Catcher Brian McCann is set to become the newest member of the Yankees as long as he passes the physical for his five-year, $85 million contract. Rumors are still abound regarding the Yankees' 2013-14 offseason spending plan. Some said that they would go on a spending spree, and others said they would try to stick to the long-looming $189 million 2014 payroll goal. If they are planning on storming the free agent department store for more pricey deals (as they will likely have to do if they want to compete in 2014), then the deal given to McCann's contract shouldn't affect their strategy very much.
However, if the Yankees are still holding out hope of ending up under a $189 million payroll in 2014, then they probably have another thing coming. USA Today recently calculated the Yankees' 2014 obligations in accordance with their contracts' respective luxury tax hit:
Derek Jeter's new contract has increased the Yankees' luxury tax payroll to $97.71 million for seven signed players next year... New York's other signed players are Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 million), CC Sabathia ($24.4 million), Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million), Ichiro Suzuki ($6.5 million), Alfonso Soriano ($4 million) and Vernon Wells ($0).
(Lol Angels and Vern)
Adding McCann's $17 million salary brings the luxury tax payroll to $114.71 million for eight players, a hefty cost that doesn't include arbitration raises. Jason reported MLB Trade Rumors' frequently accurate projected arbitration raises a few weeks ago, so here's what the folks at MLBTR calculated:
Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.
David Robertson (5.070): $5.5MM
Brett Gardner (5.072): $4MM
Ivan Nova (3.024): $2.8MM
Shawn Kelley (4.128): $1.5MM
Jayson Nix (4.127): $1.4MM
Francisco Cervelli (3.146): $1MM
Chris Stewart (3.091): $1MM
The combined total of all those arbitration raises would push the Yankees' luxury tax payroll to $131.91 million, but now that the Yankees have signed McCann, it seems unlikely that the Yankees will tender at least one of Stewart or Cervelli a contract. Nix will probably get cut as well; last year they released him and invited him back to camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league contract. I'd bet the Yankees do that again to avoid any potential hit. So if all three of those bottom raises aren't offered, the luxury tax payroll would be at $128.51 million.
In his article, Jason noted that the combined pre-arbitration contracts offered to the likes of David Phelps, Eduardo Nunez, and company will likely reach about $3.5 million. Wendy Thurm of FanGraphs also wrote last year that the new CBA requires all 30 teams to add in a 1/30th share for "player-benefit costs." In 2013, that figure was approximately $10.8 million. Fun little bonus contract, no? That number will only go up according to Thurm, so assume perhaps $11.5 million for 2014, bringing the total to $143.5 million. That leaves the Yankees with $45.5 million to spare before hitting $189 million.
But wait! That fantabulous A-Rod deal comes back to bite the Yankees in the ass again! He only needs six homers to reach Willie Mays's mark of 660 homers, triggering a $6 million bonus that would be taxed, so Hal and the boys must accommodate for that. Even if A-Rod ends up suspended for 121 games (3/4 of the season), he would still have another 41 games to hit six dingers. It only took him 32 games to reach that figure in 2013. Unless he gets suspended for 150 games or the full season, he's reaching that milestone. Make that luxury tax payroll $149.5 million with $39.5 million to spare. That contract is the gift that keeps on giving.
If the Yankees honestly believe $189 million is still their target, then $39.5 million really isn't all that much left in the piggy bank. Basically, they can afford give Robinson Cano his big bucks ($20-25 million) and then maybe sign a starting pitcher. Masahiro Tanaka's posting fee would not be taxed and his pitching deal will likely stick to about $10-12 million. If you prefer Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Hiroki Kuroda to Tanaka, then you can can substitute one of them for Tanaka's approximate cost.
Regardless, that's essentially the apparent end of the road to $189 million: the Yankees can sign Cano and a starting pitcher. If the Yankees sign other pieces like an outfielder (Carlos Beltran/Shin-Soo Choo/Curtis Granderson), shortstop/third baseman (Mark Reynolds? Stephen Drew? Jhonny Peralta is reportedly signing with the Cardinals), a second starter, or a bullpen reinforcement, then they are either
a) Moving on from Cano
b) Bypassing Plan 189 and taking the luxury tax hit to move onto whatever figure suits their fancy.
It would appear that inking McCann to a gaudy deal is a sign that the Yankees will throw their wallet around this winter, but Hal's plan is ever-mysterious. Maybe they'll just decide to bring back Cano and recruit Tanaka (who they really seem to want) and call it an off-season despite question marks at numerous positions. Maybe Hal will leave the required luxury tax money on MLB's doorstep in coins inside untidy bags marked "Deal with it" and spend to his heart's content. Given the conflicting messages fans have received from ownership, it's simply unclear.
My best guess is that they will sign Cano and Tanaka, then hope like hell that the arbitrator holds up A-Rod's 211-game suspension. No one has any idea how that is going to shake out, but if by some stroke of magic, the suspension is affirmed, then according to USA Today, the Yankees only have to pay $2.5 million for A-Rod instead of the combined $33.5 million combined between his 2014 AAV and the Mays milestone bonus. I'm sure the Yankees have a plan of how they would allocate that newfound $31 million if it is granted. If they get that surprise money, then they will almost assuredly pursue one of those aforementioned other names on the market.
Without that bonus money? I'll believe the Steinbrenners risking a luxury tax hit when I see it. Paying up for the McCann deal is a step in the right direction for my hope that they will actually offer a legitimately acceptable team on the field in 2014. It's going to be tight meeting Plan 189 with the McCann signing, but there's certainly a chance that fans don't have to worry about that anymore. For Mo's sake, let's hope that in several months, we're laughing about Plan 189 as a relic from the past. (Now toddle off, Hank, and go fly your flying machine.)