This isn't the first time the Yankees have laid low in free agency. In 2012, they were quiet until signing Hiroki Kuroda in January. In 2013, they signed Travis Hafner and Ichiro to modest deals. They've been boring before.
This is the first time the Yankees have ignored free agents entirely, though. This might be the first winter in the history of free agency that they won't sign a single free agent to a major league contract. And it's freaking people out. I'm here as the voice of reason.
Here's the story of the 2015-2016 Yankees offseason in one sentence: There just weren't a lot of ways to upgrade the roster in the first place.
Before the offseason started, the Yankees had a lineup filled with entrenched, expensive veterans of moderate promise. They had one of those everywhere but second base. Then they traded for a second baseman. It was a simple, tidy, and creative fix. The Yankees spending scores of millions on a free agent would have made the offseason seem familiar, but I'm not sure if it would have made them better.