The Yankees cannot afford to keep giving up a competitive advantage on contract extensions while the rest of baseball continues to lock up their young players long term.
Let us all have a moment of silence for those "Trade For Felix" comments and Fanposts, because it's not happening now. The Mariners and Felix Hernandez have agreed to the terms of a seven-year, $175 million dollar contract extension that will make the King the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. The total value on the deal surpasses CC Sabathia's 2009 $161 million dollar deal with the Yankees and Felix's AAV will top the $24.5 million that Zack Greinke got from the Dodgers this offseason. These things are never a coincidence.
Perhaps the most depressing thought here (if you'd already come to terms with the fact that Felix was not going to be a Yankee, and you probably should have) is that the Yankees have chosen a path of stubbornness over practicality with their no extension policy. Teams are locking up their young players long term with more and more frequency while the Yankees remain content to not negotiate until a deal is over. Their contract extension with CC Sabathia only came hours before CC was able to opt out of his deal and become a free agent, which is hardly the same thing as taking a young star and ensuring that they stick around at a reasonable price. George Steinbrenner was content to sit back and wait, even if it cost him more money in the end. The Cleveland Indians began buying out players' arbitration years back in the 1990s, so it's not like there was no precedent. Steinbrenner didn't seem to care, but seeing as he's been gone for years now, it's sort of inexplicable that players like Robinson Cano didn't make the non-George Steinbrenners think they should act to make sure he was kept around, instead of facing watching their best player walk away at the end of this season.
The Yankees don't really have a young player worth extending at this point. The two players you might consider, Cano and Phil Hughes, are too close to free agency to be willing to hang around at any kind of discount. It's an unsettling thought that it's difficult to think of one player on the team who is deserving of a Felix deal, an Andrew McCutchen deal, a Jered Weaver deal, or an Evan Longoria deal. Teams are going to keep doing this to keep their young talent around at a reasonable price. Possibly the best shot the Yankees have of a young star who almost certainly won't be open to an extension with their current team might be Giancarlo Stanton, who seems to want out of Miami pretty badly, but even that can be changed by enough money being thrown his way. These guys just aren't going to be hitting the free agent market anymore, and if the Yankees are serious about working under a budget, they aren't going to be able to afford the ones that do, even their own like Cano. If teams like the Mariners can sign a player to a contract like Felix's, paying a player as much as CC will be making in a few short years, the Yankees' advantage of throwing money around is shrinking and they need to adapt sooner rather than later.
A Robinson Cano contract extension would have been an extremely valuable thing for the Yankees to have with their new budgetary concerns, but they missed the boat on that one. Right now, the team may not have a player who is worth the kind of extension that Felix Hernandez is getting, but one day soon, they might. Why not change the policy on extensions now to ensure that when that player comes along, a plan is in place to work something out? Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Gary Sanchez are all hopes and dreams right now, but if they make it to the majors and live up to their potential, the Yankees cannot afford to make the same mistake with them that they did with Cano. They cannot continue to give up a huge advantage that teams have with their young talent that the rest of baseball seems to have realized. Just throwing around money isn't going to be enough going forward, because they are no longer one of the only teams with money to spend now. They need to actually be smart businessmen that spend the money they have wisely, and that can start by changing the ridiculous policy on extensions before it hurts them again.