In his most recent piece, Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune discusses Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Gonzalez, dubbing them the Four Horsemen of baseball. While Rogers’ analogy is somewhat strange, he then goes on to turn a few more heads once he begins discussing the Yankees’ future in relation to the aforementioned quadruplet. According to Rogers, “[e]xecutives with other clubs” actually believe that the Yankees (the Red Sox are also named, as well) are reluctant to spend this winter “because they want as much flexibility as possible to land one of baseball’s four horsemen at some point in the next two years,” as all four will be free agents by then — Mauer after 2010, Pujols, Fielder, Gonzalez after 2011 — unless extension agreements are reached with their respective teams.
Wait… what? Though it is certainly feasible for the Yankees to tighten their purse strings this offseason in the hopes that Joe Mauer will be available on the open market after the upcoming season, how exactly do Pujols, Fielder, and Gonzalez — three first basemen — fit into the Yankees’ plans with some guy named Mark Teixeira inked through 2016? Well, Rogers adds that the Yankees “are keeping the DH spot clear, for the time being, as a potential way to accommodate Pujols, Fielder or even Gonzalez playing alongside Mark Teixeira.” Wait… what (again)? According to Rogers, this winter, the Yankees are “keeping the DH spot clear” — and by clear, I guess Rogers is referring to the team’s short-term deal with Nick Johnson — so as to sign either Pujols, Fielder, or Gonzalez sometime toward the end of 2011 (or in early 2012). Is that right? This is heavy stuff, however, plausibility is a key issue here. For instance, will the Yankees actually offer a $100 million contract to a designated hitter? Further, would Pujols, Fielder, or Gonzalez even want to be designated hitters for the Yankees? There are many important factors to consider, thus, thinking that the organization is “keeping the DH spot clear” for either of the three players, years in advance, seems far fetched.
In reality, it appears that the Yankees are limiting their spending this winter, not for another winter two years from now, but because, as Brian Cashman recently noted, they find next year’s free agent crop to be a more appealing sort (Joe Mauer — he’s the likeliest horseman to be pursued if available — plus Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee, for example). And, with regards to Rogers’ second claim about “keeping the DH spot clear,” perhaps the Yankees simply see the value of the roster flexibility provided by that role. Or, maybe they would rather funnel their rich resources into elite starting pitchers or multitalented position players that can offer both offensive and defensive contributions, instead of a DH who solely offers the former. The DH spot might also be kept clear with a short-term contract for Nick Johnson so as to prepare for the coming of Jesus Montero (assuming he outgrows catcher), the organization’s offensive wunderkind.
Basically, in sum, there are several reasonable reasons which explain why, exactly, the Yankees are currently curbing their spending and “keeping the DH spot clear.” However, awaiting the arrival of a pinstriped Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or Adrian Gonzalez, years in advance, does not seem like one of those reasons (not at this point in time).
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