Owner Hal Steinbrenner confirmed that the Yankees intend to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014 the other day, simply saying they don’t need to have such high payrolls to contend. He’s right, and I think we’re all in favor of the team being a bit smarter with its money. Building a core from within and augmenting the roster with strategic free agents sounds fantastic in theory, but putting it into practice is much more difficult. Yesterday it was Brian Cashman’s turn to chime on in future payroll plan. Here are some select quotes courtesy of Chad Jennings…
On payroll flexibility in the past vs. payroll flexibility in 2014
“I met with Mark Teixeira in D.C. (during the ’08-’09 offseason). They had no interest in pursuing that. It’s something I had massive interest in. I kept staying on it, and it was ‘No, no, no.’ It felt like (Hiroki) Kuroda this winter. (Ownership was saying) ‘No, we’re not going to stretch the payroll. Unless you move money, you can’t make that fit.’ At some point [ownership] made an adjustment. Going forward, especially in that particular year, that is not going to happen. This is something where there’s a strong motivation from a business reason because of how the new basic agreement is set up to get to that level for that year, no question. At the same time, it’s business as usual in terms of, the general manager’s job is to constantly bring to their ownership opportunities. My owner says yes more and his family has said yes on behalf of this franchise more than no when their GM asks for something. We’ve been very fortunate as a Yankee fan base and blessed for a long time by that. That, I think, will continue. But instead of being it being a set budget number that we’re trying to stay within, I think this is a more definitive lane that we’re going to have to bowl within. The safety lanes have now gone up for that year, and you can’t throw a gutterball on that particular year.”
On whether the new CBA hurts the Yankees more than other teams
“I don’t want to say it hurts the Yankees as much as, this is the landscape that everybody has to operate in. The only thing is, how does this landscape affect us with our current commitments? Decisions we made from the past will affect decisions in the short term going forward, until some of those contracts expire, or you move them at some point. A lot of those contracts, not that you want to trade them, either have full no-trades or 10-5 rights, so some of those circumstances you just have to hope they stay healthy and productive and they are finishing your career type contracts with the Yankees and you hope that you can maximize your potential with them all, but it will limit your array of choices on those contracts term years because those are legitimate commitments that affect the bottom line.”
On whether a set budget actually makes his job easier
“It’s easier when you have parameters. It was very difficult when it was just a general (rule). It would change on a daily basis, which was, ‘Don’t lose the player at all costs.’ That wasn’t a good negotiating position. And if it’s very vocal, and at the same time it’s public and private, you’re in a position to basically get rolled. It’s a one-way negotiation. Having parameters allows you to walk away. Having parameters gives you the ability to say no, and mean it, versus fake a no or try to pretend something when everybody realizes, oh, they can’t lose this guy. It’s an impossible position to negotiate from.”
The stuff about having a set budget improving the team’s negotiating position is interesting; we’ve certainly seen the club overpay for players the last few years, specifically when it comes to retaining their own. Cashman also went out of his way to mention that some of the their “current commitments” will make getting under the luxury tax threshold difficult, and they’ll just “have to hope they stay healthy and productive.” That applies to several players, but one in particular. One he wasn’t planning on re-signing back in the day.
As has been the case for the last 18 months or so, Cashman was pretty candid and honest, which is refreshing. It’s close to impossible to put a positive spin on slashing payroll, but I think he (and Hal) did a decent job of relaying the message by being blunt and not sugar-coating things. They know the team is going to have to get production from young players to make it work, and they know they have big contracts already on the books that will make it difficult. The Yankees being run in a smarter and more efficient manner should scare other clubs, but I think the brain trust knows it’s going to be a hard sell with the fanbase.
“We’re still the Yankees,” said Cashman. “We’re still going to outspend everybody else. That’s not going to change. We’re still going to be there for our fan base, and try to make sure that every year is a year that they have legitimate hope that this could be a special season. That’s never going to change.”