New York Yankees: Genius Behind the $189 Million Madness?
The New York Yankees are setting themselves up for getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season. This has been the subject of much debate among Yankees fans and with talking heads around baseball who seemingly can’t believe the Yankees would actually stick to a budget.
Whether they like it or not, the Yankees will be going through with their financial plan for a couple of reasons. First, it prevents the Yankees from having to pay a tax that would essentially double their payroll which would mean they would be paying close to $400 million for a $200 million payroll. That is not smart business and whether fans or baseball experts want to admit it, baseball is still very much a business.
Second, by getting under the $189 million threshold it basically hits the reset button on future Yankee spending. The Yankees would see their luxury tax penalties reduced as they would not be repeat offenders for violating the luxury tax rules.
While the $189 million threshold might not be savory right now for Yankees fans there is something else to consider, and that is the free agents that will be hitting the market following the 2014 season which is poised to be among the best in recent memory.
The following pages in this article will reveal some of the juicy names that might have Yankees fans salivating and anxiously hoping the Mayan calendar doomsday projections are wrong. A lot can happen between now and then with certain players signing extensions, getting traded, or retiring due to injury or age but here is an early look at what might just be behind GM Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner’s madness.
With Derek Jeter going to be 42 in 2015, it is likely that Jeter will be retiring, or at the very least will not be able to play the shortstop position at that point. Enter Elvis Andrus who would make a very nice replacement for Jeter, at least with the glove and providing some offense. Andrus will turn 27 during the 2015 season and will offer years of competent play at shortstop.
Alex Rodriguez will almost certainly be done with his days in the field, at least at third. Given the fact that he will be 41 that year and getting ever closer to the end of his ridiculous contract, the Yankees will seek a replacement for him if they haven’t already gotten one. Enter Evan Longoria who will be 29 in 2015 and won’t turn 30 until October of that year. The Yankees could raid their division rivals and boost their offense at the same time. However, the Tampa Bay Rays do have an option on Longoria I believe so he might not be available.
Hanley Ramirez has seen his star take a huge fall from being among the best hitters in baseball to a sub-.250 hitter the past couple of seasons. He did start to turn things around and hit .271 after heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He will turn 29 in December of this year and will be 32 by the time the 2015 season rolls around. The Dodgers may or may not want to pay him an exorbitant amount of money depending on how their recent spending spree turns out and will also be faced with the pending free agency of ace Clayton Kershaw. He could be available and the Yankees might have a hole at third base and shortstop.
If Longoria or Ramirez doesn’t hit the market there is another option in Chase Headley. Headley led the National League in RBI this past season with a ridiculous second-half. Headley will be 31 in 2015 and he will almost certainly be allowed to hit the free agent market due to the financial restrictions that handcuff the San Diego Padres. Headley might not be as attractive as Longoria, or even Pablo Sandoval, but he wouldn’t be a terrible consolation prize.
The Yankees have coveted Felix Hernandez since he was seemingly in diapers. The answer has always been “no” when the Yankees have asked about King Felix in trade talks. Will the years of losing take a toll on Felix or will he be the spearhead of a Seattle Mariners resurgence? Hernandez will turn 29 during the 2015 season but will have plenty of miles on his arm. If he avoids major injury he could be lining up for one of the biggest deals ever given to a pitcher, possibly dwarfing the one given to potential teammate C.C. Sabathia.
Justin Verlander might be the best pitcher on the planet and it is unlikely that he goes to free agency. Then again, you never know. Perhaps Verlander wants to hit the open market to see what he can get. This could be the only time in his career that he is able to cash in on his golden right arm. He will, after all, turn 32 just before the 2015 kicks off and will have a ton of miles on his arm. Maybe the Detroit Tigers want to spend their money elsewhere. Anything can happen and if Verlander hits the open market you can expect some stalking taking place on the part of Brian Cashman.
James Shields will be overshadowed by the bigger names but if those names don’t hit the open market he could be the ace of everyone’s eye. Shields has two things going for him that would entice the Yankees. He is a veteran of the playoffs and has pitched his entire career in the AL East. Right now he is the subject of several trade rumors and a contract extension could follow if he goes to the right team. If he stays he will probably command more money than the Rays can give. With several spots possibly open in the Yankees rotation, the Yankees might try for Hernandez or Verlander and Shields just as they did with Sabathia and A.J. Burnett just before the 2009.
Clayton Kershaw isn’t likely to hit the open market thanks to the new Los Angeles Dodgers ownership and their commitment to spending money. However, things change and money sometimes gets spent even when owners think they have the cash (see Loria, Jeffrey). If these Dodger moves backfire the risk might be losing Kershaw in free agency. Kershaw will only be 27 in 2015 and would command a ridiculous amount of money, especially if he keeps pitching the way he has. He does have some injury concerns but a couple of healthy seasons could make everyone forget.
Roy Halladay will be 37 but if he still has the ability to pitch perhaps a team like the Yankees sees him as a veteran presence. Maybe the younger aces they covet in Verlander, Hernandez, and Kershaw don’t hit the open market. Maybe Halladay is the free agent with the best pedigree. He is a proven winner with playoff and has AL East experience and might not need more than two or three years. You never know what might happen and if Halladay continues pitching at high levels he will certainly see some interest. His preference might be to stay with the Philadelphia Phillies but the question might be, would the Phillies want him back or would they focus on rebuilding by that point?
Jon Lester has struggled the last two years with the Boston Red Sox who are entering a quasi-rebuilding mode. Lester is a lefty with huge upside, even at his current age of 28. Something as simple as a change of scenery might be in order. Or, maybe nothing needs to change and Lester will rediscover himself on his own. If something changes and the Red Sox do allow Lester to go to free agency he could be seen as a lefty option for the rotation who could either command a $100 million deal or a lot less.