The New York Yankees, you've no doubt noticed, have not signed a single Major League free agent this offseason. They are the only one of baseball's 30 clubs to abstain from the open market, and this is their first offseason since the advent of free agency in which they've produced such noteworthy nothingness.

Everything about the above seems bizarrely counterintuitive by baseball's past, established standards. The Yankees, after all, are supposed to be this sport's big, bad, financially backed behemoth in the free-agent field, here to raid your homegrown studs as they enter the wrong side of the aging curve.

But just because something feels askew doesn't mean it is. The Bronx Bombers were probably wise to quit the free-agent enterprise cold turkey when they did. Their attempt to prove you can have a wily winter without a wallet is entirely defensible and may, in fact, prove brilliant.

For one, the Yankees illustrate about as well as anybody how recklessly inefficient free agency can be.

Over the two offseasons preceding 2014 and '15, the Yankees signed 15 Major League free agents to contracts, including when they re-upped with Derek Jeter before his final season in '14. Fewer than half of those contracts have provided the Yanks with any sort of surplus value, to date, and the total outlay has provided the Yanks with negative value, by a wide margin.

How do I arrive at this conclusion? Well, following the lead of this 2014 FanGraphs piece, I'm setting the value of a win at $7 million. Again, we're talking about the offseasons preceding 2014 and 2015 here, so it's fair to dig back into the archives a little bit, and, anyway, this total is at the top end of the $5 million to $7 million projection at the time. So I'm being somewhat generous.

With $7M/win as our guide, here's how much the Yankees paid each of those free agents over the course of 2014-15, what those players delivered, in terms of's Wins Above Replacement mark, and, ultimately, how much "value" they provided:





Surplus Value

Chase Headley





Andrew Miller





Stephen Drew





Chris Capuano





Chris Young





Masahiro Tanaka*





Jacoby Ellsbury





Brian McCann





Carlos Beltran





Matt Thornton**





Brendan Ryan





Hiroki Kuroda





Derek Jeter





Kelly Johnson**





Brian Roberts





Total surplus value: -$34.8M
*The Tanaka investment also included a $20M upfront posting fee, which is not accounted for here.
**Because Thornton and Johnson were traded midseason, I've used the prorated portion of their contracts with the Yankees.

I have to tell you I did not go into this expecting to assert that the 2014 signing of Roberts rates as the Yankees' most valuable free-agent acquisition of the last two years. But here we are.

Factor in the Tanaka posting fee and what is likely to be the further depreciation of the Headley, Ellsbury, McCann and Beltran deals in the coming years, and the Yankees' expenditures largely rate as abysmal.

Little wonder, then, that the Yanks opted to go about things a different way this winter. They've still got some onerous commitments to Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million through '16), Beltran ($15 million in '16), CC Sabathia ($25 million through '16, with a $25 million vesting option or $5 million buyout for '17), Alex Rodriguez ($40 million through '17), and six out of nine projected lineup spots and two out of five projected rotation spots belong to players who were obtained in previous free-agent dalliances.

So, general manager Brian Cashman took a different approach, filling a need at second base with a trade for Starlin Castro and adding to his bullpen with Aroldis Chapman in lieu of lengthening his rotation with a pricey upgrade, at a time when starting-pitching contracts exploded upward. Combined, Castro and Chapman, who is eligible for salary arbitration, will probably make just shy of $20 million this season, and Castro is under wraps through 2019 with escalating paydays along the way (he'll max out at $11.86 million in '19, with a $16 million team option in '20). So, it's not as if the Yankees didn't take on some money this winter; it's just that they abstained from the top-of-the-market mayhem.

As far as the Castro addition is concerned, the Yanks have put themselves in position to possibly have three infield spots taken up by players 27 or younger by Opening Day 2017, when Greg Bird would presumably supplant Teixeira. (UPDATE: According to a report by Joel Sherman, it looks like Bird will miss the entire 2016 season due to shoulder surgery. So that succession plan obviously depends on his recovery.)

Slowly but surely, the Yankees are looking less and less like relics of baseball's bygone reliance on unrealistic aging curves and more and more like a team reflective of the times. The outfield is also on the cusp of trending younger with the trade acquisition of 26-year-old Aaron Hicks and the near-readiness of prospect Aaron Judge.

But the Chapman addition was the one that possibly best demonstrates baseball's strategic sea change. We're coming off a season in which there were more than 15,000 pitching changes (by far the most ever), and the average number of relief appearances per team has gone up 14.8 percent just in the last decade. Starting pitching will always be important, which is why the Yankees, who have every reason to be nervous about the durability of their starting five, did investigate the free-agent and trade markets before balking at the price tags in each. But if the Yanks weren't going to pony up for starting pitching, it made all the sense in the world to beef up an already dynamic back end of the bullpen, because Chapman, Miller and Dellin Betances are capable of routinely shortening games for them.

Ultimately, the Yankees found a way to address their needs without delving into a market that has routinely burned them. And when their cumbersome contracts begin to come off the books, they'll be in fine position to be the ones setting the market, should they choose to return to that route. You can look at the 2018-19 free-agent class, which, as we sit here today, is scheduled to be headed by three 26-year-old superstars -- Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Jose Fernandez -- and see that as a potential point for the Yanks to flex their financial muscle.

For now, though, they were wise to let other clubs reach for the checkbook.

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Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor and columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.

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