MLBTR’s Projected Arbitration Salaries

Nova's going to start making big bucks in 2014. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Nova’s going to start making decent bucks in 2014. (Leon Halip/Getty)

As we spend far too much time trying to figure out how the Yankees will rebuild themselves into a contender while staying under the $189M luxury tax threshold next season, there has always been one great big unknown throwing a wrench into things: arbitration salaries. These go to players with more than three years but fewer than six years of service time; the guys who have been in the league long enough to earn a decent salary but not long enough to qualify for free agency.

Arbitration salaries are very tough to pin down (or estimate, for that matter) but can be substantial in some cases, especially as the player moves closer to free agency. Thankfully, Matt Swartz developed an insanely accurate model — it’s been within 5% or so overall — for projecting arbitration salaries, and the information has been available at MLBTR these last three years. Projections for the Yankees’ seven arbitration-eligible players were released over the weekend:

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses)

Update: Here are the updated projections. Only Robertson’s changed.

Nova ($2.22M raise), Robertson ($2.4M), and Gardner ($1.15M) are all projected to receive healthy raises from last season. The other four guys are projected to receive $640k salary increases or less. Nova is arbitration-eligible for the very first time, meaning he’s coming off what amounts to a league minimum salary in 2013. I have to think that’s a pretty great moment for a young-ish player — that first year of arbitration, when your annual salary goes from mid-six-figures to several million bucks.

Anyway, at the projected salaries, I think both Nix and Stewart are obvious non-tender candidates, meaning the Yankees should cut them loose and allow them to become free agents rather than pay that salary. Nix is a perfectly fine utility infielder who played way too much this past season, when he earned $900k. The projected $1.4M is a real stretch for me. If he’s willing to re-sign with the team for $1M or so, great. If not, move on. There are better ways to spend $1.4M, especially considering the team’s self-imposed budget constraints. Same goes for Stewart. No way should the Yankees pay him a seven-figure salary in 2014. That’s madness.

So, assuming the Yankees non-tender Nix and Stewart but keep everyone else, their arbitration class projects to cost $14.8M next season. They currently have six players under contract with a combined $84.9M “tax hit” for 2014 and that includes Alex Rodriguez, who may or may not be suspended. It doesn’t include Derek Jeter, who figures to pick up his player option. So, between the guys under contract and the arbitration-eligible players, the Yankees have eleven players slated to earn $99.7M in 2014, pending decisions by Jeter and the arbitrator overseeing A-Rod‘s appeal.

That leaves the team with roughly $77.3M to spend on the 29 remaining 40-man roster spots (plus leaving space for midseason additions) when you factor in ~$12M or so for player benefits, which count against the tax. If A-Rod is suspended for the entire season, it’ll be $104.8M for 30 remaining roster spots. That sounds like a lot, but remember, Jeter and the inevitable Robinson Cano contract will soak up about $35M of that leftover money all by themselves. Without A-Rod but with Cano and Jeter, it’s more like $70M for 28 roster spots plus midseason additions. Doable, certainly, but that $300M spending spree might be more myth that reality.

Categories : Hot Stove League
  • Nick

    I honestly expect that they will end up paying Stewart over $1 million

    • Mark in VT

      I agree. They love him.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        They do love him. They also are going to have five catchers on the 40-man, even before the supposed McCann chase which may, or may not, happen.

        They don’t love him that much. Stewielove is a bit overstated anyway. He was starting catcher for one fucking year and backup for one. That, like, 1/4 of a Rick Cerone.

        • Preston

          People forget that they loved him so much that they started Cervelli over him.

          • RetroRob

            Right. They love him so much he’s about to be out of a job on the Yankees.

            He showed up when Cashman was forced to go out and find a back-up cathcer at the last moment when Austin Romine hid the severity of his back injury in 2012. He ended up the starting catcher in 2013 when Martin slipped away and then Cervelli was injured.

            He is a man who has had the luck of timing. His luck is about to run out. With Cervelli, Romine and Murphy, they don’t need to spend a million on Stewart. All the worse for him if they sign McCann.

            He’s done.

        • mitch

          Definitely overstated. He barely played until Cervelli got injured. Stewart was just the last man standing.

          • MannyGeee

            Pretty much. He kind of is what he is. Scary thing is, hes not the worst catcher in the league, but he is certainly replacement level or lower.

            Should be replaceable with the kid named Lettuce or a bag of dry sand.

            • JR Murphy

              I’m a bag of dried sand, ChalupaBatmanHead?

              At least you know who I am, unlike Avi Abelino.

          • Need Pitching & Hitting

            He was playing about a third of the time at the beginning of the season.
            He was on the AS ballot – an indication they expected him to be the starting C.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      There’s no way.

    • Baked McBride

      I’d rather see Rod Stewart behind the plate

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Rod’s still in pretty good shape from all that soccer. As long as he’s not singing me the great American songbook…

        • Baked McBride

          The Faces is the greatest rock and roll band in history – the Black Crowes are a direct ripoff

          • JR Murphy

            Black Crowes ripepd off just about everyone.

            Don’t know how well versed you are on 80′s glam metal but, if you really want to hear quite the Faces homage, dig up a band called the London Quireboys, especially their first album. Trust me.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Fake screen name fail.

      • MannyGeee

        I’d rather see Disco Stu behind the plate, but I digress.

  • mitch

    If Jeter turned down the option, how would it effect the salary cap? Would it be possible for them to make an agreement where he turns it down and resigns for 1/10? That would give him a little more guaranteed money but lower his AAV. I’m sure i’m missing something here.

    • MannyGeee

      I *think* they can do that. I doubt they will, but I think they can…

    • RetroRob

      If he turns the option down, he gets $3M automatic. I believe the Yankees will then owe additional luxury tax this year on that option, and in fact it will alter the value of the three-year deal, meaning they will retroactively owe some additional tax. (I am by no means sure of this but just a guess.)

      Yet that might be to the Yankees advantage to pay that now. They can then negotiate a new deal with Jeter that will have a lower AAV (and thus luxury tax hit) to the team in 2014. Jeter makes more money over the next year, while the Yankees have more breathing room under the luxury tax.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      I believe he’d count up to $9M against the cap if he turns down the option, in addition to the AAV of the new contract, because the amount taxed for 2011-2013 was less than the amount Jeter was paid, so the difference would be made up in their 2014 payroll.

      So no, that wouldn’t help.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Yeah, no way you pay Nix or both halves of Stewvelli that money. Jayson Nix exists on this earth to be replaced. Then again, don’t we all.

    Very nice analysis, Mike. Even with the possible 189, there’s room to make moves.

    • MannyGeee

      I agree in theory, but I think they will lose one of the Flying Stewvellis and keep Nixy. After all, “Baseball Player” and everything.

      • jsbrendog

        isn’t brandon ryan basically jayson nix? and cheaper? and a bit better defensively? and i mean, cant be that much worse offensively without bothering to look it up

        • Need Pitching & Hitting

          Ryan made $3.25M last year.
          I don’t know what he’d get in free agency, but I’d guess he won’t be cheaper than Nix – maybe closer to the $1.4M though.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I don’t mind keeping Nixy if they release him and re-sign him to an MiLB deal. I’m fine with him being stashed in AAA and being used as midseason vet fodder.

  • KB

    Can’t they very easily have a $300 million spending spree by simply signing Cano and Tanaka? Post fee of 65, contract worth 60 for Tanaka, and 175 million for Cano over 7-8 years. They spend 300, but add roughly 35mm to this year’s tab.

    • Mike Myers

      thats why the spending spree talk is total garbage. you can always make it sound like a lot.

      George is rolliing is grave.

      • Mo

        Someone should look into that, seems unnatural. Is it caused by soil erosion?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        “George is rolling is grave.”

        That’s deep.

        • jsbrendog

          they have ecstasy in the afterlife?

    • RetroRob

      Post fee doesn’t count toward the 189M.

      • MannyGeee

        Right, but a “$300M spending spree” does not count all in 2014

  • http://www.twitter.com/thewallbreakers Scully

    Does anyone else feel like (if there’s a good plan put into place) that despite 5 rings, 7 pennants, and a bevy of other great things, this offseason could define Brian Cashman’s legacy as an MLB GM if he works magic (which I fully believe he will)?

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewallbreakers Scully

      Check that 4… 4 Rings and 6 pennants as head GM.

      • mike

        check that….one ring after spending half a billion dollars in one off-season.

    • Havok9120

      This offseason and next. I feel that if by Opening Day 2015 the Yanks are a legit contender and look to have a shot at being so for a couple years, that’ll be the thing that “baseball people” in the press and front offices will remember.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      No. I disagree with that. Cash’s legacy is going to be the five rings won on his watch, whether Joe Commenter thinks Gene Michael, Buck Showalter, Robert Neidermier, or Oscar Azocar had more to do with that.

  • Mike Myers

    They should have traded Cano for the Texas farm system when they had a chance.

    They should have traded Vernon for a box of condoms so the fans are protected when the team F-s us.

    • Baked McBride

      That trade wouldn’t have helped me. I luv me sum baby mama drama, so I don’t use condoms

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Do you have a crazy, twice-your-hat-sized afro, though?

  • Caballo Sin Nombre

    I don’t think it is mathematically possible in 2014 to stay under $189M, have a full season of unpunished ARod, keep Kuroda and Grandy if they accept the QO, resign Cano at a reasonable rate and have Jeter invoke his option. I think at that point what remains is under $4 million to fill over 20 roster spots.

    Let alone paying Tanaka $10M/year, or whatever it takes.

    Also, does the analysis above take into account ARod’s Willie Mays bonus?

    • Hardy

      Well, there is no rule that you have to fill all your roster spots…

      Kidding aside, I agree with you conclusion.