Luxury tax takes Yankees out of Upton sweepstakes? Really?

Torii Hunter was the first free agent to be linked to the Yankees this year, as a possible replacement for Nick Swisher, but now Joel Sherman is shooting that down in today’s New York Post. The reason? The Yankees’ 2014 budget plans. Sherman reports that, as a result of the team’s commitment to getting below the luxury tax threshold to put more money in ownerships’ collective pocket (or “gaining the financial benefits that are available”, as he more delicately puts it), a two year deal for Hunter that would add payroll to the 2014 ledger is a non-starter. That’s interesting, but I would imagine that it’s at least equal parts hot air, as a two year deal for the 37 year old Hunter is plenty problematic on its own terms. Yes, Hunter had a nice season in 2012, but he also saw his home runs and walks decline while his BABIP ballooned to .389, so there’s plenty of reason to worry that it was just a one year anomaly. If nothing else, I’d much rather have Ichiro Suzuki on a one year deal than commit two guaranteed years to Hunter if it were my decision.

The potentially more inflammatory report, however, is the possibility that the Yankees aren’t interested in Justin Upton either:

Though Arizona’s Justin Upton has become available at the GM Meetings, a person involved in discussions said, “The Yankees are not on him.”

The implication here is that the Yankees’ aversion to adding any money to the 2014 balance sheet is such that it extends all the way to acquiring a 25 year old All-Star who is already signed to a contract with a sub-$10 million AAV, but that seems like a stretch to me. For one thing, at some point the Yankees simply have to start spending some of that money if only to round out the roster, and if they’re going to fill those holes with nothing but old guys on one year contracts they might as well just concede that season right now. Secondly, the Yankees have consistently maintained that these payroll plans still allow them the flexibility to keep both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson in pinstripes after this coming year, so unless they’ve just been flat out lying (a possibility you shouldn’t outright discount, by the way), it would seem to reason that swapping out Granderson for Upton would be perfectly doable, and in fact result in extra cap space for Brian Cashman to work with.

Much more likely, I think, is that the Yankees aren’t seriously pursuing Upton simply because their odds of acquiring him are quite low. Sherman lists the Rays, who have considerable pitching depth to draw on, and the Rangers, who could easily justify sending either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to Arizona in exchange for a 25 year old MVP caliber talent, as the favorites to get Upton, and I just can’t see how the Yankees realistically put more on the table than either of those teams in negotiations. This, incidentally, is a good illustration of why the Yankees’ financial resources and ability to compete for any free agent is a huge part of their success, as you just can’t make a good minor league pipeline simply on wishes, and another good example of why the Steinbrenners decision to take that advantage away from their franchise is so absurd from a competitive standpoint.

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.

12 thoughts on “Luxury tax takes Yankees out of Upton sweepstakes? Really?

  1. uyf1950

    Personally I'd rather have Torii Hunter on a 2 year $20MM deal. For the simple reason the Yankees can't afford to re-sign both Cano and Granderson at the end of the 2013 season to long term deals if they are intent on getting under the Luxury Tax Threshold. Granderson will in all likelihood be the one to go. Just my opinion.

  2. a57se

    How about Cano to the D'Backs for Upton and some other talent?? Cano is a terrific talent but his attitude has never seemed quite right to me…….

  3. I still see Cano to Cards for Molina as the Cano option to pursue.

    • Gotta disagree. I love Molina but $15M a year for a C who plays 135 games a year (still impressive) vs a 2b who plays 160 games with 30+ HR… No thanks.

  4. boni

    Trading Cano would be foolish. He's a perennial MVP contender at a premium defensive position. It's not like he's Albert Belle here.

  5. uyf1950

    I wonder what it would take to pry Chase Headley away from the Padres? Getting Headley and moving Granderson to another team and a couple of other pieces via a trade or perhaps a 3 team trade would certainly make the Yankees chances of getting under the Tax Threshold a lot easier.
    Gardner in Center, Headley in Left and either Ichiro or Hunter in Right would make a heck of an outfield for the Yankees. Just thinking out loud.

  6. lawyerdan

    How about Cano and Gardner for David Price and Wade Davis? Who hangs up first?

    • not Montero's dad

      Tampa Bay hangs up immediately. Price is an affordable, young ace. Cano is a player about to be 30 due a large contract.

  7. Dan

    Their foolish if they don't pursue Upton (for the right prospect/young talent price). He makes $8m AAV on this contract, and he's an all star, and is only getting better. I'd rather have him any day compared to Grandy, especially going forward. If it costs too much talent to make the deal, then that's one thing. But don't blame this on $189.

    • Dan

      they're*

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