On opening day 2012, the Yankees possessed the highest payroll in baseball – just short of $198 million, more than $23 million more than the 2nd highest. I’ll leave my gripe about this for another day, because until MLB does something to stop the Yankees’ overspending, you can’t blame them for using the assets they have. They’re in the largest TV market in America, and they have their own network. Why not spend whatever it takes to win a championship?? Obviously, though, that has led them to just one ring in the last decade. And, there are some enormous contracts still on their roster. But, it’s not as inflated as you might think.
Who’s Under Contract?
- The Yankees only have seven players with guaranteed contracts for 2013 – A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, Teixeira, Cano, Granderson and Aardsma (huh?). The total cost for those 7 is $131 million (a.k.a. – more than 25 teams’ opening day payrolls in 2012 – okay, that’s the last I’ll say about it, I promise). Let’s say that the Yankees actually do want to decrease their budget, as Cashman has implied of late. Let’s say they cut it back to $180 million. That leaves $49 million to be split between the remaining 18 players – not an easy task, if you want to win it all.
- Pre-arbitration players include Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, both of whom expect to be in the starting rotation in 2013 (though, Nova’s performance had better improve if he hopes to stay there). Clay Rapada had a great year in the Yankees’ pen. Eduardo Nunez was excellent off the bench, and in a utility role. And, Chris Stewart is an acceptable back-up catcher. Each of these will probably make around $600K each, for a total of $3 million.
- Ichiro or Swisher? You don’t need both in RF. You’ve got enough aging players on the roster to fill the DH spot. And, the more I think about it, the more I say . . . neither. On the surface, Swisher sounds nice – switch-hitting right fielder or DH that will hit 20-25 HR, and drive in 90-95. But, that .169 career postseason batting average is hard to forget. And, it really showed this year. Ichiro was a nice story for the Yankees this year, but let’s be real – he’s 39, and his hit total and stolen base total are in decline. Why spend the money on that?
- Rafael Soriano sort of made this decision for the Yankees. He exercised his opt-out clause in his contract, and looks to be headed somewhere he can be their closer (since Mariano Rivera looks like he’s coming back).
- Russell Martin looked like he was going to be a Yankee for several years. Then, he hit .211 in 2012. He may have hit 21 home runs, but he tied the worst RBI total of his career for a full season (53). There are better options out there.
- The failed experiment that was Freddy Garcia, and his 5.20 ERA, can now be put in the past.
- Andruw Jones and his .197 batting average were certainly not worth $2 million.
- I would also hesitate to offer Phil Hughes arbitration. His ERA has been around 4.50 the last three years, and while he has picked up several wins, that has been more about being the happy benefactor of pitching for a Yankees team with a strong offense.
- Cory Wade and his 6.46 ERA also aren’t real exciting for me to consider for arbitration.
- Rivera is a free agent (technically), but he’s planning to come back to the Yankees. I don’t know why the Yankees would offer more than the $15 million they’ve been paying him since 2008.
- Hiroki Kuroda should get $12-14 million in 2013, and is totally worth it, considering how well he pitched for the Yankees in 2012.
- Brett Gardner is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility. He should make around $4 million in 2013.
- Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain are both entering their 3rd year of arbitration, and should each make around $2.75-3 million.
- David Robertson was stellar in the bullpen, and will probably make somewhere in the $3.5 million range in arbitration.
- I think Raul Ibanez (assuming he isn’t done) makes a lot of sense in Yankee Stadium coming off the bench. He’ll only cost around $1 million, and is a nice veteran presence.
- Eric Chavez should be the choice at third base. Let A-Rod be the highest paid DH in history – I don’t care. Chavez is a gold-glove winner at third, and is a nice left-handed bat with that short porch in right field. He had his best year in several seasons, and he’s 2-3 years younger than Rodriguez. He’s the best available free agent at 3B. This is an easy choice, to me. Offer him 2 years at $1.5-2 million per year.
Who Do They Go After?
Right now, based on my recommendations, the Yankees would need to fill RF, C, a 5th starter, one or two more relievers, and a couple bench spots.
- RF – here’s the thing: the Yankees are old. Next season, they look to have only 7 players under the age of 30 on their roster, and most of those are pitchers (Robertson, Joba, Logan, Nova & Pineda). They need at least some attempt at youth. Their best prospects in the farm system are still 2-3 years from making it into the majors. This was a major factor in my choice of B.J. Upton. Yes, I know that gives the Yankees 3 guys whose primary OF position should be CF, but shouldn’t that mean their defensive range would be fantastic? And before you point out his .242 batting average the last 3 seasons, consider this – in the last three years, he’s hit .282 with an .843 OPS in Yankee Stadium, with 5 HR, 17 RBI in 103 AB’s. Give Upton 4 years at $9-11 mil per year, and you should be in good shape.
- C – Mike Napoli. Yes, Pierzynski had the better year, but he’s 5 years older, and I don’t trust his numbers. Napoli is the best option on the free agent market. The Yankees have good catching prospects, but they’re a couple years away from being ready. Give Napoli 3 years, $7-8 million per year.
- SP – Brandon McCarthy. He’ll be one of the cheaper (and younger) good options. For 2013 you could possibly get him for $6-8 million, if you give him 4 years, $38-40 million. This gives the Yankees a reliable starter for less than Sanchez, Greinke or others might cost.
- RP – Koji Uehara. I’m not sure how this guy has stayed so under the radar the last few years, but look at his stats: 2.36 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 10.76 K/BB ratio over the last 3 seasons, pitching most of that time in Arlington! 1 year for $4 million would be a great signing by the Yankees.
- Bench – Jeff Keppinger and Reed Johnson are two guys the Yankees should consider because of their versatility, and cheapness.
In the end, I was not able to save the Yankees any money. By my calculations, this still adds up to a payroll around $195-200 million (tough to overcome the contracts of A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia, etc. etc. on one team). But, I also think this gives them a little more youth, and a better chance to win it all.