Opinion

Did the Yankees jump the gun on free agency?

Just in case you were lolled to sleep by the monotony of January baseball storylines and forgot, Matt Holliday is a member of the New York Yankees.

The Yankees signed Holliday back on December 7, day 3 of the MLB Winter Meetings. The new CBA had just been finalized and a number of big-name free agent bats were expected to fly off the market. The Yankees, in search of a veteran hitter, seemingly got their man for a low-risk, high-reward contract. Holliday only required one year of commitment and should benefit from American League DH-ing duties. Many felt it was a great move at the time — another notch in Brian Cashman’s belt. But knowing what we know now, did the Yankees jump the gun on signing Matt Holliday?

This week on The Bronx Pinstripes Show (@YankeesPodcast) we discussed this very topic starting at the 16:20 mark.

Let’s look at the original projections (per MLB Trade Rumors) for each free agent versus what they actually signed for:

Yoenis Cespedes – Projected: 5 years, $125M; Signed: 4 years, $110M

Edwin Encarnacion – Projected: 4 years, $92M; Signed: 3 years, $60M with 1 club option year

Jose Bautista – Projected: 3 years, $51M; Signed: 1 year, $18M with 2 mutual option years

Mark Trumbo – Projected: 4 years, $60M; Signed: 3 years, $37.5M

Kendrys Morales – Projected: 2 years, $26M; Signed: 3 years, $33M

Matt Holliday – Projected: 1 year, $10M; Signed: 1 year, $13M

Mike Napoli – Projected: 2 years, $28M; Yet to sign

The results are interesting. Overall, the players listed above fell short of total projected guaranteed money by 25%. Only Kendrys Morales really exceeded expectations, and that is largely due to the fact that Toronto was shaking in their maple leafs at the prospect of losing both Encarnacion and Bautista. As it turns out, Toronto did lose Encarnacion — to Cleveland for $32M less than projected — but were able to retain Bautista for a reasonable contract.

Cespedes and Encarnacion were never on the table for the Yankees despite what rumors you heard. They ended up with Holliday for three main reasons: he fits their lineup (they needed a DH), he’s cheap (1 year), and should set a good example for the young Yankees (did you see those biceps?!). But is he the best fit for the 2017 Yankees? I’m leaning towards no.

With Greg Bird coming off a season-long injury and Tyler Austin in his sophomore season, the Yankees have major uncertainty at a key position — first base.

Mike Napoli can play first base and is still a free agent. Matt Holliday does have first base experience, but is a career left fielder. Given the choice between Holliday for one year or Napoli for two, I’ll take Holliday. But with pitchers and catchers reporting in three weeks (a.k.a Baseball Twitter Christmas), Napoli is still searching for a party. It’s unlikely Napoli signs for more than a year at this point, which changes the Napoli-vs-Holliday argument. Nap better fits the 2017 Yankees roster and now projects to cost the same or less.

I am not arguing that Holliday is a bad signing. Rather, I’m saying that Brian Cashman (along with the rest of us) overestimated the market for free agent hitters.

So, what do you think? Did the Yankees jump the gun by signing Holliday or are you confident he’ll be a beast in the Bronx? Tweet me @Andrew_Rotondi.

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