The only time we saw Brian Cashman on the podium in Nashville was when he was talking about Alex Rodriguez's impending hip surgery.
You hear about them considering trading Curtis Granderson, but nothing about being in on Josh Hamilton, or even A.J. Pierzynski. They were stuck with an 0-fer in the free-agent market.
Are the New York Yankees serious? Are they really going to keep doing this new dance with fiscal restraint?
Is this really the beginning of a very major roster retool? They're running out of winter to provide some answers.
Everybody knows how they got themselves into this mess, of course. Besides 27 world championships, the Yankees also lead the world in luxury tax payments. In fact, they're far more dominant in that category, as they accounted for about 90 percent of all luxury tax money collected through 2011.
They've gone so far over the threshold so many times, exceeding it again will cost them a 50 percent penalty. But there is a way out, and apparently, they're going to take it.
By getting under the $189-million threshold for the 2014 season, they would reset the luxury-tax penalty to a far-lower percentage if they exceed it going forward.
OK, we get all that. But what about the 2013 season? This roster — with five players age 37-plus — screams for taking one more shot at a title. Mariano Rivera will return for one more year at age 43. Andy Pettitte is back for another year at age 40. Derek Jeter, 38, says he'll be ready by Opening Day after left ankle surgery. Hiroki Kuroda, 37, was re-signed.
But there is no additional help — at least not yet — although they have offered Kevin Youkilis a one-year, $12-million deal. How much could a non-playoffs season or two cost the Yankees on the field, and in attendance and YES Network ratings? Is it really worth getting back under the threshold?
Losing Russell Martin to the Pirates? Not spending to keep Nick Swisher or Ichiro Suzuki or even Eric Chavez? This has become the stark reality of Cashman's balancing act between restraint and contending:
The Yankees' 2012 payroll was just under $210 million. Their nine highest-paid players will make a combined $156.5 million in 2013 (all numbers from the Baseball Prospectus/Cot's Baseball Contracts site):
Throw in raises for arbitration-eligibles Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan and Chris Dickerson, and there isn't much room for Cashman to maneuver.
One way out would be a repeat of how the last Yankees' dynasty began — spurred by homegrown stars Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams. But the current system doesn't include one of those talents, let alone a nucleus.
And while the Yankees descend the payroll ladder, many other franchises are climbing, pushed up by spiking local television rights deals. And you know there will be no tears shed for them — only opportunists wisely seeking to take advantage.
The Bronx Bargain Hunters? It's just not right.
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