From a more practical standpoint, the big question is whether the Yankees can meet these payroll targets. The Yankees already have a little over $80 million spent just on their commitments to A-Rod, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter in 2014, the year they’re targeting for the spending reduction. If Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson get new contracts before that season, the number will be closer to $120 million, leaving somewhere between $60-70 million to fill out the roster (and if the method of calculating payroll for luxury tax purposes hasn’t changed, it will be even less than that, since that number is based on a contract’s AAV, meaning the hit for Jeter and A-Rod will be larger). Brett Gardner and David Robertson will be in their final year of arbitration, while Ivan Nova will be in his first. That probably adds another $15 million or so (or more, depending on what the reliever market does between now and then), leaving us with about $50 million, give or take, for a starting right-fielder, catcher, and three starting pitchers.
So, actually, this is perfectly doable, especially if the farm system can crank out a couple of starting pitchers and a starting catcher between now and then. The real intrigue will come if a truly tantalizing free agent comes along that forces the Yankees to choose between fiscal discipline and acquiring a free agent they really like (Cole Hamels being the obvious possibility, if he hits the market). With so much money potentially riding on getting below the $189 million threshold, we may potentially see just how much more committed to dollars and sense the new ownership group is than Yankee fans have been accustomed to during the Steinbrenner ownership.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out yet again that the MLBPA did a bang up job helping the owners out in the last round of CBA negotiations. I mean, there’s no way this much financial incentive for big market teams to control their payroll will limit the salaries top free agents are paid and thus suppress the market for other players moving forward, right? Well at least there will be five or six more Super Twos every year. Heckuva job MLBPA.