Mailbag: 2013 Luxury Tax, Prospects, Murphy


I’ve been milking the mailbag teet during the holidays, but posting will be back to normal next week. This week’s (final) mailbag is eight friggin’ questions long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)

(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Shane asks: Recently, a report came out saying that the Yankees can dip under $189M midseason. It only matters where you finish. Would this method work in 2013? I know the luxury tax was in the $175M range but who could they have traded to dip below the $175M in 2013? Would this be at all possible by trading Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda and not trading for Alfonso Soriano? How close could they have gotten to that number?

Joel Sherman wrote an article earlier this week suggesting the Yankees could conduct a sell-off this summer if they’re not contending in an effort to get under $189M, but that would really surprise me. They didn’t spend $300M+ this winter (and counting) to hold a midseason fire sale. Sherman seems really hell-bent on the whole $189M idea.

Anyway, the Yankees finished last season with a $234,227,890 payroll for luxury tax purposes, so getting under the $178M threshold would have meant selling off at least $56,227,890 (!) worth of players in season. That seems damn near impossible, but let’s look anyway. To make the math easy, let’s assume the firesale happened at the exact midpoint of the season. Here’s what they would have had to do to get under the luxury tax threshold:

Add all of that up and they would have saved … $40.88M. Still another $16M or so to go, not counting the salaries they would have had to pay to replace all the players they traded, which would add up to a few million even if the replacements were earning the minimum. I guess they could have traded Andy Pettitte ($6M saved) and Mariano Rivera ($5M saved), but even that would have left them short. Same deal with trading CC Sabathia ($12.2M saved) or Mark Teixeira ($11.25M saved), but moving those two would have been very hard because they stunk and were hurt, respectively. Plus they have no-trade clauses. I don’t see any way the Yankees could have realistically gotten under the $178M luxury tax threshold in 2013 through a midseason firesale.

Cameron asks: Managers and coaches sign contracts like players, but when a coach underperforms we always see them get fired in the middle of a contract. However, when a player underperforms or becomes an issue (obviously the extreme example being Alex Rodriguez), they never get “fired” or let go. The team just has to deal with it or try to trade them. Is there a difference in the contracts that doesn’t allow that? Do teams still have to pay the remainder of a manager’s salary when they get fired?

Well, I suppose releasing or designating a player for assignment is like firing them, and that happens all the time. Obviously cutting ties with a lower salary player is easier to swallow, and the same is true of managers or coaches. And yes, teams absolutely still have to pay managers and coaches if they’re fired in the middle of the contract. The only real exception is if the guy leaves for a pormotion — the Yankees don’t have to pay ex-bullpen coach Mike Harkey after he left to become the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach, for example. That’s a mutually agreed upon thing.

Travis asks: Just thinking outside the box, I’m sure he has never played there before, but could Carlos Beltran be cross-trained at first base to help alleviate some position issues and create more roster flexibility?

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Sure, it’s possible, but I think first base is tougher than most people realize. Whenever I think about moving a player to first late in their career, I always remember Gary Sheffield looking like he had never played baseball in his life when the Yankees stuck him there in late 2006. Teixeira still has three years on his contract and I assume Brian McCann will put in some side work at first base, but if he’s up for it, there’s no reason not to have Beltran take ground balls and learn the position. I would be surprised if he was still an outfielder in the final year of his three year contract, so having first base as a possibility would unclog that seemingly inevitable DH logjam.

Jeff asks: Looking back on Cano’s time with the Yankees made me remember that he kind of came out of nowhere without a lot of hype. Do you see anyone in the Yankees system flying under the radar right now or could have a breakout year? Will we ever see anyone emerge and have success like Cano and Chien-Ming Wang did or do we know too much about the team’s system?

Nova fits into this category as well. Heck, I don’t think I ever ranked him on one of my Preseason Top 30 lists. As long as Major League Baseball is being played, there will be guys who come out of nowhere to be big contributors*. Some of them will even be Yankees. Baseball is weird like that.

* To be fair, Cano and Wang were well regarded prospects. The Yankees didn’t give Wang a $1.9M signing bonus back in the day out of the kindness of their hearts. Both guys simply became better big leaguers than expected, Cano especially.

Among the guys in the system now, I think Peter O’Brien and Rob Refnsyder have a good chance of exceeding expectations. O’Brien’s power is legit and Refsnyder is one of those major college program “he just knows how to hit” players. Guys with power and guys who consistently put up strong offensive numbers tends to get plenty of chances. Among the arms … maybe Daniel Camarena? I’ve always liked him and command lefties with a good changeup seem to stick around forever as long as they’re healthy.

Dave asks: There’s been a lot of talk of the Yankees’ lack of a third baseman. I feel like people seem to have forgotten that J.R. Murphy was once a catcher/third baseman a few years back. Do you think there’s a chance the Yanks move him back there now that McCann is the catcher going forward and hope that he (Murphy) can become an offensive-minded infielder?

There was talk about moving Tyler Austin from right field and back to third base at this time last year, but unlike Murphy, that was a move up a defensive spectrum that would have improved Austin’s value. Moving Murphy out from behind the plate fills a more pressing need but makes him less valuable overall. Murphy has reportedly made a lot of progress defensively and he’s now seen as a lock to remain at the position long-term. His bat really came around last year as well. There is always a need for quality catchers and I’d keep Murphy behind the plate. If nothing else, he’s more valuable in a trade that way.

Anthony asks: Even though he was offered less total money, Shin-Soo Choo will earn more in Texas than he would in New York because of the income tax. For the Yankees to guarantee him equivalent earnings, they would have had to raise the value of their initial offer, thus incurring a larger hit against the luxury tax/payroll cap if the contract was agreed upon. Doesn’t this seem a bit unfair for teams living in states with an income tax? Will MLB do anything about it?

Well, the team makes a conscious decision to be over the threshold and pay the luxury tax, so that’s not MLB’s problem. I don’t know if they still do it (I assume they do), but I know at one point MLB cut checks to the Blue Jays each year to make up for the difference in exchange rate. That’s a unique situation though.

I don’t think MLB will or should do anything about the income tax situation. It’s just one of those things that comes with having teams all around the country. Should MLB step in because the weather in San Diego has helped the Padres sign some players over the years? What about all the guys who come to New York because they think they can get better endorsement deals? The income tax situation is unfortunate for the Yankees but they have their own market advantages as well. MLB should stay the hell out of government matters, it’s not their place (cough cough).

Huff. (Presswire)

Huff. (Presswire)

Anonymous asks: Who has better chance being on big league roster come Opening Day, David Huff or Cesar Cabral?

This is weird, because I think Huff is both more in danger of losing his 40-man roster spot but also more likely to be on the Opening Day roster than Cabral. He’s out of minor league options and if he’s still around in camp, his September work last year could give him a leg up on the second lefty/swingman role. Cabral can go to Triple-A without a problem and sometimes that work against a guy. Make sense? Either way, I’m certain we’ll see Cabral on the team at some point in 2014.

Jamie asks: Asked a question about the differences in WAR on various sites two weeks ago. With that being said, if you had to pick two numbers for a position player (offense and defense — OPS+, WAR, UZR, etc.) and one for a pitcher (ERA+, WAR, etc) that best rated their value, which would it be and why?

WAR, particularly bWAR, is the easy answer for pitchers. It is based on actual runs allowed (not theoretical runs allowed/FIP like fWAR) with adjustments for ballpark, league, team defense, etc. If I can only pick one stat for hurlers, that would be it.

On the position player side, I’d go with wRC+ and DRS. I don’t love UZR and Total Zone, which basically eliminates fWAR and bWAR. I’d want an adjusted-for-pretty-much-everything offensive stat, hence wRC+, and I prefer DRS to the other defensive stats. In a perfect world, I’d have access to all of them. But since I’m limited to one, DRS it is. Ultimately, the best way to evaluate a player is to look at everything, every stat plus scouting reports plus the eye test. The more information, the better.

Categories : Mailbag


  1. George says:

    If the Yankees do in fact move JR Murphy or Tyler Austin to 3B in the coming years, where would Eric Jagielo end up? Shortstop? I would move McCann to first base at the end of Teixeira’s contract and slide Murphy or Gary Sanchez behind the plate, leaving Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott to roam the outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury.

    • mitch says:

      There’s room for more than one 3B in an organization. Let’s get to the point where the Yankees have multiple MLB ready 3Bs before we consider it an issue.

    • jjyank says:

      If Jagielo could play short stop, he’d already be playing it.

      Also, not all of those guys are going to pan out. It’s good to have multiple options at a position. If you do end up with a log jam, then you can trade someone.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        Case in point, the past 5 years of Yankees catching.

        There was one point where the Yankees had Cervelli, Montero, The Lettuce kid, Murphy and Sanchez in various levels of their organization… Last season Chris Stewart started a majority of the games for the big club.

        • jjyank says:

          Yup. If that ever becomes a problem, it would be a pretty good one to have anyways. But we should probably just cross these bridges when we come to them, because we may not ever even find the bridge.

    • Laz says:

      Who Cares?

      Jagielo is still several years off. If he can handle 3B defensively keep him there, can probably move to 1b or outfield after that. Most prospects don’t work out, and I wouldn’t make any plans because I am hoping they make it. Yankees have many good catchers in the system, but it wasn’t worth passing on McCann for. Could still keep Murphy in the minors for another couple years, and then start working him in as the backup. If he works out as hoped I’m sure they can figure out a plan to play both him and McCann regularly.

  2. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    I’m pretty sure a team has to pay a fired manager’s contract until it runs out or until they get another managerial job. They usually don’t get to double dip on pay.

    • Slugger27 says:

      …..which is what he said

      • Mondesi says:


        • jjyank says:

          “And yes, teams absolutely still have to pay managers and coaches if they’re fired in the middle of the contract.”

          • Mondesi says:

            “And yes, teams absolutely still have to pay managers and coaches if they’re fired in the middle of the contract.”

            Does not equal:

            “I’m pretty sure a team has to pay a fired manager’s contract until it runs out or until they get another managerial job. They usually don’t get to double dip on pay.”

            What Mike said was correct, Andy just supplemented it with additional info.

            • Mondesi says:

              And thus shall end this episode of “me unnecessarily explaining things to random people.” My apologies and you’re welcome.

              • jjyank says:

                Chill dude. I wasn’t knocking Andy’s comment. Mike did also mention that they don’t get paid by the old team if they leave via promotion, which is similar to Andy’s comment anyway.

                But congrats on making yourself feel cool for getting into a largely semantic argument with random people on the internet. I hope you feel good about yourself.

                • Mondesi says:

                  I do! Thanks!

                • Now Batting says:

                  A largely semantic argument that you lost =x

                  • jjyank says:


                    I wasn’t even arguing. I just pointed out what Slugger was referring to. I wasn’t even the one that made the point.

                  • nyyankfan_7 says:

                    Congratulations, I and the rest of the RAB world are all officially dumber for having read this string of conversation.

                    • The Great Gonzo says:

                      What dafuq just happened?

                    • Mondesi says:

                      You are all very welcome.

                    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                      Everyone’s a moron.

                    • Mondesi says:

                      I just want to know what Januz thinks about this.

                    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                      You won’t believe it. A screen name we’ve never seen before came on during a thread trying to pick a meaningless, never-ending fight with a regular commenter.

                      I swear this is the first time this has happened. I’m also perfectly sure that this is the first time this person has ever commented on this site and that they weren’t, for example, the same person to do this last week.

                    • Mondesi says:

                      If you’re referring to me as the “screen name we’ve never seen before” then you are mistaken, just FYI. I’ve commented here for quite a while actually, just not very often in the last couple of years or so. (Dropped the “Honorable Congressman” bit a while ago because I just didn’t feel like typing it, if that helps.)

                      And to be fair (to me of course, since who cares about being fair to others), I didn’t pick a fight with anyone. Pretty sure the first antagonistic comment in this godforsaken thread wasn’t mine.

                    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

                      Actually, when you said “And thus shall end this episode of “me unnecessarily explaining things to random people.” My apologies and you’re welcome,” that was the first antagonistic comment made.

                      And while I figured you were “The Honorable Congressman,” I don’t think you created O:S.

                    • Mondesi says:

                      Oh I thought that comment was pretty clearly self-deprecating, as in “I’m a moron for contributing an insignificant corretion to this thread,” and not a knock against anyone else really. But oh well, snark is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

                      Perhaps I didn’t create (/borrow liberally from Derek Bell) O:S. I’ve convinced myself I did but maybe that’s a delusion of commenting grandeur. Thought that was my one meaningful contribution to society; back to the drawing board.

                    • Mondesi says:

                      This is the genesis of O:S, no? Or maybe I was repeating someone else’s joke?


                      (Yes, I’m very bored today. Ran an RAB/google search, sue me.)

                    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

                      I’d like to think that O:S was a collaborative effort of the rational posters on this site.

                      But to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, I’m sure that the actual origin is lost to history.

                    • Mike HC says:

                      Wait, did the Honorable Congressman Mondesi, turned Mondesi just go Hollywood Hogan on us? Former fan favorite, peoples champ comes out in a mask, hits the current champ over the head with a chair when the ref isn’t looking, and then takes off his mask to reveal his true identity. Then reveals he dropped the “Honorable Congressman” part of his name!


                    • Mondesi says:

                      (Now I can finally clean off this fake black beard.)

                    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

                      Damn. Well done.

                      I hereby agree to give you credit, in at least as much because you got the immediate endorsement of tsjc.

                      Reading part of that thread made me nostalgic for those simpler times.

                    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                      Wait……you’re the fucking Congressman? And you’ve gone heel?

                      Ah, fuck. I almost want to apologize. This guy used to have me in stitches.

                      Yeah, I’m sorry, congressman. It’ll never happen again.

                      Screw you, jjyank. You told me you were a doctor.

                    • Mondesi says:

                      I will sleep well tonight knowing my one meaningful contribution to society wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

                    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                      Cheers to a somewhat memorable most miniscule version of internet celebrity.

  3. viridiana says:

    This could be my all-time favorite RAB statement:

    “Ultimately, the best way to evaluate a player is to look at everything, every stat plus scouting reports plus the eye test. The more information, the better.”

  4. Vinny Bagadonuts says:

    With the lack of 3B in the organization, I still don’t understand why Ronnier Mullister never got a longer look? He has done everything asked of him and more, and never got a shot. What am I missing? Are we chatting today?

    • Vinny Bagadonuts says:

      *Mustelier sorry

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:


      Has he really done everything asked of him? He’s hit decently, but nothing off the charts, as a MUCH older player in the upper levels, then spent pretty much the entire season that could have been his opportunity hurt.

      Never say never, and in no way do I think the guy would embarrass himself in the majors, but I think it’s a bit late to be singing the “Free Ronnier” praises.

      • Vinny Bagadonuts says:

        Better late than never… FREE RONNIER! I guess your right, but given his numbers and lack of production at that position, seemed like a fit on paper.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Never say never. If he’s still getting regular playing time, and putting up the numbers, perhaps he still gets a look.

          I just think the sex appeal has worn off at this point.

      • jjyank says:

        “then spent pretty much the entire season that could have been his opportunity hurt.”

        Bingo. I recall him getting serious consideration in spring training, and then he got hurt. That sucks for him, but he didn’t hit particularly well after coming back either. When you consider that he’s not providing you with any defense, he needs to hit better than a 101 wRC+ in AAA as an older guy.

    • steve (different one) says:

      It’s unfortunate, but when he was presented with an opportunity to make the roster last year, he was injured in a fluke injury. It took him a long time to come back, and when he came back, he didn’t really hit.

      Also, and I could be wrong, he is supposedly a butcher at 3B.

      So yeah, he might get a shot at some point this year, but I think it would be hard to COUNT on him for anything at this point.

      • jjyank says:


      • Kosmo says:

        NY has moved him around alot,RF,LF,2B,3B and has never settled into 1 position. I´m not sure that explains his lack of D but it could be a possible reason. Mustelier could be a servicable utility player.

        • The Great Gonzo says:

          Define ‘serviceable’…

          If his bat were to translate in the Bigs, which is still not a lock, then he could be the homeless man’s Marcus Thames (primarily a DH, stand at a position and hope he doesn’t see much glove action)… I feel like he’ll get some looks in ST again and we’ll be singing the praises of “Free Ronnier” by Mid May…

        • Preston says:

          Or maybe they keep moving him hoping they’ll finally find a position he can play…

  5. Kosmo says:

    Refsnyder and O´Brien are both 22 yrs old having finished the season at A+ so getting to the majors and sticking at the age of 24 is something of a longshot. Both have to rake over the next 2 seasons, remain injury free and drastically improve their D.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Both are college guys. Later start. Supposed to get through the system quicker. Time well tell if that happens or not.

      I’d say 24 for a college kid who actually needed some MiLB fine tuning is about right.

  6. Jo7aeme says:

    What kind of stupid person could imagine that the Yanks will trade Dave Robertson? Really, what kind?

  7. The Great Gonzo says:

    I guess you could think about giving Beltran some reps at 1B, but with Soriano’s previous infield ‘experience’, I would think that would be a better short term fit.

    Still would not recommend it, but you know…

    • jjyank says:

      Yeah. Doesn’t hurt to have one or both of them take grounders there during ST and see what happens, but I’d be pretty worried if either of them were starting at first base in the near future. It’s probably the “easiest” position to play (aside from DH, I suppose), but that doesn’t mean it’s actually easy.

  8. qwerty says:

    If Tyler Austin can play 3B while the hell is he in RF?

    • Preston says:

      Because he wasn’t particularly good at 3b. He played 24 games there in 2011 and apparently that was all they had to see before moving him to the OF. It’s hard to get scouting reports from the lower minors on defense but 6 errors in 24 games doesn’t speak well of his play.

  9. JU says:

    Mike, with regard to JR Murphy – giving him time at 3B doesn’t sap him of his ability to Catch. Wouldn’t this arguably up his value if he showed he could do it?

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