Last night, the New York Yankees clinched the American League East on a pinch hit two-run single by Jorge Posada for a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
I know a lot of baseball fans bemoan the Yankees high payroll. Yes, C.C. Sabathia is making $23 million, Mark Teixeira is making $22.5 million and Robinson Cano is making $10 million this season. But Alex Rodriguez is making $31 million in 2011 and yet injuries have limited him to 95 games this season. This will mark the first year A-Rod has failed to drive in at least 100 runs since 1997. A.J. Burnett is making $16.5 million this season and with a 10-11 record and a 5.28 ERA is having a difficult time justifying his position in the starting rotation. And despite his heroics last night, Jorge Posada has had well publicized struggles in a season in which he made $13.1 million.
Ladies and gentlemen, the story of the 2011 New York Yankees is how they managed to win the AL East at a bargain. Although they did re-sign Derek Jeter for three more seasons ($15 million in 2011) they didn’t sign the likes of Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee in the off season (despite their best efforts to woo Lee.) Instead, Yankees GM Brian Cashman looked towards the scrap heap and found some precious metals like catcher Russell Martin ($4 million), outfielder Andruw Jones ($2 million), third baseman Eric Chavez ($1.5 million) as well as pitchers Freddy Garcia ($1.5 million) and Bartolo Colon ($900,000). All five players have made significant contributions to the Yankees this season for less than $10 million.
Then let’s also consider the players who were developed in the Yankees organization who have also made significant contributions to the team this season and aren’t millionaries. Ivan Nova has become the Yankees number two starting pitcher with a 16-4 record with a respectable 3.62 ERA. Nova earned a modest $432,900 this season. David Robertson emerged as Mariano Rivera’s eighth inning set up man and earned a trip to the All-Star Game at a cool $460,450. Rivera, by comparison, made $15 million in 2011. Outfielder Brett Gardner made slightly more than half a million this season ($529,500 to be precise) and very quietly leads the AL in stolen bases with 46.
And then there’s Eduardo Nunez. I don’t think anyone expected Nunez to play more than 100 games with the Yankees this season. But with both A-Rod and Derek Jeter hurt for significant periods during the summer, Nunez filled in on the left side of the infield and the Yankees didn’t miss a beat. At $419,300, Nunez might be the best Yankee bargain of them all. Between the four of them, they are earning less than $2 million.
Like it or not, the Yankees spent their money wisely in 2011 and they could very well get a big return on their investment in October.