Projecting the 2014 roster

Lineup:

C- Austin Romine (25)
1B- Mark Teixeira (34)
2B- Robinson Cano (31)
SS-Derek Jeter (40)
3B- Alex Rodriguez (39)
LF- ???
CF- Brett Gardner (30)
RF- ???
DH- Jesus Montero (24)

Rotation:

C.C. Sabathia (33)
Ivan Nova (27)
???
???
???

Bullpen:

David Robertson (29)
???
???
???
???
???
???

Bench

Eduardo Nunez (27)
???
???
???

A couple of quick notes. Obviously I’m being a bit slap-dash with prospects, but I’m including Montero and Romine because they’re high level position players with good enough tools that they’re solid projections to fill those slots, whereas there are no pitching prospects included because no one has enough MLB experience to make them that projectable, and young pitchers are more volatile than young position players, especially ones like Romine with strong defensive skills at a premium defensive position.

But what really sticks out about this roster is that, for as many question marks as there are up there, as Joe says, the players listed alone will likely account for somewhere in the $135-140 million range in terms of total payroll. That means the Yankees will likely need to find two starters in the outfield, three starting pitchers, and almost an entire bullpen and bench for roughly $50 million. That is not a lot of wiggle room and it pretty much precludes any big name acquisitions, unless the AAV of a hypothetical Yu Darvish signing was made shockingly low. Want Cole Hamels if he hits the market next year? Well, forget about it, because it’s extremely unlikely that adding the sort of salary he’d command could fit into this framework. Heck, I don’t see how the Yankees can afford to keep Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher in town once their current contracts end, even on reasonable deals.

Now, this isn’t to say that you should give up hopes of putting a good team on the field over the next few years. There’s a lot of pitching talent in the system at the moment, which gives the Yankees a realistic hope of filling some of those empty slots with quality players making a minimum salary. Corner outfielders tend to be pretty available on the market, and the Yankees have been pretty successful lately at assembling a quality bench and bullpen without spending a lot of money in the process. So the situation isn’t hopeless by any means, but it is precarious. The biggest concern for this team, obviously, are those numbers next to the names of Jeter and A-Rod. Can those two produce at the level this team will need them to in three years? Can A-Rod stay healthy and continue to hit 30 home runs a season? How will Mark Teixeira age as he hits his mid-30′s? Can C.C. Sabathia stay healthy and at the top of his craft for that long? One or two problems from any of these aging but well compensated components of this hypothetical roster could spell disaster with payroll artificially capped at $189 million.

Ultimately, the question is going to be how serious ownership is about this course of action. The Steinbrenners have always been known for caring about winning first, for wanting to put the best team possible on the field even if it means increasing payroll and paying baseball’s luxury tax. To a large degree, the reason for that is that this has been seen as a wise business strategy in the spend-money-to-make-money sense, but Major League Baseball is now undercutting that rationale by offering ownership well into the eight figure realm in revenue sharing refunds in exchange for cutting spending. When you add up the revenue sharing refunds with the savings on the luxury tax and the decrease in payroll, ownership will stand to make in excess of $50 million annually in exchange for staying under the $189 million threshold. It’s pretty hard to imagine a decrease in fan interest that would cost the team enough revenue to offset those potential “earnings.”

In other words, get ready for some lean winters, and start praying to the deity of your choice that the front office crew has a dramatic turnaround in their track record of developing starting pitchers.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

29 thoughts on “Projecting the 2014 roster

  1. Marcus

    Do you think they would really let Granderson go? That seems crazy. I know everyone expects him to go down to earth a it this year, but his production would still be at all star levels for the next several years (I would think-barring an injury)

    • It’s probably Granderson or Cano. The math of keeping them both is daunting.

      • Ben

        It seems the $189 million dollar reported by you is more of a cap than an added tax. I doubt the Yanks will allow themselves to be hampered that badly to not get Cano and Granderson on the team for the years to come.

        • BrienJackson

          The $189 million number is the threshold for the luxury tax. The reason it's relevant is because teams that stay under that number get a revenue sharing refund from the proceeds garnered by disqualifying the top 15 markets from receiving funds, but any team that's over the threshold won't be eligible to receive a refund. Additionally, by getting below the number they won't be hit with the repeat offender penalty on the luxury tax, which will reduce their rate from 50% to 17%.

          All told, the team stands to earn $50 million+ in additional profits by getting below the luxury tax threshold prior to 2014.

      • Allen

        Not signing a free agent and letting one of your own stars walk away are two completely different things. I can't see the Yanks letting either one walk unless their production falls off.

        • BrienJackson

          Not even for $40 million?

        • MikeD

          If the Yankees plan is to start coming in under the luxury tax threshold by 2014, then they are going to have to add a new element to how they construct their teams, specifically trading established stars for younger (read cheaper) players with upside. That might mean the Yankees will need to move a player like Granderson or Cano in a deal if they're sure they won't be able to sign one of them. This is a strategy other teams use, but one the Yankees haven't had to because of their resources. Times may be changing.

  2. Gabriel

    Not related but this has been bugging me for months: are you guys aware that this blog is not google reader friendly? Every post requires you to follow a link after a paragraph. Not ideal when reading previously downloaded articles on the subway. Even with reception. It takes ages for the page to load on my phone. It kills me. Rab and TIA have no such problems.

    • gabriel

      RAB and TYA.

  3. Ralph Eherts

    I have been a Yankee fan since 1951: I beleive that mangement can move funds to other non taxable areas such as scouting and player development and still win within a $189 million MLB payroll.

    • BrienJackson

      Well like I said, the problem isn't the number so much, it's living within that number during the balance of the long term obligations currently on the books.

  4. jay_robertson

    Those numbers are why I asked if the Yankees knew it was coming, when the new CBA came out. And also, why I referred to the cap as draconian – the Yankees were the only team with that many high dollar players already signed thru and beyond 2014. It still would have been a lot fairer had there been a provision for discounting contracts already on the books.

    Then again, once you get away from Yankee fans, I don't think anyone else out there feels our pain. I'm very surprised the players went for this – Scotty Boras is going to have to tighten his belt quite a bit in just a few years. As are a lot of aging free agents.

  5. Adam Dunagan

    I cant imagine the yanks standing pat next off-season.

    Coming off the books :
    Mo – 15M
    Swish 10.25 Million
    Feliciano 4 million
    Garcia 5 million

    Plus I imagine that they trade one if not both of AJ and Soriano after the off-season clearing another ~ 15-30 Mill off the books. I'm not sure if I believe 100% that they are dead pan on being under 189 by '14 Especially with 3 guys and by that time maybe 4 or 5 guys making over 20 Mill per. I'll believe it when i see the team open some day in April 2014 with a 188.9M payroll, hows that?

    • But you have to build up to Cano’s new contract.

      • Adam Dunagan

        Not sure why that posted twice.. sorry

  6. Allen

    There might be a team out there willing to take Teixeria off their hands if they make it happen before he gets too old. Not very Yankee-like to trade away a star to save some dough, but, well, none of this is very Yankee-like.

  7. Allen

    And regarding Swisher's replacement, they have to sign Cepedes, with most of his money coming as signing bonus.

    • Rich7041

      Tex has a full no-trade clause. He’s not going anywhere.

    • John Q. Citizen

      Any signing bonus still counts against the tax. It is all (or at least mostly) based on the AAV of the deal. A big signing bonus does not avoid the tax.

  8. sammy

    Bs. We r talkn bout da yannkes here if u think they will not spend. Is nuts, so stop dreaming k

  9. Geoff

    I'm with ya Brien, not sure everyone gets it…the Yanks have spent money over the years to MAKE MONEY and in NY that has generally been pretty directly tied to winning…this new arrangement allows alternative ways to MAKE MONEY that may be more easily exploitable…we are gonna get a good team for 189, but as is evidenced by the luck of the draw we've seen in recent years in the playoffs, adding an additional 20-30-40 million payroll to blow everyone else away no longer brings the same reward…or perhaps even less a reward!

  10. BrienJackson

    But none of those guys is under contract for 2014, so they have nothing to do with the math here. I know it's hard to believe, but just between Tex, A-Rod, Jeter, C.C., Nova, Robertson, Gardner, Nunez, and Cano the Yankees' 2014 luxury tax number is already around $135 million. There just isn't enough room between that and the luxury tax number to make any major acquisitions.

  11. rl1856

    How feasible would it be to sign players to 2 concurrent contracts. 1 to play for the team and other for say personal services rendered to a company affiliated with the team but owned by a separate entity.

    100mm total value split as 50mm payed by the team, 50mm payed by YES or some other entity. Only 50mm would count as baseball salary, other 50mm could be structured as an endorsement or compensation for non field activity. Or a portion of the con tract is structured as a forgivable loan issued by the "Yankee Bank".

    I am sure there are creative minds working on this as we speak.

    • Bill

      I am certain that is not allowable in the MLB world or the Yankees would already be doing it to save luxury tax money. You are definitely right to say it has been looked at and investigated, but more than likely many years ago. They would not be this far behind, paying years of luxury tax penalties, in working that out.

  12. Adubs08

    No Phil Hughes in that rotation? Is he just going to fall off the face of the earth?

    • Bill

      Great point.

    • Bill

      And Hector Noesi? Bullpen or rotation? He spent major parts of the last two seasons on the team, in the majors. He logically and legitimately factors in somewhere.

      • BrienJackson

        I didn't factor in the pitching prospects yet, because none of them are really projectable to 2014 at the moment.

    • BrienJackson

      Hughes and Joba are eligible for free agency after 2013 and are far from locks to be kept around past that point at the moment.

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