2014 Payroll Breakdown: Part Five

A-Rod's Suspension: Now What?
Monday Night Open Thread
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

After weeks and weeks of waiting, we now know Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for the entire 2014 season. The team still owes him some salary and he will count a small amount against the luxury tax this year (as I explained earlier), but for the most part his massive $27.5M luxury tax hit has been wiped off the books. Plus they don’t need to worry about his first $6M homerun milestone bonus. You can bet the front office and ownership are rejoicing.

With A-Rod suspended, it is once again time to look over the team’s payroll situation. As a reminder, the numbers listed are luxury tax hits, not actual 2014 salary. The two can be and often are different. For reference, here are Part One (last January), Part Two (August), Part Three (November), and Part Four (December) of the series.

Roberts’ one-year contract — Dan Connolly says it includes a $2M base salary plus $2.6M in plate appearance-based incentives — is not yet official but it will be very soon, so I’m including him. And yes, Kuroda’s translator counts against the luxury tax according to Dan Martin and Ken Davidoff. So silly.

The 15 players who are on the 40-man roster but not on the active 25-man roster are typically estimately at $2M-5M, so let’s go with $5M. Adding together everything above gives us a $195.751M payroll for luxury tax purposes for this coming season. If we say Jeter and Roberts are unlikely to trigger their bonuses but Kuroda will hit his, we’re still at $186.151M. It’s worth noting the players’ union expects Gardner’s salary to be “considerably higher” than projected by Matt Swartz’s model. We’re just going to have to wait to see about that.

That $186.151M gives the team just $2.849M to spend under the $189M luxury tax threshold. It also leaves them with this projected 25-man roster come Opening Day:

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

Based on what we heard yesterday, that last bench ? is going to a low cost player like Nunez, Anna, Scott Sizemore, Corban Joseph, or Yangervis Solarte. Johnson’s flexibility means he’s the emergency fifth outfielder in any given game. Barring a surprise addition, the position player portion of the Opening Day roster is pretty much set aside from that forthcoming Spring Training competition.

The pitching staff is much more up in the air. We know the Yankees are pursuing Masahiro Tanaka but signing him is not a given. If they fail to sign him, Brian Cashman has indicated they could look for cheap starters a la Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon back during the 2010-11 offseason. What we do know is there will be a fifth starter competition in camp, so that guy will be cheap. I have Phelps in parentheses in the table just because he seems like the favorite for the job, but it could just as easily be Warren. I do expect both to be on the Opening Day roster though, one as a starter and one in the bullpen.

The last three bullpen ?s could all wind up going to cheap internal candidates and the Yankees have a ton of ’em. Huff, Betances, Claiborne, Cabral, Nuno, Robert Coello, Brian Gordon, Matt Daley, David Herndon, on and on it goes. I would love to see the Yankees add one (preferably two) relievers with some more big league pedigree, someone like Grant Balfour or Luis Ayala or even Joel Hanrahan, who isn’t expected to return from Tommy John surgery until sometime in May or June. Cheaps bullpens are great, but a bullpen in which Kelley is the second best reliever makes me a wee bit nervous.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

So let’s say that out of those seven total ?s, five will be filled internally. Sizemore, Phelps, Warren, Huff, and Betances. Sound good? Good. Those guys will all earn something close to the league minimum, meaning another $3M or so added to the payroll. That brings us up to $189.151M total with one rotation spot and one bullpen spot still open. So the Yankees are already over the luxury tax threshold without a full roster or money set aside for midseason call-ups and waiver claims and whatever else.

There is obviously some leeway here — my $5M assumption for the 15 non-active roster players is conservative — but it’s clear signing Tanaka will put the Yankees over the luxury tax threshold. No doubt about it. Going with a cheap starter and a moderately priced reliever like Ayala would also put them over the threshold. Heck, going cheap with that last rotation and bullpen spot still puts them right up against the threshold at the very least, if not over. And remember, Gardner’s salary may end up larger than projected and they’ll need to call guys up throughout the season. The only two ways the Yankees can realistically clear payroll is by trading Gardner or Ichiro, and they’d have to eat some cash to move the latter. Plus they’d have to pay players to replace them.

Even with A-Rod almost completely off the books, the Yankees are still going to wind up over the luxury tax threshold this summer. The only question is how much. As one team executive said recently, “We either have to be under $189M or up over $200M or more. Think how dumb it would look if we worked for a few years to get under $189M and we didn’t and we were at like $189M and just missed. Either we go under or way over.” Given their current payroll situation, it looks like they’ll be way over. Hooray for that.

A-Rod's Suspension: Now What?
Monday Night Open Thread
  • Theonewhoknocks

    Given that they are over $189 anyways, and given that arod still has 3 years 60+ mil on his deal after this season-why would anyone assume the Yankees are happy arod was suspended?
    He’s a 3 win player, at a position of need and we have no way of replacing him internally or externally.
    They were going to pursue Tanaka regardless, so it seems like all this move did was give them some money that they aren’t going to put back towards the roster. Bad news for fans and ownership alike.

    • Alex Rodriguez

      Might as well go for Balfour then as well.

    • LK

      I’m as pro-A-Rod as anyone, but between age and health you can’t pencil him in as a 3-win player anymore. Now, 3 wins better than what they currently have in the IF? That’s possible.

    • Ed

      Because he is a distraction, can’t be relied on to play the full season, and because his $25M can probably be more effectively deployed to Tanaka and a bullpen guy (Balfour?).

  • Fred

    What happened to Mustellier? Give the guy a shot at 3b!

    • I’m One

      His defense is quite questionable, and he never again has put up the numbers he did in ’12 (in any league he’s played in).

    • Preston

      You mean the 29 yo who is fat, sucks at fielding, spent most of last season on IR and hit .272/.319/.398 at AAA when healthy? Yeah, just penicil him in at 3b, sounds like a great plan.

    • FLYER7

      Doesn’t the Noony and Mustelier to 3B crowd get it that they aren’t in the team plans at third base?

      • The Great Gonzo

        Don’t worry, they’ll be crying for Dean Anna in 3 months. We’ll have forgotten about Future HoF Ronnier Mustelier soon enough.

        Somewhere Jorge Vazquez sheds a tear.

        • Dick M

          We had the worst production at 3rd base in the league. Mustelier, Anna, does it matter? We’re headed down the same road again.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I thought we were supposed to keep the 2012 time capsule buried for another hundred years. Someone hand me another shovel.

  • MaKun Migraines

    Great write up and hindsight in the chase to 189.

    Doomsday scenario: The Yankees wait until arb figures are finalized and trade Ichiro without getting anything in return except the necessary cash relief to sneak under the LT threshold. Ultimately, with the the 189 goal met, the team goes 100% in-house for all the above (?) slots.

    Best case scenario: Tanaka picks NY, while Balfour takes the same or a cheaper contract than Baltimore had originally agreed too, leaving NY around the 215 payroll mark.

  • Dick M

    The more I read the article the more the realization hit me that there’s a pretty good chance that this whole off-season was orchestrated to create the impression that the FO was genuine in their “189 is not a mandate stance” while keeping to the threshold nonetheless.

    You can write the script from here. We get nosed out on Tanaka and we finagle the books to come in under 189 mill. None of the remaining starting pitchers were “worth it”. The FO can claim that they went out and signed Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann etc.and that they wanted Tanaka real bad; that they were genuine in their efforts.

    Meanwhile, this explains Cano.

    Of course without the 2 starting pitchers, we are DOA. The irrefutable fact is, due to all of the bad contracts and the piss poor state of the farm, there was no way to put a legit contender on the field and stay under 189. It was Barzini all along.

    • Jonathan

      If that were the case then they would have signed Cano over Ellsbury saying it was almost $100M more and they kept their homegrown stars without using much more luxury tax room. That would have gone over a lot better with casual fans than the Ellsbury signing.

      • Dick M

        I don’t see it that way.

        3 free agents makes for a bigger splash, PR-wise.

        Either way, you’re majoring in minors here — the big picture is they appear to be earnest when in fact it was all about the 189. My god, by Mikes numbers, there gonna be right at the threshhold.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’m ready to rock and roll as well.

  • Dicka24

    I think it’s safe to say Operation $189 is out the window. In looking at the roster as is, there really isn’t anywhere to shed money. Unless they can find a taker for Ichiro, or move Gardner for assets, as opposed to a money making player, there’s no contract to move. All the more reason Tanaka, or some other addition (pen maybe) is totally on the table. The budget is already over the threshold.

    Sadly from there end, it looks as if $189 was doable. Had they given Ichiro 1 year instead of two, that’s $6 million. Had they stuck to their guns on Jeter at $8.9 million versus $12.8, that’s another $4 million. Go with cheaper Loogy’s like Cabral, Huff, etc. and there’s another $3.5 million. Figure in a few million in some other places, or possibly passing on one of their FA acquisitions and gone for someone cheaper, and $189 was truly doable if they were smarter, or maybe more dedicated about it. As a fan, I’m happy they weren’t, and/or aren’t. It’s not my money, so I hope they spend it.

    • Dr. TJ Eckleberg

      It really does make the Ichiro/Jeter deals look more questionable. I mean, like you said, between them and a little fudge room with the pre-arb guys you are like $10mm under. Yes, it’s a shitty team, but you at least “did something” and ended up under the threshold.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they did it (especially because I feel like I remember that the CBA expires in a couple years), but they just lit that money on fire, basically.

    • Dick M

      Op 189 is hardly out the window. Mike says they are at 189 with one starter and one reliever left. Don’t you get it? It’s could easily be over for us as far as acquisitions go.

      I’m not saying I know for sure. But I’ve got a bad feeling. And Hal and the boys may have orchestrated everything, from the get-go. Tanaka will be the tell.

      Follow the money.

  • pinhead

    Why not factor Pineda into this little excercise? I thought the Yankees would be penciling him in ahead of Phelps in the starting rotation. At the least we should consider him for the BP, no?

    • MartinRanger

      You can’t count on the guy with his injury history, but if he’s really healthy he could be a real difference-maker.

  • mustang
    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I moved to New York for my wife.

      Cashman failed.

      • RetroRob

        I moved to NY to get away from my wife.

    • RetroRob

      That type of information doesn’t leak unless it’s by design, with the design being to get more money from the Yankees!

      Last, the words “it’s a goal not a mandate.” Are we being trolled? Those are Hal Steinbrenner’s words for Plan 189!

      • LK

        Yeah I had the same thought re: the goal/mandate quote. Something is amiss there.

      • forensic

        Last, the words “it’s a goal not a mandate.” Are we being trolled? Those are Hal Steinbrenner’s words for Plan 189!

        That’s exactly what I was gonna reply with. I wonder how serious this all is.

        But hey, my wife moved where I needed to for school and a job, so maybe he’s got a great one too. :-)

        • mustang

          We all hope.


    • mustang

      I don’t know its probably nothing, but I been very confident on getting Tanaka that I haven’t even thought about the other option I think I better start thinking about them.

    • Herb Green

      It’s all about the weed.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Ha! All the while we were sending the wrong person to woo the Tanaka family. Shoulda been Hideki’s wife, not Hideki himself:


      • TheEvilUmpire

        OMG I totally broke out laughing at that pic!! Perfect!

        Caption contest? Here’s one:

        “See guys, I told you she was real!”

  • RetroRob

    If they don’t get Tanaka and they trade Gardner, I wonder if they could come in under 189?

    • hey now

      If, in conjunction with that, they could also find someone willing to take Ichiro and his complete salary, then $189M should be achievable.

      They would also be a very, very shitty team.

      They inevitably have to address the gaping holes in the rotation and the bullpen, not to mention finding a credible third baseman.

    • Dick M

      In that case, they won’t have to trade gardner to get under 189. You need to re-read Mike’s blog. You’ll just see the vidal N types in the rotation (I like Vidal by the way).

  • qwerty

    That gives the yankees just under 3 million to spend on Tanaka’s salary. Let’s hope he accepts, and doesn’t get greedy like Cano.

    • I’m One

      Right. He should accept a salary of $3mm or less to show he’s a True Yankee. Otherwise, he’s just a money grabbing mercenary, not worthy of wearing the pinstripes.


      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        You gave that way too much thought.

  • MartinRanger

    I say we DFA Kuroda’s translator and sign one to a minor league contract.

    • LK

      They really should have a full-scale translator competition in spring training.

    • The Great Gonzo

      A somewhat serious question… can we use Kuroda’s translter for Tanaka too? Potential savings FTW!

  • Farewell Mo

    If they could jack the payroll up to say $250 in 2015 with the savings from being under $189 in 2014, it might we worth it considering there’s a good potential crop of FAs including Kershaw, Bailey, Scherzer, Lester, Shield, Sandoval, Headley, Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, JJ Hardy among others.

    IMO, they’re shaping up to be a .500 team this year anyway so if they don’t sign Tanaka, why not save the money and blow it out next year?

    • Mike Myers

      because they Yankees have gobs of money and should be spending this year and EVERY year….they can afford it.

    • The Great Gonzo

      It still lows my mind that #1 Lowrie has become one of those “good players” referenced, and #2 he became the EXACT player the Red Sox would target in free agency, and they gave him away for 45 minutes of Andrew Bailey.

      • Tom

        I believe they got 50 minutes from Andrew Bailey, and they gave away Reddick for that privilege.

        The Red Sox gave way Lowrie for the privilege of 55 minutes of Mark Melancon who was so bad he was demoted to AAA

        They then smartly sold low on Melancon, who flourished in Pittsburgh, for about an hour and a half out of Joel Hanrahan.

  • trr

    I have a question: what exactly is that 12m in “benefits”?

  • Grover

    Mike, I was also pained by the Ellsbury signing in regard to building a team as we might have gone similar routes but just one time try to play the role of pro $189M instead of your obvious bias against it. There is quite a bit of logic behind it that largely goes ignored. Thanks as usual for your insights.