If losing out on Cliff Lee brought the Yankees one thing, it’s flexibility. They avoided a long-term contract that would have complicated payroll issues in the next few years. They also find themselves in a relatively favorable payroll situation heading into 2011. Here’s what it looks like right now:
If we add in $10 million, which is what Baseball-Reference estimates as the Yankees’ arbitration raises and reserve clause obligations, that puts them at around $181 million. Let’s bump that to $185 with the addition of Russell Martin. That leaves them quite the cushion should they target a higher priced player in a trade. That type of scenario usually works in the Yankees’ favor, since higher priced players usually don’t command as much of a return, in terms of prospects, as a more cost-controlled player
Still, this doesn’t mean that the Yankees will make a move. It simply means that they can. If they’re going to target a higher priced pitcher, they might not find much to their liking. Here is Cot’s list of highest paid players. Scroll down to the pitcher section and here’s what you’ll see.
1. Cliff Lee: Obviously no.
2. CC Sabathia: Already on the books.
3. Johan Santana: The Mets might want to get out from under that, but with shoulder issues and over $60 million remaining on the deal there’s no way this happens.
4. Roy Halladay: Not a chance.
5. Carlos Zambrano: He’ll be available, and he hasn’t known a pitching coach other than Larry Rothschild. Still, he’s signed for two more years and $35.875 more million. Pass.
6. Barry Zito: Didn’t even make the postseason roster. No way that contract is nearly worth the cost over the next three seasons.
7. Jake Peavy: He’ll miss the start of the season, and in any case he’s been hurt and inconsistent in the past few years.
8. A.J. Burnett: on the books.
9. John Lackey: Obviously.
10. Justin Verlander: Unavailable as unavailable gets.
11. Felix Hernandez: A pipe dream.
12. Derek Lowe: Two years and $30 million remaining for a guy who will be 38 this season. Pass and then pass again.
13. Roy Oswalt: Not available, I presume
14. Mark Buehrle: Mike discussed this yesterday.
15. Ryan Dempster: An interesting choice, but I doubt he’s available.
16. Chris Carpenter: The mystery pitcher lives.
It appears that while the Yankees will save money this off-season, that it won’t help them much. With the above information, it’s pretty clear that Andy Pettitte‘s return is the single best thing that can happen to the Yankees the rest of the off-season.