2014 Payroll Breakdown: Part Four

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Bartolo Colon
Phillies Gone Crazy: GM Indicates Lee, Hamels, Papelbon Available
A real catcher. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Hooray, a real catcher. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Boy have things changed since we last looked at the Yankees’ payroll situation. They lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson to free agency but responded with four significant signings (plus one smaller one) of their own. There was also the non-tender deadline, which brought about some change. These last few weeks have been quite busy for the Bombers.

Needless to say, the chances of the Yankees staying under the $189M luxury tax threshold next season have taken a big hit. The team has been talking about staying under the threshold (at every opportunity, it seemed) for a good two years now, plus just about every move they made was geared towards achieving that goal. Just look at the way they structured the money in the Vernon Wells trade last spring.

Here is an updated look at the team’s payroll situation heading into next season. These are “luxury tax hits,” not actual 2014 salary. The two can be different. For reference, here are Part One (January), Part Two (August), and Part Three (November) of the series.

Yes, Kuroda’s translator counts against the luxury tax, at least according to Dan Martin and Ken Davidoff. I know, it’s silly, but it is what it is. Eight-five grand doesn’t sound like much, but it is one month’s worth of the league minimum salary. That means one fewer September call-up if the team wants to stay under the luxury tax threshold. Like I said, silly.

Anyway, add the guys under contract to the arbitration eligibles to the possible bonuses to the “other” and you get $212.995M. The 15 guys on the 40-man roster — there are 41 players listed above because the Beltran deal is not official yet, but they will have to make a move to accommodate him once the deal is final — but not on the active 25-man roster are usually estimated at $2-5M, so let’s use the high end and go with $5M. Now we’re up to $217.995M. The Bombers opened this past season at $228.1M and ended it at $236.2M, in case you’re wondering.

Obviously, the Yankees are not getting under the threshold without A-Rod getting suspended for all of next season. Not unless they trade Teixeira and Ichiro or something. Subtract out Alex’s salary and homer bonus and we’re down to $184.495M. Basically $4.5M under the luxury tax. Feel comfortable saying Jeter won’t win the MVP? I think that’s a safe assumption — he hasn’t won an MVP yet and is now coming off what amounts to a lost season at age 39. Eliminating the “win MVP” bonus from his contract frees up another $4M and brings us down to $180.495M.

What does that $180.495M buy the Yankees? Here is the projected 25-man roster as of right now:

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
McCann 1B Teixeira LF Gardner Sabathia Robertson
2B Johnson or ? CF Ellsbury Kuroda Kelley
DH SS Jeter RF Beltran/Soriano Nova ? (Warren)
 Beltran/Soriano 3B Johnson or ? ? (Phelps) ? (Huff)
? ? (Betances)
Bench ?
C Cervelli OF Ichiro ?
IF Ryan OF Wells

There are eight total ?s but we can eliminate four with internal solutions. Those are the guys in parentheses. Phelps, Warren, Huff, and Betances — Huff and Betances are both out of minor league options (can’t go to Triple-A without passing through waivers) and that could give them a leg up when cut day comes around at the end of camp — will all earn something close to the league minimum, so that’s another $2.2M or so spent right there with four ?s still to be answered.

I assume those four ?s will go to veteran players yet to be acquired. That would be ideal, anyway. I guess they could go with Cabral and Clairborne for those final two bullpen spots, or maybe re-sign Matt Daley, but that would be a really sketchy relief corps behind Robertson. The Yankees would have just $6.305M to fill those four holes ($189M – $180.495M – $2.2M), which isn’t much. A big name starting pitcher like Masahiro Tanaka or Matt Garza or whoever isn’t happening without going over the threshold. Ditto Omar Infante. We’re talking $6.305M for a second/third baseman, a starter, and two relievers. Plus they’ll need to leave a little something for midseason call-ups and additions. Gonna be tight.

I see only three ways the Yankees could realistically trim payroll. They could dump Cervelli and replace him with the cheaper Romine or Murphy, but if they were going to do that, they would have non-tendered Frankie last week. That would only save about $450k anyway. The other two ways to clear some payroll space are by trading Gardner and/or Ichiro. There is “significant interest” in Gardner and the team is shopping Ichiro, so the wheels are in motion. Saving even $3M by dealng Ichiro would be a win. They could replace him with Almonte at the league minimum and see basically no drop in production (Steamer and Oliver projections both have them as sub-1.0 WAR players in 2014, if you care). Zoilo would add some nice versatility to the bench as a switch-hitter as well, but I digress.

Obviously this whole exercise is just an estimate, a ballpark figure. We can only be so precise from the outside. The arbitration-eligible guys could come in at a higher or lower salary than projected, for example. Ditto the benefits package all 30 teams must pay. Maybe the Yankees are comfortable saying Jeter won’t even finish in the top six of the MVP voting, nevermind win it. That would free up another $2M of potential bonus money. (I’m an idiot, disregard that last part.) There’s plenty of wiggle room here, but I think we can say that while staying under the $189M luxury tax threshold is still possible, it will be very difficult to actually pull off following the team’s recent moves.

According to David Waldstein, Hal Steinbrenner has given the okay to go over the threshold despite his recent public insistance that it remains their goal. Perhaps he’s softened his stance given how much revenue declined from 2012 to 2013 ($58M in ticket sales alone). They have already spent as if A-Rod is being suspended, after all. The Yankees have some payroll space left before getting to $189M, but they also have some roster holes to address. Their next move will be telling — if they sign a starter to a big money deal, forget it. They’re going over. If they sign someone cheap or shed salary in a trade, they might plan on seeing this thing through.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Bartolo Colon
Phillies Gone Crazy: GM Indicates Lee, Hamels, Papelbon Available
  • Kevin W

    Even if they manage to squeak under, if they suffer one major injury we’re screwed. There will be no room to add pieces at the deadline.

  • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

    Infante wants $8mm per and I think he gets it. He alone torpedoes it.

    I do think Jeter in the top 6 should be completely discounted though.

    Great write up thanks!

  • Grant

    Great post Mike. That really sums it up. I guess we’ll know soon if they plan to stay under or not. Here’s hoping not.

  • Nathan

    If they go over $189M, might as well go big. (Finally!) go get Cliff Lee!

    • I’m One

      Agree. It would be difficult to get under $189M in the best of remaining circumstances. Why go over by just a few (or a few thousand) dollars? Get the players that best fit your needs.

      BTW, I think I’d prefer Hamels to Lee, although I’d take either (plus Tanaka).

      • Rick

        I’d prefer Lee solely in the sense he doesn’t rely on overpowering stuff. Additionally, there are 2 (3 at most) years left on his deal. Much less risk involved.

        • I’m One

          Both true statements. However, my preference is to try to build a team for the longer term. If they got Hamels and Tanaka, they could potential have 2 front end starters for quite a few years to come. Risk, yes. But if it works out, the reward could be great.

          • Rick

            Of course. Nature of the beast. Hamels is still young enough where that risk is somewhat mitigated. Frankly, either would be fine and we’re splitting hairs.

            • I’m One


  • Moose Barker

    So it seems like the Beltran signing cooked our chances at $189M (putting AROD mess aside). Without Beltran we could have signed an Infante and Maholm (not necessarily advocating those signings, just providing an example) and stayed under the threshold and been able to field a good but not great team.

    My feeling is that the Yankees will sit tight until the Tanaka and AROD situations are resolved (outside of a Reynolds/Chavez type signing). There is also an advantage to waiting it out to see if a Jimenez or Drew have a tough time finding a market and can be had for a reasonable price.

  • HulkHeyman

    I think they’re staying at 189 and we’ll all be disappointed. They brought in some names to draw in crowds but I fear the Yankees might not get the players they need to be competitive, but hey they spent good money.

    • I’m One

      I think Hal has realized that if they’re not a playoff team, the return from staying under $189M, due to lost revenue, may not be worth it.

    • Slugger27

      theyre competitive as constructed. title contender? no… but definitely competitive. id say an over 500 team.

      • I’m One

        But, based on what I’ve read, I think they realize they need to go deep into the playoffs to maximize revenue. Being an over .500 team or even competing into September doesn’t seem to cut it.

      • marechal

        It depends how you define competitive. Right now, they are projected to be a 81-82 win team. That’s not enough to be in the playoff hunt come September.

        • HulkHeyman


          The Yanks are truly successful when they’re title contenders. When they’re gunning for the championship fans are happy and ownership is ecstatic with the money coming in.

          I find it sad some fans only support when the team is doing great.

  • Mark in VT

    I just hope the Yankees have learned something from this: they can’t keep payroll down if they won’t sign guys extensions rather than waiting until they become free agents.
    If they want to keep Nova, Gardner, Robertson, etc. they need to start negotiating with them soon.

    • mitch

      I think the ship has sailed on a Gardner extension. He should be a QO candidate. Robertson might be worth extending if they’re set on him as the closer. Save totals will boost his contract. Nova is definitely a guy they should look to extend now.

      • jjyank

        Agreed. I definitely think the team should look into a D-Rob extension.

  • DERP

    I had just assumed that all those award bonuses were part of Jeter’s old deal and went away once he signed that new one year deal. Really stinks that they didn’t, although they probably won’t matter.

  • JGYank

    189 just isn’t happening if we want to contend. We have multiple holes and need a 2b 3b sp rp. Have to spend on at least 1 or two of those spots with FAs.

    • OldYanksFan

      I disagree that we ‘need’ a 2bman and a 3bman. You can have a Winning team with a few weak spots. However, you can’t Win without above average or better pitching.

      I think they are going over. For one, I don’t believe ARod is getting suspended for the entire season. For two, without the $189m, based on our current lineup, with more money to spend, I believe we could easily be a 90 Win team. Tanaka and Colon just about put us there.

      And of course with more money, we have room to upgrade at 2b and 3b.

  • Frank

    The gross overpay for Ellsbury killed any chance of getting under 189M.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      The overpay was in length, which has no impact on $189M
      If Ellsbury can match (or at least come close to) his 2013 production (5.8 bWAR and fWAR), $21.9M will be a bargain relative to market prices.

  • There’s the Door

    Great post, Mike. Very helpful. No newspaper has taken the time to do it.

  • There’s the Door

    If they do go over — after torturing everyone for two years, running out a miserable team last year and letting Cano go — then they are complete idiots.

    • I’m One

      Last year’s team’s struggles had nothing (or at least very little) to do with trying to get under $189M Losing Jeter, Teix, Granderson and not having A-Rod for most of the season caused that. It wasn’t because they refused to sign free agents they should have been targeting.

    • stuckey

      Last year’s “miserable” team won 85 games.

      Some of my fellow Yankees “fans” are the miserable ones.

    • jjyank

      Maybe you should take the suggestion of your own handle.

      Last year’s “miserable” team competed until mid-September.

      If you call not topping a 10/$240 deal for a 31 year old middle infielder “letting him go”, then I don’t know what to say to you. I love Cano, and I’m very sad to see him leave. But the Yankees made the right call not giving him that large of a contract.

      And lastly, regarding the 189 budget: Why would they be idiots? Are you saying that every time a person or a group sets a plan, it should be followed through without regard to new or changed variables? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Maybe the Yankees realized that the budget isn’t feasible right now, maybe they realized they’d lose more money by not fielding a top-tier team, I don’t know exactly what their calculus is. But if they abandon the budget, they just changed their mind based on changed circumstances. It’s not a hard concept.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        “Are you saying that every time a person or a group sets a plan, it should be followed through without regard to new or changed variables?”

        I hear that belief plenty on these boards.

      • There’s the Door

        Oh my, JJ. Even by your standards.

    • Get Phelps Up (looking for a new name)

      I don’t think letting Cano go had anything to do with getting under $189.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        I agree.
        Letting Cano go was a lot more about the last few years of the contract.

  • Darren

    In hindsight, the Yankees philosophy seemd to be

    “Let’s stick with the $189mm for one off-season. Just long enough to field a dreadfully boring team full of scrubs and kill any shot to reach the playoffs in Mariano’s final season. Then, after a predictable drop off in ratings and attendence, we’ll ignore our one true young homegrown star and wildly overpay former Red Sox and over the hill Mets instead.”

    These fucking dummies are probably gonna end up with a $190mm payroll.

    • OldYanksFan

      Darren…. really. Please go back to Lohud.

      • Darren

        Eh, Mike’s job is to provide measured analysis, not mine. In reality, do we really need posters on a message board preaching patience and that we should all be patient and trust in the front office and that it only counts where the payroll is at the end of the season? I mean, duh. Sure.

        But you don’t think there’s something ridiculous about the fact that they fielded their worst team in 22 years during the final season of one of the top 5 Yankees of all time? And that it’s looking (from Mike’s measured analysis) that it was all for naught?

        • I’m One

          I certainly don’t mind people stirring things up, but really Darren, could they have predicted they’d need an every day 1B, SS, and another OF in time to really get a good one? They tried with Youk at 3B (agree, a bad idea based on his injury history), but it really seems there weren’t many, if any, good options to fill those holes at the last minute with players willing to take 1 year deals. Remember, they were still thinking $189M at that point. Seems they’ve gone away from that now.

          It’s fine to question them, but make sure your points are valid. Makes for more interesting discussion.

          • Darren

            My point is simple. If they weren’t going to stick with the $189mm plan, then it was a stupid move to let it affect last season’s moves at all. They could have signed players for multi-year deals and fielded a much stronger team with the ability to withstand injuries. The reasons that they’re now doing a 180 and seemingly ignoring the $189mm cap — bad ratings and attendence and the need to “cushion the blow” (in Cashman’s words) due to Robbie leaving — were all very, very predictable.

            That’s not stirring the pot just to stir it, that’s reality. If you want to say that this analysis only has any validity IF they end up over $189mm at the end of 2014, then sure, I’ll agree to that disclaimer. I’ll add one more: If they go over $189mm and they win the World Series, I’m not gonna mention one word about 2013 and why it was a lost season for no reason.

            • Need Pitching & Hitting

              The problem with that rationale is the $189M plan likely only played a very minimal part in the construction of last year’s team, and even without the $189M plan in place, the Yankees likely would have performed similarly to what they did.
              Their normal $220M-ish (usually less) payroll budget combined with lack of minor league help put a lot more of a constraint on last year’s roster than this years potential $189M budget did.

        • stuckey

          So you’re arguing the Yankees didn’t plan well enough to foresee the ineffectiveness of Sabathia and Hughes and the games lost to injury by Texeira, Jeter, Arod, Granderson, and Youkilis.

          Teams are suppose to have seamlessly replace half their line-up and overcome a bad year by their #1 starter?

          There was nothing ridiculous about last season. Was pretty remarkable, actually.

          As for preaching patience, yes, I’d advise it, for no other reason you have no choice.

          Throwing sissy fits on fan forums isn’t going to do a thing to change anything.

          Your impatience doesn’t change a thing. Its ineffectual.

          • Darren

            I might argue with your characterization of me throwing a sissy fit (and perhaps question whthere there’s some genr issues at play), but that’s besides the point.

            There some obvious moves the Yankees didn’t make, both during the off-season and then in-season that were driven by $189mm. Thoses moves would have put the Yankees in a position to withstand inuries. And if you’ve been reading RAB, you would understand that counting on Jeter to have comeback season, counting on Arod, counting on Youk, and counting on Hughes were all bad ideas BEFORE the season started and injuries hit. The only unforseeable things were Granderson’s second injury and Tex. And Tex has been weak for years now; it’s not like we were counting on him to provide MVP quality stats. Basically, withou the fluke injuries, the Yankess were projected to be barely fighting for playoff contention. The $189mm was a big reason why.

            • Need Pitching & Hitting

              ” The $189mm was a big reason why.”
              How so?
              Most of the moves would likely have been exactly the same with or without $189M.

            • stuckey

              What “obvious” moves?

              Did you expect them to sign another first baseman intent on replacing a presumed healthy Tex?

              Did you want them to got out and get a high-priced outfielder when Granderson was projected back from the first break early in the regular season?

              Did you want them to go find a (hard to find) high-caliber SS?

              And DESPITE the injuries, the Yankees fought for a playoff spot and “barely” missed. Would have likely made it if Sabathia was Sabathia and then their season would have been miraculous.

              I’m sorry, all I see here is whiney, entitled fans embittered that 85 wins is somehow the end of the world despite circumstances all too obvious.

              • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

                Martin is a fair example of a non-move that really bit us in the ass last year.

                Likely may have really changed things this year as well. McCann is obviously a lot better than Martin, but with Martin in house there’s another $6-8mm (difference bt Martin and McCann) that we could now be playing with. And since we’re so razor thin for $189mm that $6-8mm sure would be nice right about now.

                If you care about that sort of thing. Which I don’t at this point. But I think Martin stands out as something missed last off season.

                • Need Pitching & Hitting

                  Not sure not signing Martin had anything to do with the $189M plan, though.
                  There were some reports he was willing to come back on a 1-year deal.
                  They definitely made some bad moves last year. I’m just not sure how many of them would have actually changed had the $189M plan not been in place.

    • stuckey

      Ratings and attendance have been dropping for 4 straight years.

      These “dummies” have apparently realized the paradigm has shifted and are making adjustments.

      Our “smartie” fans seem to be the ones ignoring the fact this trend began BEFORE this season played out… WELL before.

      And the Yankees only have to be at $189m at the conclusion of the season. Straddling the line now is inconsequential. If things work out and Sabathia rebounds and Tex provides some decent production and they look truly competitive, they can always be buyers at the deadline.

      If things don’t work out they can be sellers.

      As always the “smartie” fans’ fixation on trying to figure out what will happen in July through October in December is their undoing.

      • TWTR

        The complicating factors are:

        Prices are often higher in-season, and of the pieces they’d like to sell, not many are likely movable.

    • jjyank

      There’s something wrong with your logic here.

  • hey now

    Wells ($0)

    He’s still overpaid.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      You’re right, he should be paying for the privelage of being a Yankee.

  • Joe

    I think your method of calculating the tax implications of Jeter’s bonuses is a little off. His $7M in potential bonuses includes $4M for MVP and $2M for 2nd-6th in MVP voting. If you’re confident he won’t win, you get to subtract $2M and then if you’re also confident he won’t finish 2-6 you get to drop a total of $4M, not $6M. Even without a high MVP finish, he still has $3M of potential bonuses tied into other awards.

    Hopefully that made sense…

  • PunkPitch

    Say Fred the Executioner holds up the 210 game suspension. Then Arod gets a court injunction to block the suspension.Does Arod get paid?

    • Darren

      Yes, unless and until the court reinstates the suspension, in whole or in part. And it’s pretty difficult to guess the timing of that now.

  • jjyank

    The only think that I’m concerned about is if the Yankees decide to stand pat right now. Getting under 189 is entirely dependent on A-Rod being suspended for the whole season. I would really hate to see A-Rod get suspended for 50 games and the Yanks go over the threshold without making any additional moves.

    Just blow past it.

    • I’m One


      • TWTR

        Or +189?

  • TWTR

    Signing Ichiro to a two year deal was GM Levine’s worst move.

    • Jersey Joe

      Yes. Besides paying Vernon Wells actual currency.

      • TWTR

        I think that was Cashman. He said he wanted him as far back as December 2011, but yeah, either way, true.

        • TWTR

          Edit: 2012

  • RetroRob

    The Yankees gave up on Plan 189 once they realized their farm system wasn’t going to provide any low-cost prospects in the near term. They’ve left a very slight window open, but it will require A-Rod being suspended, Jeter not hitting his bonuses (both probably good bets) and striking out in other areas in the market. I don’t think their plan is to strike out.

    Gardner being traded probably won’t save them much money, if any at all. He’ll be traded only if he improves the Yankees, which means they’d have to get back a similar 4 WAR player, most likely one year away from free agency like Gardner. Yet that type of player will bring his own costs.

    Plan 189 is dead. Be thankful.

    • Mike

      I wonder if Gardner will play enough to accumulate 4 WAR with us.

      • RetroRob

        The only player I see potentially getting more playing time in the OF is Ellsbury, and that would require a full season of health. Gardner may not play every day, but most every day.

        A shift back to LF will also drive up his WAR, so I think 4 WAR is a reasonable estimate. He’s reach 6 WAR before.

        • Mike

          Is it possible to figure out what his 2013 WAR would be if you translated his stats last year to LF?

          • vicki

            depends on who would’ve been in center. grandy deferred zones to gardner in 2010 and 2011 (grit missed most of 2012 of course). but he would be penalized by positional adjustment.

            fWAR = wRAA + UZR + Position + (20/600)xPA;

            or something like that. where the pa for a center fielder is +2.5, and -7.5 for a left fielder.

            • vicki

              okay, to clarify. not the pa, plate appearances; the pa, positional adjustment.

  • Mike

    If we had some good young prospects taking over key positions, maybe we could compete for the WS while being below 189 million. But right now, I think everyone would be crying “cheap” if we didn’t go over 189.

    • RetroRob

      Exactly. We can question if they ever should have attempted to go down the path toward Plan 189, but as I noted yesterday, we should be thankful the team we follow recognized it wasn’t going to work and changed course. Most teams probably wouldn’t have changed direction that quickly, or at all.

      • jjyank

        “we should be thankful the team we follow recognized it wasn’t going to work and changed course.”

        This. Agreed wholeheartedly.

    • stuckey

      Not everyone

  • lee

    so next year we’ll essentially have only two “returning” starters (Gardner and Soriano). and last year, we effectively ended up with only one returning starter from 2012 (Cano) when all was said and done. when was the last time the Yankees went through that type of turnover? a quick check of BBRef shows that over the previous 10 years, 7 times they returned at least six starters, and the other 3 times they returned five starters.

  • viridiana

    Have heard of coitus interruptus. If Hal stops now: competitus interruptus?

    • vicki

      don’t take me half the way.

  • Hardy

    Cot’s lists several potential bonuses for Soriano – these are missing from your figures.