Because I was bored today, I decided to take a look at Cot’s Baseball Contracts to see what the Yankee payroll looks like for 2012, and get an idea of how much money may be in the Yankee budget to add pieces. While theoretically the Yankees have a lot of payroll flexibility, it has hovered in the $200-210 million range over the last few seasons, so it seems reasonable that it will be around there for 2012.
Currently, Cot’s has the Yankees’ 2012 payroll obligations at $153.16 million, though it’s important to note that this is not for an entire 25-man roster. It doesn’t include any prospective free agents, so Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Jorge Posada, Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones, Kei Igawa and Luis Ayala are not included. It also does not include club options, such as Nick Swisher’s $10.25 million option and Robinson Cano’ $14 million option (both of which seem certain to be picked up), or raises for arbitration-eligible players.
Assuming the Yankees do exercise the options on Cano and Swisher, this takes them up to $177.4 million. A number of Yankees are also likely to see raises through arbitration, including Russell Martin, Ivan Nova, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Phil Hughes, and Boone Logan. Joba Chamberlain will likely get a small bump (I’m guessing) as well despite missing most of the season with Tommy John Surgery.
It’s pretty tough to predict arbitration awards, but of these guys, I imagine Martin will be due for the biggest raise (from his $4 million salary in 2011) in his 4th and final year of arbitration. I could see Martin’s salary going up to around $6 million if I had to guess, but given the youth of most of the other arbitration-eligible players, they are not likely to have huge increases. Let’s say the arbitration increases amount to $8 million in total (probably on the high side, but just to be safe I’ll assume that), which takes the Yankees up to $185.4 million.
This leaves the Yankees with approximately $20-25 million left over to sign free agents, resign their own guys, or use for trade acquisitions. I am assuming that CC Sabathia will opt out of his current contract, but I don’t see his annual contract value increasing very much, maybe by $1-2 million per year. I’ll call it $2 million, which brings the figure up to $187.4 million. With this money, the Yankees will need to fill out their bench to replace Chavez and Jones (or else bring them back). I would definitely bring Jones back if he’s willing to accept a similar contract to last season (around $1.5 million), but I imagine Chavez will not back after an injury-filled season. Bringing back Jones at the same salary brings the payroll up to $188.9 million.
Jorge Posada is almost certainly gone, and if he does end up coming back it would be for a huge decrease from his $13 million salary in 2011. He’ll presumably be replaced by Jesus Montero on the roster, who will be a cheap and effective substitute. Ayala was fairly effective and could come back if he does not look for too much money, though I could see him getting replaced by Hector Noesi or someone else internally. I don’t see any big signings for the lineup (no Pujols or Prince, sorry), so the only hitters the Yankees go after will likely end up on the bench.
The main remaining question, for which the Yankees will likely budget the majority of their remaining payroll, would be pitching. Assuming Sabathia returns, the Yankees will likely have 3 starters pencilled in with rotation spots, including Nova and Burnett (due to his contract). Phil Hughes would probably be the front-runner for one of the two remaining spots if he can come into spring training in good shape and effective, but he’s very much a question mark at this point in his career. At minimum, the Yankees will be adding a least one starter, and possibly more for depth purposes. Bringing back Garcia and/or Colon has discussed, and I would love to have them both back provided their salary demands aren’t huge. Garcia would be a solid #5 if he can approximate his 2011 success, and probably wouldn’t cost more than $6 million or so. Colon definitely wore down at the end of the season, but I would bring him back as a swing man for depth.
Aside from Colon or Garcia, there looks to be room in the budget for one major free agent acquisition for the rotation, which could potentially include Yu Darvish, CJ Wilson, or Edwin Jackson. These options have been and will continue to be discussed throughout the offseason, but it’s not clear that the Yankees have especially strong interest in any of them (maybe Darvish, but the risk is very high for the amount he will cost). They could go after one of these guys without blowing up their budget, though Wilson would likely require them to exceed the $210 million level, and Darvish’s posting fee, while not included in the payroll, would be a substantial expense.
So what do I come out with after all of this? The Yankees don’t have too many holes to fill this offseason, but will have some payroll flexibility to add a starter or two to help bolster the rotation. It will be a long offseason as always, but I’m sure some free agent drama will keep things interesting.
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