It’s been well documented that the Yankees have a huge incentive to get their payroll under $189 million for the 2014 season. They would save approximately $10 million on revenue sharing payments, and their luxury tax would temporarily reset from 50% to 17%. It makes a lot of sense to dip below for at least one year.
With Teixeira, Sabathia, and Alex Rodriguez under big-dollar contracts. That isn’t going to be easy. Here’s what the situation looks like:
(I estimated payroll for Gardner and Montero. A couple of other arbitration eligible could be in there, but I excluded them for simplicity)
I think two immediate thoughts come to mind. First, the Yankees have a ton of payroll opening up after the 2013 season. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Rafael Soriano and A.J. Burnett are all free agents, assuming Jeter’s player option does not vest. Mariano Rivera, Russell Martin and Nick Swisher also come off the payroll after this season. But on the flip side, the second thought is that the team has a lot of holes to fill all over the diamond in order to build a competitive roster.
I see an opportunity. The Yankees have incentive to be under $189 million during the 2014 season, but some of those incentives go after that season, and they can exceed. This gives the Yankees some opportunity to backload contracts in order to get under the cap. They can trade a lot of 2014 salary for 2015 salary.
But for the argument’s sake, let’s keep annual salary averaged out. Let’s say the Yankees resign Cano to a $18 million contract. Let’s also suppose that Curtis Granderson, or some other outfielder the team signs, gets a contract a touch smaller, at or around $16 million. The numbers don’t have to be exact. Already, we’re looking at $122.625 spent on just six players. Add Jesus Montero and Brett Gardner in, and the number goes to $130.625, with 17 spots on the roster left to pay for, including a starting catcher, outfielder, four starting pitchers, a complete bullpen, and quite possibly a starting shortstop (if Jeter can’t handle it anymore) to be added.
Assuming Mariano Rivera is retired by then, I think the Yankees have a little bit of room to play here. They hopefully will be able to rely on the pre-arbitration years of a few of Manuel Banuelos, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and Austin Romine, among others, to fill starting or important bench spots. They may even get lucky and bring a few of the Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Angelo Gumbs, Cito Culver, etc crowd into the picture as well. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the 2014 Yankees to fill 2 starting slots and one of C or RF with super-cheap farm players, plus the bench and the majority of the bullpen. So, spending a little money on free agents is an option.
As always, Yu Darvish presents a nice place to spend money for the Yankees. I don’t know what his contract with run, but (albeit with risk) it’ll be less than comparable starting pitchers. John Danks, Matt Cain and others present attractive post-2012 free agent options, and more will present themselves after 2013. The Yankees can’t afford to give out a mega, $20+ million contract, but they can sign someone for A.J. Burnett’s salary.
But seriously, accounting tricks can handle all of this. MLB wasn’t smart enough to build in AAV as the luxury tax measure. The Yankees should take full advantage.
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