The money is in the budget. Dropping Damon and Matsui clears $26 million from the payroll, and, post-championship, the Yankees aren’t likely to experience a drop in attendance next season. More to the point: If you’re going to pay for the best players in baseball, this is who you want. You don’t purchase the waning years of Damon and Matsui as a reward for services rendered. With a thin farm system, the Yankees’ advantage is their payroll. If you’re not paying for someone like Holliday, why do you have the money?
The Yankees’ window isn’t exactly slamming shut—Alex Rodriguez is going to be here until 2017—but the Jeter-Rivera-Posada-Pettitte quartet has, at best, a season or two of high productivity remaining (assuming Pettitte re-signs with the team, which is expected). Jeter’s contract is up after next season, but the Yankees are likely to take care of the Captain before spring training, probably for around five years. That’s five more chances to add luster to Jeter’s Hall of Fame career. After that, who cares? Maybe by then, the Yankees’ farm system will be rebuilt, or maybe President Palin will have banned baseball and declared the Iditarod the new national pastime. Planning for this distant future is something other teams have to worry about. The Yankees are a perennial win-now operation. Last year proved that investing obscene amounts of money works if you pick the right players. It’s the Yankees’ way. Keep it going.
Heck, while they’re at it, John Lackey, the top free-agent pitcher, would look awfully nice in pinstripes, and he’s only 31, younger than A.J. Burnett. Sure, the Yanks have been saving rotation spots for Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, but they could figure out a way. The problem with Yankee spending in the past was that it was reactionary: We need a pitcher, this exact second, so let’s get Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano because they happen to be available. In this year’s market, Damon and Matsui are Wright and Pavano. Bringing in Holliday and Lackey is the opposite of reactionary. Do it for Jeter. Do it for Rivera. Do it because you can.
Oh, and the Mets? Their first move after their catastrophe of a season was not, as some expected, the wholesale firing of the coaching staff and front office. No, it was introducing a new throwback home uniform, available at the Mets team store just in time for the holidays. One hopes this won’t be the most interesting thing the Mets do all off-season. They’re the wild card in the Holliday sweepstakes. He is as poor a fit in Flushing as he is a perfect fit in the Bronx—he’s not good enough a fielder to handle that massive outfield, and his power would be neutralized the same way David Wright’s has been. But overwhelming Holliday with an exorbitant offer is the type of move the Mets love to make, especially since they need a fresh face to inspire fans to keep schlepping out to New Shea. The question is whether the Wilpons have enough money left after the Madoff scandal to give Omar Minaya the liberty of making such an impetuous move. Who knows: Maybe they'll sell millions of those fancy new jerseys.