Can the Yankees compete on austerity budget?

First, let’s build a lineup using only Cano plus players the Yankees have under control in 2014 who already have accumulated some regular big league playing time:

Lineup:

C-Francisco Cervelli
1B-Mark Teixeira
2B-Robinson Cano
SS- Derek Jeter
3B-Eduardo Nunez
LF-Chris Dickerson
CF-Brett Gardner
RF-???
DH-Alex Rodriguez

Rotation:

C.C. Sabathia
Michael Pineda
Ivan Nova
???
???

Bullpen

David Robertson
Cory Wade
Cesar Cabral

It wouldn’t invoke too many memories of 1998, but the basic framework of the team is there, and there’s a good core of players you might expect to produce and some solid role players around them. The three starters already accounted for make up a perfectly respectable top of a rotation, with the real possibility of getting ace caliber performance from two pitchers, and there’s an obvious ace reliever on this roster too. Now, let’s add in some prospects currently in the organization who we can reasonably expect to be ready for the big leagues in 2014:

Lineup:

C-Austin Romine
1B-Teixeira
2B-Cano
SS-Jeter
3B-Nunez
LF-Dickerson
CF-Gardner
RF-Zoilo Almonte
DH-Rodriguez

Bench

Cervelli
Corban Jospeh
Brandon Laird
Justin Maxwell

Rotation

Sabathia
Pineda
Nova
Manny Banuelos
David Phelps/Adam Warren

Bullpen

Robertson
Dellin Betances
Mark Montgomery
Wade
Cabral
Graham Stoneburner
???

Again, probably not the most fearsome collection of talent to wear pinstripes in recent memory, but that looks like a pretty solid roster, to me, and there’s only one spot unaccounted for (and I considered putting Nik Turley in that spot, but he’s a little too low in the organization at the moment and he’s Rule 5 eligible after this season, so I thought that would be breaking the spirit of my limitations). The only player I’ve used who’s likely to start this season at a level lower than Double-A is Montgomery who, as a relief pitcher with tremendous strikeout ability, is a solid bet to move up the ranks quickly if he continues to fan minor league hitters. And I’m even being a little bit pessimistic in assuming Betances fails as a starting pitcher and is relegated to relief work, so you could easily move him into that role if you want to be a little bit more optimistic.

The thing that probably stands out the most to me about this hypothetical roster is how strong the pitching staff is. The rotation features two guys at the top who are good bets to be studs in that season*, Nova has already established he’s capable of pitching well for a mid-rotation guy, Banuelos is a consensus top 50 prospect who could be in his second year, and Phelps and Warren have both had success in the high minors that makes it easy to imagine them being good fourth starters. The bullpen features Robetson and Betances, both of whom can easily be projected as dominant backend performers. The lineup looks a little bit thin, but I’ve also avoided being aggressive in projecting the players in the low minors, so it’s not out of the question that someone who starts the season at High-A Tampa or Low-A Charleston this year could rise through the ranks quickly enough to get them a shot at the big leagues while the Yankees will be prioritizing cheap production to round out their roster. And if A-Rod is still capable of playing third base everyday, that opens up a number of possibilities in terms of getting more offense with an open DH spot.

Now, am I looking at this roster and finding it impossible to imagine more than one of Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto putting together a better roster in 2014? Of course not. But putting aside what’s outside of the Yankees’ control (namely, what those teams do with their rosters between now and then), and just looking at this team, I see a group that I can easily imagine winning 90+ games if things go right with the young pitching in the upper reaches of the system.

*Not to beat a dead horse, but this also illustrates why trading Jesus Montero for Pineda made so much sense for the Yankees. Putting Pineda behind Sabathia at the top of this rotation is quite a bit easier than finding a place for Montero to make nearly as much of an impact if neither he nor A-Rod are really capable of playing the field in 2014, and it definitely yields the Yankees a much larger marginal increase in production.

14 thoughts on “Can the Yankees compete on austerity budget?

  1. williamjtasker

    Excellent post. The only thing that struck me is Jeter still at shortstop. For some reason, I think he'll be done by then.

  2. BrienJackson

    Well he's under team control, so he fits my criteria, and if he doesn't exercise his option he won't count against the tax threshold, which would free up more money to play with.

    • brian

      He's playing in 2014, everyone knows that…

      You still haven't explained why if this is really such an issue and it's all about AAV… why Hal and Jeter can't sit down man to man, after the 2013 season… and just agree that instead of Jeter picking up his player option, they rip it up and do a new 2 yr. 10 million contract or whatever….

      Is there a provision that says going into that season if a player option is negated and a new deal signed the old one still counts against the 189?

      • I don’t think anyone said they couldn’t do that.

      • michael

        Everyone knows Jeter is playing in 2014. Does he know this? Aside from the obvious—the likely decline to below average production by this time and (further) inability to field the position—Jeter is a man about his pride. Sure, he doesn't know about falling isolated power declining LD%, and walk rates.

        I don't know what was going through Jeter's mind during last offeseason's contract negotiation, but if he personally insisted for more money than was offered, it probably wasn't about greed. It was probably about perception, status, and respect all boiling down to pride about his legacy.

        So if he's struggling to get on base 3/10 plate appearances, get any XBHs, or look like anything but a statue at SS, he'll know he's below his own level. The additional year of playing far below elite level won't be worth the money in the player option to him. If the decline continues to set in, he'll know it's time.

        • "I don't know what was going through Jeter's mind during last offeseason's contract negotiation, but if he personally insisted for more money than was offered, it probably wasn't about greed."

          Sure.

          • michael

            Were you around early 2000's when Jeter was signed for one of the largest MLB contracts, shortly to have Rodriguez sign for *the* largest MLB contract, playing the same position? It was quite a big deal, to some.

            Is life any different to have just 189 million contract instead of 250 million contract? Maybe the previous negotiations were in part about greed, or even mostly about greed. Does Derek Jeter really stand to benefit for the extra sliver of earnings to look bad for a whole season when he knows he's really done? If he's struggling for fringe average or at replacement level for the next two years, I doubt this.

          • brian

            this might not be a motivation for jeter himself…

            but for me personally, as a yankees fan, i have hopes of him continuing to climb up the all time hits and runs scored list

            3,500 hits… 2,000 runs scored…. maybe even a run at 4.000 someday (something no right handed hitter has ever come seriously close to)

            i honestly dont know how much this means to jeter OR to the franchise, but it sure means a lot to me

  3. Greg

    Only way this works is if some of the minor league guys show up. So replace Nunez with Bichette, and replace Dickerson with Williams. Add Flores to Almonte. Re-sign Hughes to a reasonable deal now. Do the same with Joba.

  4. brian

    We can see this coming a mile away…

    its not going to be the actual payroll in 2014 thats going to be annoying, its going to be spending the next two years TALKING ABOUT IT… instead of just enjoying the freaking baseball

    on that note, im not adding fuel to the fire, adios

  5. GabeLezra

    This is a really well thought out post. If I'm not mistaken, the Yankees might–if Jeet retires–have a shot at one of either Hanley Ramirez or Evlis Andrus to fill that SS void around this time. But I have nothing to back that up, as I'm stuck on a junky computer.

    All in all, I wouldn't quake if these guys trotted on to the field. Which makes me feel slightly happier than I was a bit ago, when I was sorta figuring I'd have to do a lot of eye-averting for a couple years.

  6. michael

    With the roster full Zoilos and Stoneburners, what is the total payroll?

    • BrienJackson

      It's hard to put a firm number on that, given that you can't really project what the salaries for the arbitration eligible players are going to be (especially Pineda and Gardner), but to put it in some perspective, I think there should be room left here one more sizable contract.

  7. icusperpu

    hell yeah!!! )

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