Enemy Territory: Are The Yankees Future Payroll Plans Realistic?

As part of a new segment that will be featured here at BSI, titled Enemy Territory where we look at headlines from the other clubs in the AL East, we kick it off by analyzing the plans of the Evil Empire to keep both Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano under contract. All the while staying below the luxury tax threshold in 2014.

The Yankees owner, Hal Steinbrenner, confirmed that the organization’s goal is to get under the $189M salary ceiling by 2014 and thus avoiding what would be a severe tax penalty.  Currently the club’s payroll is around the $220M mark, so shedding some contracts could pose to be more challenging than it sounds.

Further questions arise when you hear that the Yankees intend on re-signing both second baseman, Robinson Cano and outfielder, Curtis Granderson.  Both players have developed into offensive juggernauts for the Yankees as well as defensive rocks. Many feel Cano is the best second baseman in the game today, which is a debate for another day (ahem, Pedroia).  Both Cano and Granderson are set to become free-agents after the 2013 season and could fetch as much as $20M per season on the open market.

The Yankees currently have four players chewing up almost $90M in salary; Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira.  Add on roughly $40 million more for Cano and Granderson and suddenly the team has $130M tied up in just SIX players.  Meaning they would only have around $60 million to spend on 19 players!

But as Jon Heyman of  CBSSports.com reports, Levine believes he can field a championship caliber team within these paramters.

So just how do they expect to do this?   Rob Abruzzese of Bronx Baseball Daily takes a look at some of the players that may or may not be around to be apart of this $189M championship caliber team.

Names like Russell Martin and Nick Swisher immediately come to the forefront and in all likelihood could find new homes.  Pitchers, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are set to be free agents after 2013 and could walk out of pinstripes.

Abruzzese is quick to point out that most of the headlines are being made from team president Levine and that he could be speaking out of turn.  Team GM Brian Cashman tends to lean on the side of aggressiveness and could be singing a different tune than that of Levine.

The tax threshold appears to be the team’s mission by 2014 so let’s continue down that path with both Cano and Granderson in the mix.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the answer to the Yankees problem could be solved by getting creative on the  contract front; namely A-Rod’s massive deal.

Sherman suggests extending A-Rod’s current deal to a five-year, $100M after the 2013 season, which would reduce his annual hit against the team payroll from $27.5M to $20M.  Not a bad idea, but let’s consider the ego we’re talking about here.  It’s A-Rod and not Evan Longoria.  **Note – I am not comparing Longoria to A-Rod talent wise, merely stating that Longoria gave the Rays a home town discount when he could have cashed in elsewhere. Sherman goes on to explain the bonus portion of A-Rod’s current contract and how he could potentially turn it into guaranteed money.  At the end of the day, if A-Rod is still playing baseball in six years at the age of 42 I will eat my shorts.  I’m thinking he’s going to want his guaranteed money up front.

One could argue that Cano also has a bit of an ego which could eliminate any possibility of him taking a home town discount to help out the Yanks.

The other scenario Sherman mentions is to extend Cano and Granderson now and look at saving a few million per season based on the $20M per year being in play for both players.  Again, a long shot at best considering these guys may want to test the open market to see if they can exert additional dollars from other clubs.  If this year’s free-agent frenzy is any indication then it’s likely they could.

In closing, I don’t see how the Yankees can get to the $189M payroll in just two years.  Not while keeping guys like Swisher, Hughes, Soriano, Joba, Gardner, Martin and eventually Pineda among others.  They do have some talented prospects coming up but will it be enough to compete? Do they need some of the aforementioned names in order to compete for the division every year?

Mariano Rivera is likely going to retire this year which will provide $15M in salary, but it’s still a far cry from fielding a full lineup when potentially six players could occupy over two thirds of the budget.  Consider that Brian Cashman has said he won’t rule out adding a high profile free-agent next winter in the form of Cole Hamels or Matt Cain and this water just went from muddied to down right dirty. 2014 may be the year they feel the pinch of some bad contracts they’ve handed out in the past.

On second thought, this is the Yankees we’re talking about and anything is possible so don’t be surprised if they pull this off.  Of course talk is cheap and a $220 million dollar payroll in 2014 is certainly well within the realm of possibilities, especially with the New York Yankees.

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Tags: Alex Rodriguez Boston Red Sox C.C. Sabathia Cole Hamels Curtis Granderson Derek Jeter Evan Longoria Joba Chamberlain Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Matt Cain Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Robinson Cano Russell Martin

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