Let’s get this offseason started with some good old fashioned speculation. No, I don’t think Alex Rodriguez is leaving New York, and no, I don’t particularly think Curtis Granderson should be traded either, but there is still reason to believe the Yankees will be active in the trade market.
Throughout this offseason, the front office must keep in mind a few guidelines they never faced before. For one, 2014 is the big budget year. $189 million is nothing to blink at, but for the Yankees, it would be their lowest payroll since 2004. The current 2014 payroll obligations sit at $75 million, but there are quite a few players that will see arbitration bonuses, as well as an $8 million Jeter option, which could reach $17 million with incentives. For right now, we should assume they owe $100 million in 2014, and that’s without two outfielders, a second baseman, a catcher, likely a couple starting pitchers, and a closer.
Robinson Cano should see an extension in the $20 million range, and there’s a good chance Russell Martin sees something around $6-7 million a year. Who knows what happens with Mariano Rivera, but do you really want to be in the position where you can’t give him a $15 million contract if he decides to keep playing? It looks like we’ll have around $45 million to put together two outfielders, two starting pitchers, and the rest of the bench and bullpen. This assumes there aren’t any other needs on a team that’ll be sporting starting players in their 40’s. $45 million won’t get us as far as we think if you plan to replace the value of guys like Hiroki Kuroda, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher.
There are a few players available on the free agent market that could provide part of the answers. With the overall age of the team rising, I doubt older and injury prone players like Josh Hamilton make sense, however young pitchers like Anibal Sanchez and Zack Greinke do fit better. Still, these guys will demand long term contracts that don’t bode well for a team that already has Mark Teixeira, Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia until 2016/2017. These three main positions demand younger players with cheap team control, and with hardly any players ready for the majors in the farm system, the Yankees are best fit looking at the trade market.
While they might not necessarily land him, a guy like Justin Upton is the perfect example of what they should target. He’s young, relatively low priced in salary, and he’s available for prospects. The Yankees don’t match up perfectly, but they could certainly gut their farm system for an equivalent high upside outfielder and starting pitcher.
The only real worry here is that without much in the farm system, it sets them up with little depth in the future, however the Yankees will have money to spend again after 2014. Once they’ve reached their budget of $189 million, the luxury tax percentages are reset the following year, and the Yankees can spend the next few years, gobbling up free agents like we’ve grown accustomed to.
But that’s not the only insurance they have in regards to depleting the system, even if the Yankees lose the majority of their prospects, they’ll have a new set right behind them. There’s a good chance that Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda each receive qualifying free agent offers when the season completes, and if all three decide to move on to another team, the Yankees could potentially be be sitting on 4 first round picks in the 2013 draft. That’s the same amount of first round picks they’ve had over the last four drafts combined.
With the likelihood of an army of first round picks on their way, the best way to replenish the major league team with young cheap talent by 2014 may be to gut the farm this offseason. Barring one of the three from retiring, the Yankees will know how many compensation picks they’ll receive within the first two weeks of the offseason. After that, expect Cashman to be one of the most active GM’s on the trade market.