17 Jan 2014
The Yankees settled all of their arbitration cases today, leaving them at a payroll of just over $170 million according to the New York Post. Since benefits count against the luxury tax and are around $10 million, that leaves them with about $9-million is space if they want to make the $189 goal. And while there are some tweaks they could make to reduce payroll (finding someone to take part of Ichiro’s $6.5 million for example) I think we can agree that they will not be able to sign Tanaka and stay under the $189 million threshold.
Now if the Yankees want to stay out of the Tanaka bidding, I am fine with it. I am skeptical at best about his prospects. I’ve heard too much hype followed by mediocre (or worse) results from similar pitchers to proclaim him the savior some people think he is. But if the Yankees do sign Tanaka, they can’t stop there.
The Yankees created a plan to make the $189 payroll goal. They have hemmed and hawed about actually going through with it, but now that they have signed all of their arbitration players, it could be a reality for 2014. If they decide to blow it up, they have to go all in. Tanaka probably gets anywhere from $12 to $18 million a year, so let’s say he puts the payroll at $187 million. Last year the Yankees spent $237 million (that includes benefits) so they could spend $30 million on top of Tanaka and still spend less than in 2013.
What could they spend it on? Well, Stephen Drew would be a nice addition. I know A-Rod won’t be missed by many, but do you remember how badly the Yankees failed trying to replace him in 2013? And does anyone really expect Jeter to bounce back and play like he did in 2012? Having Drew would help cover both of those spots.
And how about adding someone like Balfour to the bullpen? Sure, Robertson could close next year, but it would be nice to have a safety blanket just in case.
There are still a number of good players on the free agent market and the Yankees could jump in with both feet if they wanted to. It’s just a matter of figuring out if they are really going to stay under $189.
Again, I am not saying the Yankees should sign Tanaka. I’m more than happy not to. But, signing him and then standing pat would make zero sense.