New York Yankees Flashback: The Infamous 2009 Offseason

Alex Kielar
New York Yankees, Yankees, CC Sabathia
Apr 29, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) reacts while leaving the field during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

With disappointment running through the New York Yankees clubhouse, front office, and fanbase, following a subpar 2008 season of missing the postseason for the first time since 1993, the Yankees had to make some big splashes in the offseason to contend in the 2009 season. Not to mention, the 2009 season would come with serious expectations, as they were opening the New Yankee Stadium across the street from the old one being torn down.

The very passionate Yankee fan base would be livid and most likely gunning for General Manager Brian Cashman’s and the rest of the front office heads if they didn’t go out and improve the team drastically and compete once again for postseason play. Cashman did announce at the start of the offseason, changes would sure be made.

George “The Boss” Steinbrenner stepped down as main decision maker at the start of the offseason as well, struggling with his health, as he passed control to his youngest son, Hal. The expectations were heavily placed on Hal as he would have a big test in bringing in the right pieces.

The first move the Yankees made to start improving the team was trading infielder Wilson Betemit to the White Sox and receiving Nick Swisher in return, a switch-hitting first baseman and outfielder who would add some more power into the lineup. At the time of this trade, most people around the Yankees, including the fan base and analysts, expected Swisher to go into the season as the starting first baseman.

But at the beginning of the new year, on January 6, 2009, the Yankees signed free agent Mark Teixeria to a massive 8-year, $180 million deal. “Tex” as he had been called by a lot of people around the league, was coming off a 2008 season in which he hit for a .308 average, drove in 121 runs, and hit 33 home runs, splitting time between the Braves and Angels. Teixeria filled the need they had a first base, and earlier in the offseason they also filled their starting pitching need as they signed both CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett to big contracts on December 18th. First base and the rotation were the Yankees biggest needs and they were able to fill them with the three biggest free agents offseason. Andy Pettitte was also resigned to a 1-year contract, to help make the Yankees rotation nearly unstoppable.

The Yankees offseason acquisitions ended up being huge keys to their path to winning their 27th World Series championship. CC Sabathia went 19-8 in the regular season with a 3.37 ERA, and went 3-1 in the Postseason, including winning both games he pitched in the American League Championship Series, leading him to winning the ALCS Most Valuable Player award. AJ Burnett pitched to a 13-9 record in the regular season, but struggled a bit in the postseason with a elevated 4.78 ERA. Burtnett was able to come up with a victory in Game 2 of the World Series over the Phillies.

The Yankees went with a three-man rotation in the postseason, and the Yankees other big pitching signing in the offseason, Andy Pettitte, was the third man. Pettitte had previous postseason success, pitching for the Yankees in their ‘96, ‘98, ‘99, and ‘00 World Series winning seasons. In the 2009 regular season, the member of “The Core Four” piled up 14 victories and 148 strikeouts. Pettitte was huge in the postseason, as he won all four games he pitched in, including two games in the World Series, leading the three-man staff and the team to a World Series victory in six games over Philadelphia. The Yankees other big offseason acquisition, Mark Teixeira, had a huge first season for the Yankees in the regular season and postseason.

He finished the regular season with 39 home runs, 122 RBIs, and a .292 batting average, as he was selected to the All-Star Game, won a gold glove and silver slugger, and finished 2nd in MVP voting to the Twins’ Joe Mauer. Teixeira came up clutch in the postseason, as he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of game two of the Division Series against the Twins, which sent Yankee Stadium into oblivion. Teixeira drove in eight runs in the postseason overall with two home runs. Nick Swisher, another offseason acquisition, bashed 29 home runs in the regular season, and was a big clubhouse presence, bringing his upbeat and funny personality to help bring the team up.

The Yankees 2009 offseason and 2019 offseason could end being very similar. The Yankees failed to meet high expectations in 2018, as they were a first-round exit, losing to the Red Sox in the ALDS. In the 2009 offseason, they went and signed the three biggest free agents in the market. This offseason, they have been involved with big-name free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, after already trading for pitcher James Paxton and resigning J.A. Happ, to help improve the rotation.

Could the Yankees go a similar route to 2009 and sign one or both big name free agents they have been attached to?

Machado and Harper have both stated they’d prefer the Yankees over other teams, with Machado saying if offers are close, he will pick the Yankees. The difference between this offseason and the 2009 offseason, is it seems as though the Yankees aren’t as willing to throw too much money or years at free agents as they were then. So it seems as though if they are to sign either one or both, it would be because they took a paycut to come to the Yankees. Only time will tell, so now all we do is wait.