The Johan Santana saga will be looked back upon and thought of in one of two ways: as the day the Yankees finally changed their ways and began investing in young talent, or the day the Yankees let the best pitcher on the planet get away. Either way this is clearly a turning point for the franchise. In years past the Yankees would have backed the truck up and given the Twins whatever they wanted for Johan - Hughes, Kennedy, Tabata and how about Joba too? This is clearly a new Yankee era - the Post George era.
We have three top prospects that will determine our season in 2008 and they will be determining a lot more - how the franchise is run from here on out. If they flop, permanent damage could be done to the 'build from within' strategy that Cashman has been preaching. Let's say they turn out to be mediocre, and also the 'bullpen by a committee of prospects' fails, the George will come out in Hank. Hal will no longer be able to control him and with over $60 million + coming off the books after 08 there will be nothing from stopping an old fashion George-like shopping spree. Once again the Yankees could end up an old, expensive, passionless team made of high paid mercenaries.
However, if the big three turn out to be legit players and contribute to Yankee success this year with promise of more, the whole dynamic of the team changes. The Yankees can then spend excessively on free agents that fill a spot of weakness - say a Mark Texiera for first base - and still maintain a young core that plays with passion and allows for some roster flexibility. Instead of watching the Giambis and Kevin Browns of the world play out the end of their overpaid contracts, we can see Austin Jackson and Humberto "The Dirty" Sanchez try and make their mark. Also, without the burden of large contracts you can have open competition and if a player cannot perform someone else will be given a shot. If you have a pitcher that is making $20 million dollars a year he is going to get a spot, even if we all know he can't handle it (see Brown, Kevin and Vasquez, Javier).
So the Johan watch and the fact the Yankees walked away (I guess the deadline was legit after all) is a clear turning point in Yankee history. Now while it might take more then a year to really know if it was the right move, expect the Steinbrenners to make up their minds based on this year entirely. So as we watch the big three this year, remember you are not only rooting for them to succeed and this year's pennant, you are rooting for the future make of the franchise.