Imagining Crawford and Lee on the payroll

RAB Live Chat
The RAB Radio Show: December 3, 2010

As we learned this morning, the Yankees are talking to Carl Crawford. This shouldn’t strike us as surprising. All season long we heard how much the Yankees liked Crawford. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to sign him. Cliff Lee still appears to be the first priority, meaning Crawford is only a backup plan — and a tough backup plan at that, since it still leaves a hole in the rotation and a surplus in the outfield. Chances are the Yankees are just trying to drive up the price for other teams.

Still, it’s tough not to wonder what the Yankees would look like with Crawford in the outfield and Lee on the mound. In terms of baseball skill, they’d have to be the instant AL favorites. Yet we know the company line on payroll: it won’t rise significantly. The Yankees had about $209 million on the payroll last season ($214 million, per Cot’s, minus the $4 million for Igawa). They then added some salary at the deadline. So maybe, just maybe, we could see the payroll hit $215 million. Can the Yanks fit both Crawford and Lee under that cap?

As it stands, the team has $144 million committed. We can add another $15 million for Mariano Rivera, and we can presume $19 million for Jeter. That brings payroll to $178 million. What about arbitration raises? Baseball-Reference estimates it at just under $11 million, so let’s add that in. The Yanks are now at $189 million, with a few holes still to fill. Now comes the fun part. Let’s add in Lee at $23 million. Payroll would then be $212 million. That appears to be the limit, and that’s before they sign Pettitte. If they bring him back that’s another $12 million or so. In this scenario, the Yankees would have a payroll of nearly $225 million. What’s crazy is that I don’t see what they can do to get it much lower, short of abandoning their Lee pursuit.

At that point it’s tough to see the Yankees, even with all their riches, going any further. Even $225 million seems way above where they’re willing to go. I’d bet that they get that number lower by making a chunk out of Lee’s first-year salary and making it a signing bonus. Even then, payroll would still be over $214 million, and that’s without signing a single bench guy.

Adding Crawford to that might seem like a ton, but it wouldn’t come on its own. Chances are the Yankees would deal Swisher or Granderson in that case, which would knock $8 or $9 million off the salary. They’d probably have to take prospects in return, since adding a major league player would mean adding even more payroll. But signing Crawford and dealing Swisher would be a net add of around $9 million, bringing the total to $234 million. With a few signing bonus manipulations, which will only hurt future years, the Yanks might be able to get that in the $220 million range. Is that something they’re willing to do just in order to put together a behemoth 2011 team?

There might be something else at play here — for all we know, the Steinbrenners could be thinking about selling the team. The Yankees could also think that the added revenue from another long playoff run would help justify these contracts in the future. But given the information we have currently available, signing both Crawford and Lee is a long shot. Talent-wise I don’t think anyone would be against it. But that creates some difficult payroll situations in the future. Are the Yankees ready to start committing $225-plus million to the club every year in the future?

RAB Live Chat
The RAB Radio Show: December 3, 2010
  • MikeD

    I think the Yankees main concern with payroll relates to the luxury tax. I believe a large, up-front bonus is still treated like salary for the upcoming season, so it would be subject to the luxury tax. What they could do instead is back-load Lee’s contract. So if they sign him to a six-year, $138 million contract, averaging out at $23, they could instead pay him $13 million in 2011, and then $25 million over the remaining five seasons. They’ll have Posada coming off the books in 2012, and probably Andy, too.

    This scenario is not about adding Lee and Crawford. They might do this just to add Lee, while keeping their payroll in the $210-215 range for 2011. I also believe the Yankees have been trying to keep their payroll from exploding updward prior to the upcoming CBA negotiations.

    • Ed

      I’m not sure that I agree that the luxury tax is their concern. The luxury tax threshold goes up every year. Their total payroll + luxury tax total peaked in 2005 and had been steadily going down until this past season. I don’t think the numbers for this year are out yet, but I think they’ll still come out below 2005 levels.

      As for a signing bonus, the value of it gets spread out over the life of the deal when calculating the luxury tax. That’s why CC received $9m of his first year’s salary in the form of a bonus. It made very little practical difference, but it was significant for luxury tax reasons.

      I do agree with you on the CBA point though. CBA concerns are the reason Jeter’s $118.5m/7 contract fell through 11 years ago.

    • mike

      who cares about payroll there the yankees not the tampa bay rays they know they have to put the best team on the field every year no matter what the cost is well i know if george was still alive running things we would already have these guys and probally werth too at any costs.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        we’d also have Manny, Jeter to a six year contract and we would be adding Trevor Hoffman as a set up man.

        We’d also have seen Torre back, Girardi gone, Girardi back, Mattingly fired before started, Showalter snubbed publicly then signed to a three year deal and then fired before he actually coached a game.

        Thanks for that.

      • pete

        tsjc rule

      • OldYanksFan

        We can lower payroll by DFA’ing Grammer and Punctuation.

        • Craig

          “DFA’ing Grammar and Punctuation”

          Comment of the day.

      • Esteban

        I love that your name links to It’s perfect.

  • The Three Amigos

    Even talent wise going forward– Crawford would be a tough sell at $18M per year over 7. The end of that contract could look really bad once he loses a step.

    • J_Yankees

      It certainly wouldn’t be a steal but i don’t think it would look really bad. Even once he loses a step he should be a decent enough LFer. And offensively in YS without the steals he could draw parallels to a Johnny Damon.

      IF in the later years of the contract he could put up the offensive numbers like Damon did in 2009 coupled with better defense, i don’t think $18M would be insane $$$.

      • bexarama

        Damon’s numbers in 2009 were excellent, combined with very good defense I expect that’d be one of the better players in baseball. That is a lot to ask for. It’d be more like if you could live with Damon’s 2010 production or worse, combined with better defense.

        I think Crawford’s good and all, but yeah.

        • J_Yankees

          I’m going to give Crawford playing in the Yankee Stadium and batting in the Yankees lineup more credit, even at the end of long term deal, than Damon in 2010 for the Tigers playing in an awful hitters park.

  • Chris

    I’d have to think they only go after Crawford if they lose out on Lee. Then, they take Swisher, or Grandy, and swap him for a starter.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Yeah, there is no reason to go after another OF unless you plan to trade one for pitching. It will be interesting to see how the payroll goes over the next couple of years because the Yankees will probably drop 30+ million after 2011 with Pettitte, Posada, Marte, and Igawa all leave the team.

  • Elliot F

    A follow up question to Mike D, besides Posada and Andy, Who else is coming off payroll after the 2011 season?

    Igawa (Finally)
    Mitre (negligible)

    • YankeesJunkie

      If Swisher posts another 4 WAR season there is no way they let him go when he has an option for 10 mil or so. Same with Granderson in 2013.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Swisher has a 2012 option. But this matters little. The Yankees still have huge commitments to few players going forward.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Don’t forget CC Sabathia possibly that is 23 million.

    • MikeD

      Elliot F, my point was the Yankees may try and shift some of Lee’s first-year contract to the remaining four or five if that will keep their payroll in the 215 range for 2011. (I wasn’t looking for a way to add both Lee and Crawford, since I don’t think that’s at all likely, nor could they do it without really ramping payroll, which they don’t appear ready to do.)

      I’m not sure what the benefits are to the Yankees if they defer part of Lee’s compensation as opposed to paying him a higher signing bonus or just paying him equally for each season. I think all three approaches are subject to the luxury tax. They did structure CC’s contract to pay him $14 his first year, and then $23 million each for the remaining six seasons, yet they paid him a $9 million signing bonus that was paid out in three separate payments, one on New Year’s Eve ’08 and the other two in ’09, so in essence they still paid him $23 million for his ’09 season. I’m not sure what they gained out of it, but they clearly gained something because they did it.

      Back to my original point, if they’re concerned about the season-ending payroll number on which the luxury tax is calculated, then it would make sense to defer at least part of Lee’s ’11 salary. They’ll more than balance the higher cost for Lee in ’12 by the contracts coming off the books.

      • Ed

        yet they paid him a $9 million signing bonus that was paid out in three separate payments, one on New Year’s Eve ’08 and the other two in ’09, so in essence they still paid him $23 million for his ’09 season.

        Interesting, I hadn’t realized the first payment was made in ’08.

        If it was made 12/31, there’s one reason to do that – income tax. Sabathia must have had some reason he wanted the income reported on his ’08 taxes instead of ’09.

        As for the team, signing bonuses are averaged out over the lifetime of the deal for luxury tax reasons. So he was a $15.29m hit the first season and $24.29m the following seasons. I don’t know how it plays out if he opts out of the deal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a loophole that lets them get out of paying luxury tax on part of his signing bonus.

        • MikeD

          Hmmm, I’ll see you’re interesting and raise it with an interesting on my side. I didn’t realize that signing bonuses are averaged over the lifetime of the deal, so in that case Joe’s original suggestion works fine, since it accomplishes basically what I was trying to do, which was lower the portion of the payroll subject to the luxury tax, with the added advantage that it doesn’t backload the contract. CC, for example, is being paid in equal $23 million installments, yet the luxury tax in ’09 was lowered. They could take that same approach with Lee.

          Yet, that now gets me to wondering about signing both Lee and Crawford. If they give a large signing bonus to both Lee and Crawford, while also working in signing bonuses for Jeter and Rivera’s contracts, then maybe it is possible to keep the 2011 payroll that’s subject to the luxury tax in the same ballpark as 2010, while adding both players? This approach does create payroll issues in the years past 2011, but perhaps it’s not as impossible as I thought.

          • OldYanksFan

            Afford it or not, Crawford is not worth the contract he will get, especially to a team with as many long term commitments as the Yankees.

            • MikeD

              It would be a lot, which is why I don’t think it will happen.

              As Joe noted, they are probably in on Crawford to drive up his price for other teams, especially if the Red Sox plan to make a strong play. Second, if Lee does fall through, then he’d form the foundation of a potential backup plan, with the second step involving moving one of our current OFers for a pitcher.

  • awy

    sure, why not. new stadium needs a beast team to feed it.

  • awy

    also, a lot of the jeter money is basically of 0 baseball value. they already know this. pretend that this money is marketing expense, the true baseball expense is lower than the payroll at face value.

  • davey

    to quote Ben Stiller : “Do it. Do it!”

  • Mike HC

    Crawford is definitely worth it if we are willing to spend for both Crawford and Lee. If it is one or the other, the Yanks definitely need pitching more.

  • gc

    I know you keep harping on the company line about payroll, I just don’t believe them when they say that’s the limit to what they will spend. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if their payroll this year was $225M (or more) when all said and done. These days, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to believe anything the Yankees say about much of anything “official.” It won’t stop them from saying it, but I believe they are pretty duplicitous when it comes to stuff like this.

    • Plank

      These days, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to believe anything the Yankees say about much of anything “official.”

      My favorite was a few years ago when “George Steinbrenner” would release well reasoned, eloquent press releases even though everyone knew he had spaghetti for brains at that point.

      • Hughesus Christo

        Francesa’s greatest work: Yankee missives from The Boss

  • UnNamed Yankee Source

    – The What if Game –

    How about trading: Granderson & Swisher to the Nationals for Willingham & a Stud Pitching Prospect?

    Then welcome Crawford!

    • bexarama

      Unless that “stud pitching prospect” is Strasburg, there is no way that’s worth it. And a. Strasburg’s got injury issues; b. they’re not trading him anyway.

    • Accent Shallow

      Willingham? Pass. At least Granderson/Swisher are good defenders.

  • ZZ

    Quite the coincidence that the day after we find out the Sox bid on Mariano, the Yankees are “talking to” Crawford. Quite the coincidence indeed ;)

    • bexarama

      Yeah, I can’t help but think this too. I do think if the Yankees don’t get Lee, they’ll try to spin off an OF for a good pitcher and then go hard and genuinely after Crawford, but eh.

    • mike

      same thing happened with tex boston and yankees are always trying to block each other.

  • Bo
    • Slugger27

      no, he sucks. career 4.34 FIP as a reliever. had decent results because of a ridiculous BABIP and a very high strand rate. plus he’s old.

      also, this has nothing to do with the post.

  • Bo

    “How about trading: Granderson & Swisher to the Nationals for Willingham & a Stud Pitching Prospect?”

    Willingham can be had for a Scranton arm.

  • mike

    hey bo i think peralta signed with the tigers

  • RONBO36

    I say sign Crawford and trade “Swish” to Chicago and attain Carlos Zambrano for the 3rd of 4th spot in the rotation.

    The you would have…

    C Lee or Andy P.
    P Hughes
    C Zambrano
    AJ Burnette

    • Steve H

      Have you seen Zambrano’s contract? That would be a terrible, terrible, terrible trade.

      • radnom

        Just looking at Zambrano and “Burnette” back to back in the same rotation like that made me queasy.

    • Slugger27

      ignoring the obvious trolling of this post, why did you put swish in quotes?

      or is that part of the trolling, and by me asking about it, you succeeded in your quest for attention?

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals


        Schrodinger’s cat indeed.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    225M with Lee and Pettitte? Wow. 144M to a group of players that probably couldn’t win 85 games as it stands now. That kinda sucks. I guess since 225M is the payroll with Lee, Pettitte, Rivera, and Jeter….yikes, adding Martin, a good non tendered OF and others might be a bit tough. I’m not typically one to bitch about payroll, and I am one of those who feel the Yankees could afford just about everything they want too…but fuck. Wow, that makes the Montero/Greinke situation a bit more interesting than I though.

    • bexarama

      Could any team win 85 games as it stands now?

      • Jimmy McNulty

        Hmmmm…I bet the Phillies probably could, perhaps the Twins, the Giants have essentially have the same team that won the WS last year, the Braves have basically the same team and you’d have to think Heyward improves, perhaps Boston, but not too many…then again not many teams have 144M on the books as it stands now.

        • ROBTEN

          While I think “as it stands now” is more of a straw-man argument than anything else, since they have not finalized anything yet regarding the rotation or SS, with essentially all of the starting offense (sans Jeter) and 3/5 of the rotation signed (and with Pettitte likely), couldn’t the Yankees still win 85 games? I mean, the team would take a hit with Nunez/Pena and Nova (or Mitre/Brackman, perhaps) in the rotation, but would they really be a .500 team or worse with that offense?

          I mean, even without Jeter and Lee I think they still win 85 games (which, though, would mean no higher than a third-fifth place finish in the ALE over the past six years).

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals


        Since they all suck, there’s a really good chance that they all don’t go 81-81. As a matter of fact, there’s a great chance the Met’s don’t win 60 games, so there are quite a few NL teams that could.

        I bet the Yankees would win 95+ the way it is today. With Vernon Gholson in the outfield, who could stop us?

        I was there the day the fat guy said we just saw him grow into a man when he got him to fight the other fat guy.

  • mike

    i have to agree with gc because in 08 when we thought they said after cc they were done then one after another aj came and then the biggest surprise was texiera and i was like i thought they wanted to keep payroll under 200 million there like lawyers all they do is lie.

    • Jimmy McNulty

      Male First Name Handle Only Rule*

      • radnom

        Why? Outside of the reply-fail he is making a valid point.
        I’m always skeptical when the Yankees say they are “done” for an offseason or that they reached their budget. And for good reason.

        • Jimmy McNulty

          In order: zero usage of capitali letters, Yahoo is the website he links himself to, they never said they were done after CC, the misspelling of “they’re,” and the shitty lawyer joke.

          • radnom

            I didn’t realize there were style guidelines for posting here.

            His comment added more to the discussion than your response. Just sayin’

            • king of fruitless hypotheticals

              were they not still under $200MM payroll on opening day?

      • Slugger27

        i agree with him. i wont believe anything the yankees say publicly about what their payroll ceiling is, and neither should anyone else.

  • mike

    zambrano is a nut case but it seems like the new pitching coach handled him well in chicago but they need lee too

    • radnom

      Hey – it’s easier to follow the discussion if you use the REPLY button. Thanks!

  • Sal

    Sign Crawford. Trade Swisher and Granderson. Get either a cheap veteran right fielder or get a minor league major league ready right fielder in a trade. Melky??????????

    • mike

      they need to try a trade with seattle for king felix first before signing crawford

    • MikeD

      Did Melky become good after he left the Yankees?

      • Slugger27

        no, just as shitty as always. only this time, he was expensive

    • ROBTEN



      He’s not cheap.

      He’s not good.

      [Here’s what Melky did with the Braves, in case you forgot: .255/.317/.354/.294 (wOBA)]

      • MikeD

        …and he was paid $3 million for that “production.”

  • Granderslam

    I know we’ve heard that Pettitte most likely plans on returning, but I wonder if the Yankees know otherwise and are preparing to use Gardner/Swisher as trade bait for another pitcher (in addition to Lee, if we get him of course); hence, the sudden interest in Crawford.

    • Craig

      The post seemed to indicate that Cliff Lee & Carl Crawford means no MLB pitcher coming back in a trade. That payroll would be beyond mongloidious.

  • jon

    dont signing bonus not count on the payroll?

    so if mo gets a 5m signing bonus his salary is only 10m

    that could lower the payroll to 2010 standards if everyone gets a nice bonus

    • radnom

      To what end? That just is pilling on the luxury tax hit to the upcoming seasons. Its not like if they do this no one is going to notice how big the payroll is. It still gets reported as part of the payroll. The only difference is how the luxury tax is calculated.

      • MikeD

        It’s a balancing act. In the Yankees case, I believe every dollar is taxed at 40% So taking the opportunity to pay a player’s initial season through a higher signing bonus can represent real financial savings in future years as other contracts come off the books. I agree that there is a price that will have to be paid, but if balanced properly it can benefit the Yankees.

  • virginia yankee

    losing matsui and daman in the same year was due to in part to payroll — may have cost the world series since both have crried teams in the fall–

    drop payroll in 2012 if need be — inflation is coming thans to the FEDs solution to the economic crisis — not blaming FED mind — as Congress and PRES –who we elected — do not have policy solutions — but any contract signed now for the long term is going to be paid in cheaper dollars — the Yankees have nearly guaranteed sources of revenue IF THEY CONTINUE TO COMPETE WITH THE HIGHEST QUALITY PRODUCT 00 borrow long term, sell bonds 00 get the right players – hard to find better guys than Crawford and – aren’t 5 tool everyday players more important than P — so CRAWFORD instead of LEE send JOBA back to the rotation reach into AA for starters — or don’t resign JETER– IF 4s are soooo critical, that is being tied to past, Crawford Lee arguably more important to future

    • ROBTEN

      Was this transcribed from a telegraph?

      • Nebkreb

        I think it was STOP I wonder if he knows he can use a period STOP

    • Monteroisdinero


  • Poopy Pants

    Anyone who brought up this question a month ago was called an asshole. Wierd.
    Isn’t this like the third recent post which covers troll material?

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      maybe a month ago we weren’t starved for anything baseball :)

    • Esteban

      Hey Mr. Pants:

      Deal with it

  • ledavidisrael

    If Jeter doesn’t except their next offer. They should twist his arm by signing Crawford + Lee. That would leave the salary at

    144 + 23 Lee + 18 Carl + 15 Mo

    That would leave us at 200 million dollars.

    And you tell Jeter he can take ten million a year or go home.

    ITs kinda like giving him the johnny damon treatment.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Another excellent idea. This is the way to run a business ladies and gents!

  • Mavericknyc

    Remember this is a buisness, and as buisness Owner they lOoking long term, who is coming down the pipe like Crawford. And it’s being mentioned already that 30mm comes off next year. Keep Gardner, trade granderson..his work with long improved his trade value…I think we got enough propects to fill holes down the road cheap…And most important, keep him away from the competition!

  • Kyle Litke

    Can someone explain to me the estimate on arbitration raises?

    It has to count something else. According to Cot’s the only players eligible for arbitration (minus Mitre, who just resigned) are Logan, Hughes, and Joba. Joba and Hughes figure to be about 5 million, maybe 6, and Logan will get a little more, but he won’t get THAT much. Who else brings it up that high?

  • Steve

    Yankees need to pull the trigger on Carl Crawford. Trade Swisher for bullpen help, move Gardner to CF, move Granderson to RF, and plug Crawford at LF. This outfield will be the best in baseball for the next 10 years, and the Yanks wont have to worry about their outfield for a long time, its just another less thing to worry about. All 3 can terrorize you on the basepaths and thats another weapon(s) that Girardi has under his belt. Baseball sense, this makes total sense. I hope Yankees get him. Who cares about a payroll when youll be bringing in revenue and CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • http://msn Joe Giradi

    No way you get crawford and lee. you might be lucky if a-rod makes it through the season.