Brian Cashman speaks with the media before a game against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees today traded for Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray at the MLB trade deadline.

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Keidel: Yankees Have Learned That Reckless Winter Spending Doesn't Equal October Success

Jason Keidel
December 13, 2018 - 1:44 pm

God bless Scott Boras. For years, baseball's verbose super agent has used the Yankees to leverage better deals for his clients. As long as the most powerful brand in baseball, if not sports, winked his way, Boras could get his clients life-altering money. Even if a given Boras client has no desire to play in the Big Apple, Boras would use a Yankees offer to spike the price of his prized athlete. 

But those days are dwindling. While GM Brian Cashman sarcastically asserted that the team was a fully operational Death Star - a play on the club's Evil Empire sobriquet - the truth is the Yankees are feeling far more retro than futuristic. 

Long known for impulsive, reckless shopping sprees, gorging on free agents the club neither needed nor really scouted, the Bronx Bombers got their groove back by thinking small-market while playing in the biggest market. The Yankees are back in business because they went young, because they watered their farm system rather than trade every prospect for a former All-Star whose name was way bigger than his game.  

The core of this team, from Judge to Torres to Sanchez to Andujar, is part of a surging core of youngsters who are still cheap, still hungry, and still see baseball as a game and not just a monetary staring contest. 

Even this year, the Yankees kept their winter wish list strictly to help with victory, not vanity. The big name is replaced by the big arm. They landed a starting pitcher in Seattle's James Paxton, they kept J.A. Happ. And even though they whiffed on Patrick Corbin, they showed newfound maturity by not going Darth Vader and overcompensating by bagging graybeard pitchers at biblical prices. 

So now the Yankees' rotation - their only true need entering this hot stove session - may not quite match up to the Astros or Red Sox, but it's clearly improved. If they don't make another move, the Bombers will start Luis Severino, Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Happ and CC Sabathia, with Chance Adams, Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga padding the back-end. And perhaps Jordan Montgomery will be returning from Tommy John surgery during the summer. 

As Ken Davidoff suggests in The New York Post, the Yanks would be well-served to stalk Boras for another client - Zach Britton. Then perhaps double-down on some bullpen arms by signing Adam Ottavino. 

Davidoff gives the Yankees a B to B+ grade for their retooled rotation. Indeed, it would have been nice to land Paxton and Corbin and then surge into next season with perhaps the deepest starting staff in the sport. But the Yankees have learned from their public, epic failures over the last 15 years. It's far more prudent to make the right moves than the biggest moves. The Yanks used to attack the winter as though it were the Fall Classic, lavishing cash on square pegs then trying to jam them into their round holes. 

MORE: Report: Yankees Re-Sign J.A. Happ

Go after Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson and Jason Giambi and Jose Contreras, cost be damned, and World Series be gone. Fielding a team of mercenaries only works on television. In sports, chemistry and harmony may not be sexy, but they are what fuel a team past its collective pain threshold. Players-for-hire tend to melt before adversity. Homegrown stars bleed for their teams and towns. 

Kudos to the Yankees for showing restraint. Cashman said the Yankees still have lines in the free-agent waters, but aren't fishing for Bryce Harper or even Manny Machado, who has a more useful game for the Yankees but whose work ethic (“I'm not Johnny Hustle”) and me-first attitude could poison a clubhouse filled with team-first studs. 

Sometimes it's the things you don't do; the headlines and headaches you avoid, that make a champion. Maybe the Yankees didn't land another Marlin like Giancarlo Stanton, but they did bring home enough for supper. If they get a B for free agency, they get an A+ for their new attitude. The Yankees won too many winters to think it carries over to October. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel