According to Bob Nightengale, the Yankees have been hit with a $26M luxury tax bill for the 2015 season. That’s based on an end-of-season payroll of $241.15M. The luxury tax threshold is $189M and the Yankees have to pay a 50% tax on every dollar over the threshold as a repeat offender.
The Dodgers owe a record $43.7M in luxury tax based on their $298.3M end-of-season payroll. They’re only taxed at 40% because they haven’t been over the threshold as many consecutive years as New York. The previous luxury tax record was $34.1M by the 2005 Yankees. New York paid $18.3M in tax last year, $13.9M in 2011, $18M in 2010, and $26.9M in 2009. They’ve paid every year since the luxury tax was implemented in 2003.
Hal Steinbrenner has been pretty vocal about wanting to get under the luxury tax threshold — getting under the threshold means resetting the tax rate and also entitles the team to some revenue sharing rebates — in recent years, but that won’t happen next year. The threshold is $189M again and the Yankees already have $183M in salary commitments, before signing their arbitration-eligible players.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires next offseason, and surely the luxury tax threshold will be raised in the next CBA. It has to be. MLB revenues are sky high and more teams are approaching the threshold. A $200M threshold for 2017 seems like the bare minimum. $210M might be more appropriate these days. That’s probably what the MLBPA should be pushing for, anyway.
Once the new CBA takes effect and some of the large contracts start coming off the books next year, the Yankees will be in much better position to get under the luxury tax threshold. Whether they intend to stay under the threshold long-term — luxury tax is money for nothing, after all — or simply get under one year to reset their tax rate remains to be seen.
The Red Sox ($1.87M) and Giants ($1.33M) also owe luxury tax money this year. Checks are due to commissioner’s office by January 21st. The money goes into MLB’s Central Fund.
Time to continue the series. If you’re looking for more, don’t worry. There will be at least one or two more entries.
Nov. 17, 2005 – Yankees interest in Brian Giles intensifies
If a free agent gets a phone call from Joe Torre, he knows the Yankees are serious. Torre, the Yankees’ manager, has made successful recruiting pitches to Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano in recent years, and now he is calling Brian Giles.
Well, that nugget should be good enough to tell you just how interested the Yanks were in Brian Giles. Besides his age (35), Giles was a very attractive option for the Yankees because of his bat and his eye. Also, he was a lefty hitter, which is always a plus for playing in Bronx.
If you need a refresher on how good of an offensive asset Giles was, from 1999 to 2005, he hit .303/.418/.554 with 207 HR’s, good for a 150 wRC+. Also, he didn’t strike out much either, walking 747 times while only being punched out 492 times in that span. That’s just beast-like. Sure, he was not as flashy as guys like Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez or A-Rod, but his 150 wRC+ in that time span was the ninth-highest in all of ML, surpassing guys like Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero, Lance Berkman, Jim Edmonds, etc. That’s an elite bat right there.
One interesting tidbit in that New York Times article is that Torre would have considered shifting Hideki Matsui to center had the Yankees signed Giles. Now that’s a scenario. Matsui did play center primarily for the Yomiuri Giants but he was rather unimpressive with glove in ML. An outfield of Giles-Matsui-Sheffield would have drove a lot of runs in but, well, also cost at least some for the Yankee defense.
Nov. 21, 2005 – Yankees make a reliever move: Jose Veras?
Yankees made a somewhat headline-worthy reliever acquisition! It was … Jose Veras.
I actually remember reading this news back then and was like who? Very certain I wasn’t the only one either. Veras was a then-25-year old reliever who had never pitched in the bigs and had a 3.79 ERA in 61.2 IP with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2005. After debuting in the Devil Rays system as a 17-year old in 1998, he posted some very mediocre stats as a starter. After signing as a free agent with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2005 season, the organization used him exclusively as a reliever and, well, he did decently.
The article didn’t specify if it was a ML or MiLB deal but this quote from Veras makes me feel that it was the former:
“I feel proud that the Yankees have signed me to help set the table for Mariano Rivera,” Veras told The AP. “That’s something very important to me.”
I assume the Yankees must saw something that basic stats had yet to tell. Veras ended up having a decent ML relief career – marking a 3.91 career ERA and 27 saves in nine seasons with eight different teams.
Nov. 22, 2005 – The Red Sox trade for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. The Marlins had talked to the Yankees prior to the deal.
So yea, big deal for the division rival. Boston pulled off the deal that brought them Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota for four prospects, a package that included Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.
Josh Beckett was a young starting pitcher with an upside as big as anyone’s. The only major deterrent to his game was that he was quite injury prone. He was placed in the disabled list nine times in the previous four seasons. Most of them had to do with hand injuries but yea, that was an alarming number. Mike Lowell, who had been an All-Star caliber third baseman for the Marlins for years, saw his production dip down in the 2005 season, hitting for a measly .658 OPS. That and his salary made Lowell a very easy candidate for trade.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Prior to coming to an agreement with BoSox, the Marlins front had reached out to the Yankees and asked for a package including Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano. Needless to say, Yankees did not want to give them up. The article says, at one point, Marlins asked for a package of Chien-Ming Wang, Eric Duncan and a third prospect. Ten years later, that sounds like a pretty intriguing proposal. Josh Beckett ended up being a Cy Young caliber pitcher (at times) for the Red Sox and Mike Lowell regained his All-Star form with Boston, hitting for a .829 OPS from 2006-09. Sure, losing Chien-Ming Wang would have hurt but Red Sox did receive two ML’ers that panned out well for them for several seasons.
But here’s another caveat though – Yankees did not want to take on Lowell’s salary.
The Yankees also did not want to absorb the $18 million owed Lowell over the next two years, the same official said. ‘‘They (the Marlins) called everybody, but you had to take Lowell and give up substantial prospects, too,’’ the official said. ‘‘The Yankees can’t take on $18 million and a player that doesn’t fit (Lowell) when they’re trying to cut some payroll and still have needs in center field and the bullpen. ‘‘They (the Yankees) would’ve loved to be in this, but under those criteria, it doesn’t make much sense.’’
So that’s that.
Nov. 29, 2005 – Yankees closing in on Kyle Farnsworth
Back in 2005, there wasn’t that many pitchers in ML who could throw as hard as Kyle Farnsworth.
According to a Mark Feinsand article at MLB.com, the Yankees were set to sign the right-hander for a three-year deal worth around $15-17 million. Farnsworth had a breakout 2005 season. With the Tigers and Braves, he recorded a shiny 2.19 ERA in 72 games with 87 strikeouts in 70 innings pitched. He also only allowed one home run all season and walked 3.5 batters per 9 IP – an improvement over 4.4 from 2002~04. He seemed like a guy who finally learned how to use his explosive stuff and settle in as one of the finest relievers in baseball.
I actually remember being quite excited hearing the news. As I still am now, I was a sucker for pitchers with big velocity. Farnsworth also had another asset to his game – taking down people in brawls.
Nov. 29, 2005 – Scott Boras’s ultra-high pitch on Johnny Damon
So this isn’t really a move but because all of you probably now how this ended up, I thought I’d just show some quotes from this Boston Herald article.
“He’s the ironman of baseball,” Boras said yesterday from Dallas. “What Cal Ripken used to represent, Johnny Damon does today.”
“Johnny Damon is the most durable major league player in the game today,” Boras said. “If he had been on the disabled list three or four times, then OK, what kind of contract are we talking about — two, three years? Yet this guy plays all the time and hard all the time. You have to be unique to talk about a seven-year deal.”
Ho-hum, okay. Since his first full-time ML season (1996) to 2005, Damon did play more than 145 regular season games each year. Longevity definitely seemed to be his asset but then again, he did not have any season in which he played a full 162 set of games. I don’t know about Cal Ripken comparison or the ‘Ironman’ tag, but, you know, message received.
Johnny Damon is a model physical athlete with a body type that no one else has.
You know, I’m not a swimsuit salesman or anything so I can’t really say I’m the best judge for human physiques but if Damon did indeed have a ‘body type that no one else has’, good for Damon I guess. I wonder if any teams requested for muscle mass and body fat percentages data from Boras.
“Boras details his case for Damon in a bound, 10-section, three-ring notebook that he makes for most of his elite clients. It extols Damon in chapters entitled “Best leadoff man in baseball,” “Better than future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson,” “Elite performer at age 31” and “Franchise Icon.”
First off, that’s a big bounty of info if Boras did indeed fill out that notebook. I would love to get my hands on it and read it through. Better than Rickey Henderson? That’s way off though. In the first eleven ML seasons of his career, Damon amassed for 102 OPS+ with 281 stolen bases. Henderson? 134 OPS+ with 871 SB’s. His 110 OPS+ in the 2005 season is good but elite? Not quite. But you know, can’t blame Boras for trying. He had a job to do.
“By using Damon’s offensive averages the last four seasons, Boras projects seven years into the future and has Damon entering the 3,000 hit club in 2012 and cracking the all-time top 20 list in runs, hits and doubles. ”
And in case Damon decides to play through 2015, when he would be 41, Boras, again using his last four season averages and assuming no dropoffs, shows that Damon would finish third all-time in runs with 2,223 (ahead of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron) and fifth all-time in hits with 3,619 (ahead of Tris Speaker and Honus Wagner).”
It’s so wild to see articles from ten years ago that foreshadow into years that have passed by now. I don’t think many believed in Boras’s crystal ball back then, just a hunch. Damon did amass 2,769 career hits but nowhere near 3,619 that Boras projected.
So yes, Johnny Damon was a talented baseball player for sure. He was a two-time All Star, played vital roles in two World Series titles, hit more than 2,700 hits, etc. but I don’t see him as a Hall of Famer or anything that Boras hyped him up to be.
Nov. 30, 2005 – Yankees sign Kelly Stinnett
The Yankees were not going to re-sign John Flaherty as their backup catcher. Instead, they signed Kelly Stinnett to a one-year, $650,000 deal. Stinnett definitely showed better bat than Flaherty in the 2005 season (.736 OPS vs. .458 OPS). I guess it was somewhat of an upgrade that way but backup catchers don’t really have to hit. One major thing was that Stinnett had developed rapport being Randy Johnson’s catcher for the 1999-2000 seasons, both of which the lefty won the NL Cy Young Award.
Don’t think Stinnett’s tenure with the Yankees was all that memorable (released by New York in July after hitting to a .586 OPS in 87 plate appearances) but he did accidentally break Jorge Posada’s nose in the Spring Training. They were playing catch, Georgie got distracted for a moment and boom. Thank goodness it was not during the regular season.
Part three will be coming soon. It’s still kind of hard to believe it’s been ten years since all of these happened.
The big league roster portion of our 2015 Season Review series is winding down, and now it’s time to wrap-up the position players with the extras. The up-and-down guys who saw brief time in the Bronx this year. Every team goes through a few of these players each season and the Yankees are no different. Here are the final few position players who saw action in pinstripes in 2015.
Last offseason the Yankees inked Figueroa to a minor league contract because they needed some infield depth in Triple-A. They didn’t have any obvious shortstop or third base options for the level, so Figueroa was brought in. He played a bunch in Spring Training — .269/.321/.308 in 23 Grapefruit League games — but never really had a chance to make the team, so off to Triple-A Scranton he went at the end of camp.
Figueroa, 28, started the season as the everyday third baseman for the RailRiders, and he had himself a nice little start to the season: .291/.357/.382 (118 wRC+) with two home runs in 68 games through June. He’s not a power hitter, he’s a contact guy — Figueroa had a 5.4% strikeout rate and an 8.6% walk rate in those 68 games — and he was holding up his end of the bargain.
In early July, when Chase Headley was dealing with a minor calf issue, the Yankees called up Figueroa because his left-handed bat and solid defense made him a capable stopgap. Figueroa started two games with New York, going 2-for-4 with two doubles on July 9th and 0-for-4 on July 10th. Those two doubles helped the Yankees take the lead then tack on some insurance runs in an eventual win over the Athletics.
The Yankees sent Figueroa back to Triple-A after those two games and he remained there the rest of the season, playing mostly shortstop. He was designated for assignment on September 1st to clear 40-man roster spot for other call-ups. Figueroa finished the year with a .292/.355/.359 (108 wRC+) batting line and more walks (8.7%) than strikeouts (5.3%) in 121 Triple-A games. He became a minor league free agent after the season. It wasn’t much, but Figueroa did help the Yankees win a game in 2015.
Noel, who spent the 2010-15 seasons in the Padres’ farm system, asked San Diego for his release in June because he wanted to look for a better opportunity. According to Billy Witz, he approached the Yankees about a possible pinch-running role in September. The team agreed and signed him to a minor league deal even though it was the middle of the summer.
Noel, 26, spent a few weeks with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, rarely starting. He was instead getting accustomed to his September role. The Yankees used Noel as a pinch-runner and spot starter in the minors — Noel was an everyday guy for most of his career and they wanted him to get used to sitting on the bench all game before coming in to pinch-run — before calling him up on September 1st. He went 5-for-50 (.100) with 13 steals in 17 attempts in the minors.
Noel made his big league debut on September 2nd, but not as a pinch-runner, as a defensive replacement in right field. His lineup spot came up with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth inning of a hectic back and forth game at Fenway Park, and with Noel literally standing in the batter’s box, Joe Girardi called him back to the dugout for a pinch-hitter. It worked, the run was driven in, but man, that’s harsh. Noel was in the batter’s box for his first MLB at-bat when he was lifted.
Over the next few weeks Rico was limited to pinch-running duty only. He pinch-ran 12 times in the final month of the season, going 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts and scoring five runs. Noel was successful in each of his first five attempts. He finally got his first big league at-bat on October 3rd, on the second to last day of the season. Rico beat out an infield single for his first career hit.
Thanks to a sudden rash of injuries, the Yankees were short a utility infielder at the end of Spring Training, so they made a cash trade with the Astros to get Petit on April 1st, five days before Opening Day. The 30-year-old Petit made the Opening Day roster and actually played. He started seven of the team’s first 15 games (!) and pinch-hit three other times. April was weird.
Girardi used Petit as a platoon partner for Stephen Drew and he didn’t hit (3-for-20 in those 15 games), which wasn’t unexpected. Petit’s a glove-first infielder who happened to hit right-handed. He did, however, come up with a rather big bases clearing double against David Price and the Tigers on April 22nd. Unexpected!
Petit spent most of the rest of the season with the RailRiders but he did make another big league cameo in late-June and early-July. The Yankees eventually designated Petit for assignment on July 25th, clearing a 40-man roster spot for Nick Goody. Petit cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment, then spent the rest of the summer with the RailRiders.
In 20 games with the Yankees, Petit went 7-for-42 (.167) with three doubles and 16 strikeouts while playing second and third bases. He also hit .230/.264/.322 (65 wRC+) in 46 Triple-A games. Petit became a minor league free agent after the season. Can’t imagine many have gone from a non-roster invitee with the Astros to the Yankees’ Opening Day roster in the span of five days like Petit.
When Brendan Ryan went down with a calf injury in Spring Training, it opened the door for the 26-year-old Pirela to make the Opening Day roster. He had a monster camp — .370/.433/.630 in 15 Grapefruit League games — before crashing into the center field wall and hitting his head on the warning track near the end of spring.
Once he returned to the team, Pirela more or less replaced Petit as Drew’s platoon partner, and he hit quite well in limited time. At least at first. He went 5-for-14 (.357) in his first four games before falling into a 6-for-29 (.207) slump. Pirela’s not a great defender anywhere on the field, so if he’s not hitting, he has no value to the Yankees. The team sent him to Triple-A in mid-June.
Pirela spent most of the rest of the summer in Triple-A, though he did get another chance in late-June/early-July, going 3-for-23 (.130) in eleven games. He was called up when rosters expanded in September and went 3-for-8 (.375) down the stretch. He was the pinch-hitter who replaced Noel in what would have been Rico’s first at-bat. On October 4th, Pirela grounded out to second base against Zach Britton for the final out of the 2015 regular season.
All told, Pirela hit .230/.247/.311 (47 wRC+) with one homer in 37 games and 78 plate appearances for the Yankees this summer. That includes a .302/.333/.419 (106 wRC+) batting line in 45 plate appearances against southpaws. Pirela played second base and the two corner outfield spots for New York, and also hit .325/.390/.433 (142 wRC+) in 60 Triple-A games.
The Yankees traded Pirela to the Padres for minor league righty Ronald Herrera early last month. Brian Cashman admitted the move was made to clear 40-man roster space. Rather than designate Pirela for assignment and potentially lose him for nothing, they flipped him for a non-40-man roster pitching prospect. If nothing else, the Pirela trade shows the Yankees are pretty confident in Rob Refsnyder as the primary right-handed hitting second base option.
* * *
Special shout-out goes to outfielder Taylor Dugas, who was called up to the big leagues for two days this summer but didn’t actually play. Carlos Beltran was nursing an oblique strain, and the Yankees didn’t want to place him on the 15-day DL just yet, but they couldn’t recall Ramon Flores because he’d just been sent down and the ten-day rule was still in effect. Dugas, who hit .235/.336/.279 (84 wRC+) in 82 minor league games in 2015, got the call instead.
The 25-year-old Dugas was added to the 40-man roster and called up on July 1st, optioned down on July 3rd, designated for assignment July 9th, and outrighted to Double-A Trenton on July 12nd. Sounds crummy, but two days in the bigs is a huge deal for a organizational player like Dugas. He got two days of big league pay (roughly $5,600!) and now has access to a great health care program for himself and his family for life. No, Dugas didn’t get to play, but those two days changed his life for the better.
Prior to yesterday’s midnight deadline the Yankees non-tendered right-hander Domingo German, the team announced. German is now a free agent. Every other pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible player on the 40-man roster received a contract tender.
German, 23, came over from the Marlins last offseason in the Martin Prado–Nathan Eovaldi trade. I ranked him as the team’s 11th best prospect before the season, but German blew out his elbow in Spring Training and underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire season.
The 2014 season was German’s breakout year. He had a 2.48 ERA (3.26 FIP) with a 22.4% strikeout rate and a 5.0% walk rate in 123.1 innings, all with Miami’s Low-A affiliate. German represented the Marlins in the 2014 Futures Game …
German seems like a prime candidate for the “non-tender then re-sign” move the Yankees pulled with Slade Heathcott and Vicente Campos last year. The non-tender allowed them to remove German from the 40-man roster without exposing him to waivers, and now they can re-sign him to a minor league deal.
“I think it’s on the table. We’re in discussions. There have been a lot of teams who called for him but he likes New York and we’re definitely open to coming back,” said agent Storm Kirschenbaum to Brendan Kuty. “Coming off an injury, obviously financials are important. Also, knowing that he has an opportunity to get back on the 40 and get back to the big leagues — that’s every player’s dream.”
It’s risky, another team could swoop in and give German a 40-man spot, but I’m sure the Yankees and German had some dialogue before the non-tender. If he does come back on a minor league contract, German will be eligible for minor league free agency next offseason. The Yankees currently have 39 players on the 40-man roster.
Baseball’s annual hot stove mosh pit known as the Winter Meetings will take place in Nashville next week. Prepare yourselves for four days — really three days since everyone heads home after the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning — of rumors and trades and signings, some of which might even involve the Yankees. Anyway, I have some thoughts.
1. David Price to the Red Sox has felt inevitable for a few weeks now. You don’t hire Dave Dombrowski to run your baseball operations department if you’re not willing to spend money or trade prospects. That contract (seven years and $217M) is the going rate for an ace these days. Roughly $30M a year over six or seven years with a conveniently timed opt-out. The Yankees were pretty clearly never going to get seriously involved in the Price sweepstakes even though he would have been a huge addition. They need a guy just like him, someone they can count on to provide a ton of high-quality innings. The Yankees are steering clear of big money long-term contracts, and it’s easy to understand why when you look at the roster, but this is the cost of doing business these days. This is what a player of this caliber costs. Eventually the Yankees will jump back into the deep end of the free agency pool. I’m just not sure when.
2. Do the Yankees have to do something to respond to the Price signing? Goodness no. That’s how you end up with Kei Igawa after missing out on Daisuke Matsuzaka. That’s no way to build a team. The Yankees just have to stick to their plan and move forward by addressing their needs (pitching, second base), which remain unchanged. Aside from having to directly compete against Price a bunch of times next year, the signing doesn’t change much of anything for New York. The AL East is going to be tough and that was always going to be the case. The Yankees haven’t made any kind of knee jerk reactionary move in a very long time and I have no reason to think that will change now.
3. The Yankees are in the middle of this rebuilding on the fly thing, meaning they’re trying to remain competitive while getting younger at the same time. So far they seem to be doing a pretty decent job. The 2016 season feels like a critical year to me. Lots of young guys got a taste of MLB this past season, but next year they’ll be counted on to handle more of the load, plus it’s the final year with Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran. The Yankees are hoping to use the Teixeira and Beltran money to supplement the roster next offseason, not build a new core because the young guys flopped. Luis Severino and Didi Gregorius are the key pieces but others like Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez are important too. They’re going to get opportunities to help next season. I’m sure of it. The Yankees emphasized youth this past season but that was only step one of the process. Calling guys up and giving them a taste of the show is much different than counting on them to play important roles.
4. Yesterday was the non-tender deadline and, as usual, a bunch of well-known players hit the open market. None of the position players really make sense for the Yankees — I guess Tyler Flowers as the backup catcher, that’s about it — but there is the usual crop of busted pitchers. Greg Holland just had Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch at all in 2016. An Andrew Bailey-like arrangement would make sense, though I bet he goes back to the Royals in that case. Neftali Feliz has been alternatingly bad and hurt since 2011. He’s a minor league contract only guy for me. Henderson Alvarez and Mike Minor are both coming off shoulder surgery and won’t be ready until sometime in the middle of next season. Neither offers immediate rotation help. Steve Cishek interests me the most, but he was a mechanical mess this past season and who knows what else was going on. When right, he’s a huge (6-foot-6 and 215 lbs.) righty with a funky arm slot and no platoon split who misses bats and gets grounders. He’d also remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017. The Yankees talked trade with the Marlins about bullpen help last offseason before signing Andrew Miller, and perhaps Cishek was part of those talks. If so, he may still have some fans in the front office, and the Yankees might bring him in if they believe he’s fixable.
5. I absolutely love that Barry Bonds is reportedly set to join the Marlins as a hitting instructor. That’s a fun story and Bonds sure knows a thing or two about hitting, plus he has some teaching experience after working as a guest Spring Training instructor for the Giants the last few years. Alex Rodriguez is among those who have worked out with Bonds in the offseason — Dexter Fowler has as well — and pretty much everyone praises him for his knowledge and teaching ability. “You know how much I think of Barry. He has a brilliant baseball mind. I think he’ll be good for the team, the hitters. I’ll be really excited to see what (Giancarlo) Stanton will do with Barry there to develop (him),” said A-Rod to Joel Sherman. It’s a no risk move for the Marlins. If Bonds helps their young players take the next step, great! If he flops, well who cares? They’re already the laughing stock of the league. Bonds made hundreds of millions of dollars in his career. He’s doing this because he loves the game, plain and simple. If Bonds can get back into baseball as a coach, so can A-Rod when his playing career is over.