$189M plan not dead, but on life support

It’s been a few weeks since I have reviewed where the Yankees stand with the self-imposed $189M goal, so now appears to be an appropriate time to review. The budget page¬†at the top of the site has been updated to reflect the latest additions to the club, in a more visually-pleasing format. I’ve condensed the spreadsheet to minimize scrolling. There are two computations; first, the one without arbitration or renewals included:

Obligations

Arbitration and renewals will be considered later on in this post, but let’s take a look at the calculation as it stands above.

Just as a guess, I removed Vernon Wells, Ramon Flores, and David Huff from the 40-man roster to make room for Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts, and Matt Thornton. This might not be the outcome, but eschewing the trio makes a very small dent anyway. Back to the budget – at first glance, it looks dead. Without arbitration figures or renewable salaries determined, the team is already over the $189M competitive balance tax threshold.

Now, let’s layer in Matt Swartz’ arbitration estimates, and league minimum salaries for the renewable players highlighted in light blue:

Obligations and Estimates

Balancing the budget looks even less likely with every salary slot completed. Yet, until final word of Alex Rodriguez‘ arbitration hearing, we can’t be 100% certain that the plan is dead. If we subtract the $27.5M allocated to Rodriguez (assuming at least a 162 game suspension), the Yankees have about $26M to play with before arbitration and renewable contracts, and $8M remaining after those assumptions. So is staying below the threshold still attainable? Yes. Is it realistic? Not unless the front office is willing to sacrifice production in the rotation, bullpen, and infield.

The Yankees still have a lot of holes to plug, and $8M is not nearly enough to patch up the the three weaknesses mentioned in the previous paragraph. They can get small-time or high-risk players to meet that limit, but it isn’t an optimal strategy. Moreover, if they want Masahiro Tanaka should he be posted, there’s no way he’s going to get less than $8M AAV.

What if the Yankees want to make a trade at the deadline? As the roster currently stands, there simply is no room for such a move. Yet, if the team is in contention, the club cannot justify not improving the roster simply because they can’t afford to. This isn’t some small market club. It’s one thing if there is no sensible move on the market, but should an opportunity present itself, the Yankees would have to capitalize and surpass the threshold (assuming they are still below it).

Furthermore, this computation isn’t even factoring in any incentives met in 2014 for Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda, and Derek Jeter. Most of these triggers are unlikely, but not entirely out of the question. It wouldn’t really a bad thing for some of these bonuses to be met anyway, especially the postseason ones.

All in all, the budget goal appears to be history. Maybe it’s still gasping for a few final breaths, still squirming for life. And sure, it’s still possible that it could be sustained if A-Rod is suspended for the entire season. However, that would mean the front office willfully neglected pressing needs. Hopefully, that doesn’t turn out to be the case.

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