Project 189: Walking a fine line

The great writers of this fine site have been building their 40-man rosters over the past few days to come up with the best 2014 New York Yankees you can buy for $189 million. Following them, to borrow an old comedian’s line, I feel like a brown shoe at a tuxedo convention. My only edge when it comes to my turn is that I am a pessimist.

First, I believe that Alex Rodriguez will get his suspension knocked down to the Ryan Braun level and the Yankees will have to pay for a hundred games of his season. If that happens, then a lot of what has been written gets thrown out the window. I will also construct my Project 189 with A-Rod gone for the season. But I do not think that will be the case.

So here goes. Remember that we are not telling Brian Cashman what to do. We are simply exercising our minds with this exercise:

25-Man Roster starting with the Opening Day lineup:

  1. CF – Brett Gardner (Arb 3): $4 million
  2. DH – Derek Jeter (with bonuses): $19.8 million
  3. 2b – Robinson Cano (7- $180): $25.71 million
  4. RF – Carlos Beltran (2 – $24): $12 million
  5. 1B – Mark Teixeira (8 – $180): $22.5 million
  6. LF – Alfonso Soriano (8 – $136): $17 million
  7. 3B – Chase Headley (Arb 3): $9.5 million
  8. C – Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1 million
  9. SS – Brendan Ryan (1 – $2) $2 million
  10. IF – Dean Anna (min) $.511 million
  11. OF – Ichiro Suzuki (2 – $13): $6.5 million
  12. OF – Zoilo Almonte (min): $.511 million
  13. C – Austin Romine (min): $.511 million
  14. SP – CC Sabathia (5 – $122): $24.4 million
  15. SP – Masahiro Tanaka (6 – $56): $9.33 million
  16. SP – Hiroki Kuroda (1 – $15): $15 million
  17. SP – Ivan Nova (Arb 1): $2.8): $2.8 million
  18. SP – Vidal Nuno (min) $.511 million
  19. RP – David Robertson (Arb 3): $5.5 million
  20. RP – Joaquin Benoit (2 – $15): $7.5 million
  21. RP – Cesar Cabral (min): $.511 million
  22. RP – Matt Daley (min): $ .511 million
  23. RP – Preston Claiborne (min): $.511 million
  24. RP – David Huff (min): $.511 million
  25. RP – David Phelps (min): $.511 million

Total: $189.14

Rounding out the 40-man Roster

  1. Manny Banuelos
  2. Jose Campos
  3. David Adams
  4. Gary Sanchez
  5. Shane Greene
  6. Brett Marshall
  7. Bryan Mitchell
  8. Michael Pineda
  9. Jose Ramirez
  10. Nik Turley
  11. Ramon Flores
  12. Slade Heathcott
  13. J.R. Murphy

Total: $.800 million

Final Calculations:

Total Roster Owed: $189.14. Salary Relief: $13 million from Soriano.  $12 player benefits.

Current budget owed: $188.94

Probably my biggest surprise was trading for Chase Headley. I put together a package of Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances to get him. That freed up three players from the 40-man roster to get one.

I am sticking with my premise that a combination of Cervelli and Romine can get the job done behind the plate and thus, goodbye Chris Stewart. You’ll also notice the absence of Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez. I like the defensive runs saved with Ryan at short and feel my lineup has enough pop to overcome his lack of offense. My colleagues had Jeter at short, but that is not realistic to me. I think he is the full time DH and will play somewhere around 120 games. So there is no sense buying another DH somewhere. Against tough right-handed pitching, Ichiro can play right, Beltran can DH and Jeter can “rest.”

I assume that the Yankees will sign Cano and stick to their seven years by padding the dollars. He is going to want more per year than Teixeira, so you might as well give it to him. I have also signed Carlos Beltran to a front loaded deal that gives him $14 million this year and $10 next year. As much as he has always wanted to be a Yankee and as much as another switch hitter in the Yankees lineup makes sense, why not?

I have brought in Joaquin Benoit because of his versatility. Unlike Joe Nathan (who will cost too much) and Grant Balfour, Benoit has spent most of his career as a setup guy and this way, the Yankees can give Robertson his shot at closing and still have Benoit to take over if it does not work out.

I have brought back Hiroki Kuroda for another season and if nothing else, he can ease the way for Tanaka in his first year here. The fifth starter seems a bit fungible. Vidal Nuno and David Phelps can fight it out in the spring with the winner getting a rotation spot and the loser a bullpen slot. And David (Hassle) Huff is the fallback guy.

I hate keeping Ichiro for another season, but he is under contract and where I see the Yankees dumping Wells, they will keep Ichiro to back up Gardner in center. I am not sure about Zoilo Almonte, but somebody has to be the 25th guy.

With Headley, Ryan and Jeter, Jayson Nix becomes moot as does Eduardo Nunez and both would be too expensive for what they produce. Why not give Dean Anna the chance to be the utility guy? He can’t be any worse and he would be cheaper. David Adams is still on the 40-man roster and is the fallback guy.

I would love to see Michael Pineda take the fifth slot in the rotation, but I just can’t see it happening. If he had not gone down again last year, I would be more hopeful. I have eliminated Shawn Kelley and brought in the cheaper Daley. Bullpens are the easiest things to fix if things go wrong early. Kelley was mostly solid, but he is replaceable.

If everything goes right and this roster stays healthy, then the Yankees can contend with this roster. But it is a very fine line with very good competition in the AL East and the team could just as easily fall to the middle of the pack again.

Either way, if the Yankees can get this big luxury tax off their back with austerity this year, then next year, they can raid and plunder again. If the arbitrator rules in A-Rod’s favor, then forget about Headley and Kiroda and pretty much any chance at contending for your $189 million.

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.