Despite the well-chronicled signings of the top three free agents on the market to massive, multi-million dollar deals, the Yankees actually shrunk their payroll by about $8 Million, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Other teams engaging in George Costanza-like shrinkage include the Red Sox ($10M) and 12 other teams in total. Despite this trend, the average salary did actually increase by 4% to $3.26 million, so you may want to hold off on starting that fundraising telethon for starving baseball players.
With big ticket items like Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Andy Pettitte coming off the rolls next year, the team from the Bronx is in a position to further streamline their organization by promoting Phil Hughes to fill Pettitte’s shoes as well as Austin Jackson to plug the hole in left field, with Swisher moving to right, taking over for Nady, who is also a FA after this season.
The OF is really the only fluid situation going forward, with the IF positions all locked up long term. With no decent SS FA’s, Jeter appears entrenched in that spot, barring a blockbuster, but in the OF, anything could happen. The Yanks could have 2 to 3 spots in that area open (possibly even 4, if you consider a DH/OF option). Much depends on how Gardner plays, how Swisher bounces back, if Nady builds on his breakout last year, etc. It’s also conceivable Damon or Matsui comes back to fill the DH role, though I Cashman seems to be trending young with most major decisions of late and I suspect they may want to leave the DH spot open long term for Posada.
Overall, the Yankees, despite being committed to several long-term, big-money deals, seem to have a decent amount of salary and roster flexibility. There are many options in the outfield, of both in-house and free agent varieties. Future catcher should be filled in-house, but if not, there are names like Joe Mauer who will be available soon. Mariano can seemingly go forever, but if not, there are candidates both within and without. The only trouble position in the future would appear to be shortstop, if Jeter’s defense (& offense) deteriorates to the point where he becomes a liability. There are no soon-to-be FA’s at that spot, nor are there in-house options (unless Angelini has a breakout season).
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