The 2013 Yankees payroll was well over $200MM- and I don't see it decreasing drastically below the $189MM threshold in 2013. The Yankees currently have three players making over $23MM for 2014 (Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Sabathia), and that's not including Robinson Cano who will command the highest salary on the team (unless the sides can agree to a back-loaded contract similar to the contract that Albert Pujols agreed to with the Angels; more on the Pujols contract here: http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/mlb/story/_/id/7428226/albert-pujols-deal-completed-los-angeles-angels-worth-240m-10-years).
Derek Jeter, the Yankees aged shortstop, just received a pay increase from his contract option to $12MM. Additionally, the Yankees will have to bolster their pitching staff by spending some money this offseason. While Andy Pettitte's $12MM, Mariano Rivera's $10MM, Phil Hughes's $7.5MM, and Pittsburgh Pirates' starter A.J. Burnett's 8.5MM salary will be off the books this upcoming year, the Yankees will undoubtedly have to shell out some money simply to replace the arms that they are losing. Hiroki Kuroda would is an option for a third straight year, but given his elite performance at times during 2013, he will probably demand nothing less than the $15MM he earned last year.
But with over 98MM already being committed to just 7 players, the only chance they have of getting below the threshold is by not resigning Cano or Granderson. But even removing Granderson's contract and finding a steady replacement won't do the trick. Options like Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury are the highest caliber options out there, but the Yankees will undoubtedly focus their resources in trying to retain Robinson Cano, a home-grown New York star who the team would prefer to invest long-term dollars into rather than the injury-prone Ellsbury, the inconsistent Choo, or even Granderson whose 25.8% strikeout rate since being with the Yankees is less than ideal (or even acceptable) for potential suitors of Granderson's services.
Finally, the Yankees were extremely deficient at a position that they haven't had to worry much about since the mid-1990s: catcher. With Jorge Posada taking over catching duties in the late 1990s and Russell Martin filling the void in 2011 and 2012, the Yankees hadn't needed much help at catching for a while, even going as far to trade top catching prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners in favor of bolstering their rotation with the electric arm of Michael Pineda. The trade has thus far been a wash, but that's besides the point. In 2013, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, and Austin Romine did very little to positively impact the lineup on a consistent basis. Stewart caught a bulk of the games (109 of them) and produced 4 homers to go a long with 25 RBI, a .211 batting average and a consistent but not outstanding defensive presence behind the dish. But with catching prospects Gary Sanchez and JR Murphy still developing in the system, the Yankees need an immediate answer at the catching position. Whether they decide to go after A.J Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or even Brian McCann, it will take a few more dollars than they devoted to the position last year.
Taking all of this into account, it will be difficult for the Yankees to fall below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. While Brian Cashman has come up with unique ways to fill voids for his team (like acquiring Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano in 2013), it has left him with a situation where he will either have to spend to make his team better and rise above the threshold or not spend on big name players and run the risk of having the New York Yankees fall in the increasingly competitive American League East with rising powerhouses like the Orioles, Rays, and World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.