Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
James Paxton is a terrific addition to the Yankees rotation and whatever relief pieces GM Brian Cashman lures to the Bronx likely will be key bullpen figures in 2019, too. Cashman also wants another starting pitcher.
Whoever those hurlers are, though, they won't make the kind of splash that signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would. Heck, or both. This is the Yankees we're talking about, after all.
Nor will the new pitchers impact the Yankee payroll in quite the same way as the 26-year-old mega-stars, who are projected by some this winter to stomp Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million contract.
The website MLBtraderumors.com, which tracks club moves and machinations, predicts Harper will get a 14-year, $420 million contract from the Dodgers and pegs Machado signing with the Phillies for 13 years and $390 million.
Could the Yankees go to those kinds of levels? Sure. Will they? Stay tuned.
After years of talk, the Yankees got under baseball's luxury tax threshold last year, re-setting their penalties for going over it in the future. Ideally, they'd prefer to stay under it again. But they've also been clear that Hal Steinbrenner would consider going over the $206 million barrier, which would start the lowest-level penalties, if the baseball operations folks believe a certain move puts the Yankees over the top.
But the Yanks are operating now in a universe where the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series four times over the last 14 years; the Yanks have won once in that span and the 2019 season is the 10th anniversary of that title team -- a team that benefited greatly from an enormous free-agent bonanza, by the way.
With the work they've done so far -- trading for Paxton and re-signing Brett Gardner ($7.5 million) and CC Sabathia ($8 million) -- the Yankees have roughly $164 million committed to payroll, according to baseball-reference.com, a figure that includes arbitration estimates by MLBtraderumors. Sonny Gray, who figures to earn about $9 million in arbitration, would be shaved off the payroll in a likely trade.
They have six veterans on guaranteed contracts: Gardner, Sabathia, Stanton ($26 million), Masahiro Tanaka ($22 million), Jacoby Ellsbury ($21.14 million) and Aroldis Chapman ($17.2 million). Everyone else is eligible for arbitration or pre-arbitration, including burgeoning stars such as Aaron Judge.
It's important to remember this, too: Business is good for the Yankees. They drew at least three million fans (3,482,865) for the 20th consecutive season, adding to their MLB record. They led the American League in total and average (42,998) attendance, and were second in both categories in the majors to the Dodgers. They also set a new Yankee Stadium record with 23 sellouts.
When the Yankees surprised by turning their 2017 rebuild into a run to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series, fans fell in love all over again with a young team bursting with talent. But losing to the Red Sox in the division series in 2018 cast a pall over a 100-win season.
Maybe a new stud will help their fans forget. The Yankees have thrived with stars throughout their history. After George Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973, he adored the pinstriped buzz that came with adding boldface names over the winter.
Of course, the Yankees already have stars in Stanton and Judge. In fact, both may impact the why or why not of signing Harper or Machado.
Stanton isn't a free agent until 2028, so they already have one bombshell contract on their books. Do they want another as the specter of eventually having to pay Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino looms? That trio will be eligible for free agency in 2023. Could be an expensive winter.
Still, Harper or Machado would fill a need right now, at a time when the winning window is wide open and the Red Sox are mighty.
The Yanks are too right-handed, so the lefty Harper would fit nicely in the lineup. Maybe at first base?
With Didi Gregorius out until, at best, mid-season, Machado would slide into shortstop. He could even be Gregorius' eventual replacement there, or ultimately move to third base in place of Miguel Andujar, who has to improve his defense.
Adding one of the superstars, two relievers and another starter likely would put the Yankees back into the luxury tax penalty levels. The maximum penalties come into play if they were to spend $246 million.
So far this winter, the Yankees have shown an unwillingness to offer pacts they don't want to give -- witness them refusing to give Patrick Corbin, the top free agent starter, a sixth year. The Nationals did, so Corbin signed with Washington.
Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports also reported that the Yanks wouldn't hit the $300 million mark in any potential Machado deal. Maybe that means they'd try to lessen the years on the deal in return for a higher average annual value. Multiple opt-outs might help limit the commitment to either player, too.
Whatever happens, the Yankees can afford it. While Hal Steinbrenner has maintained that monster payrolls aren't necessary to win it all, he's probably well aware the Red Sox had baseball's highest payroll last season.
To catch and pass them on the field, maybe the Yanks have to go ahead in the payroll ledger first. They've got a few years to worry about how to keep Judge and the rest of the young stars.