also reflects the position change to DH. If we look at the wRC+ column we see that each player makes a major contribution despite being a part-time player. As a trio they have the ability to put up some nice stats for the Yankees.
Jones, Chavez and Ibanez are aging players who had immense success during their best seasons in the big leagues. Now, Jones is used only from the right-side of the plate and primarily as a DH, Ibanez is a major detriment in the field so he’ll hit only and Chavez has found the ability to stay healthy with less wear and tear on his body.
The Yankees’ money still comes into play in this situation, one where even fans who hate the Yankees cannot say they are overpaying players. The Yankees, because of their wealth, can take on these types of contracts laden with incentives that if reached mean the player played a larger role than expected and performed adequately enough to continue to get the playing time. Other teams would be unable to fork over $4 million (Jones is set to make $2 million this season, Ibanez $1.1 million and Chavez $900K) for 3 players who essentially fill 2 roles.
If collectively they are able to duplicate their numbers detsiled above, they should generate over 2 WAR total. I believe that Ibanez will be closer to 1 WAR this season as his BABIP was very low last season when compared to his career mark of .303. An uptick there and a few more HR into the short porch in Yankee Stadium will bring the value up. I would suggest that the Yankees can expect a total of 2.5 WAR from the three players. At $5 million for every 1 WAR the performance value would be $12.5 million. This is more than three times the investment. Cashman knows that even a paltry 0.8 WAR total is the breakeven mark. Any of them could do that on their own.
These are risks the Yankees are able to take because if one or more of these players doesn’t pan out, they can utilize their money to fix the problem. But, Cashman selected them wisely. They are three proven winners who may be on the downside of their career, but have enough talent to blend in with the group and make a difference when called upon. The Yankees are deep and primed for a run at an unprecedented 28th World Championship.
For more on the Yankees please see Yanks Go Yard. Be sure to check out all of Call to the Pen’s transaction breakdowns for the 2011-12 offseason. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen or like us here on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed. You can follow Chris Carelli on Twitter at @Chris_Carelli.