Emergence of surprise infielders will be just as crucial in 2015

The Yankee brass predicted Yangervis Solarte would force his way into the lineup and reach base 45% of the time while switching between second and third base. That's why they didn't sign Stephen Drew. It was only those spoiled fans who feared a scarcity of major league quality infielders would doom the Yankees to an October-less season. The front office knew that between Solarte and Johnson the infield would produce even without Teixeira.

Getting similar production in 2015 from Solarte or similarly modestly paid infielders will be critical as well because a looming budget crunch is coming. Remember, unless he fails a drug test, Alex Rodriguez will be back. Including him, the Yankees already have 159 million dollars guaranteed to ten players.

Player Position 2015 salary (M)
Alex Rodriguez 3B 21
Mark Teixeira 1B 22.5
C.C. Sabathia SP 23
Masahiro Tanaka SP 22
Jacoby Ellsbury CF 21.143
Brian McCann C 17
Carlos Beltran RF 15
Brett Gardner LF 12
Matt Thorton RP 3.5
Brendan Ryan SS 2

That doesn't even count the 6 million dollar "homerun milestone" bonus Rodriguez is likely to earn if he does play the whole season. Then the Yankees have four players to whom, baring serious injury or regression, they'll offer arbitration. Maybe that's 12 or 14 or even 16 million more depending on this season's performances.

Player Position 2014 salary (M) 2015 salary estimate (M)
Ivan Nova SP 3.3 6
Shawn Kelley RP 1.765 3.5
David Phelps P 0.542 1
Michael Pineda SP 0.539 3.5

They do have several young pitchers who aren't arbitration eligible that can fill out half of the bullpen and the fifth starter spot. John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine will be the back up catcher. Perhaps Zoilo Almonte or another young player earns an outfield spot so six roster spots will be filled cheaply. That makes 19 roster spots filled for around 176 million or 20 roster spots filled for 182 million (if Rodriguez plays, he's hitting six home runs).

The last two seasons do not fit the pattern, but between 2008-2012 the Yankees opened the season with payrolls between 201.5 and 213.5 million dollars. A 213 million dollar payroll would leave approximately six million to spend on each remaining roster spot. Unfortunately, we aren't talking about bench spots, the Yankees will need to sign a 2B, a SS, a closer, a RF/DH, another infielder and if Rodriguez doesn't play, a 3B. 30 million doesn't go very far on the free agent market. It looks like the Yankees will be spending for one decent player in the 12-15 million range and then bargain bin shopping for the rest. Cast aside dreams of Hanley Ramirez. Even if he hits the open market, the Yankees won't winning a spending war to acquire him.

The one scenerio in which the Yankees might have budget space for big game hunting is if a two of Solarte, Anna and Sizemore prove that they can thrive in starting roles. That, plus a willingness to let Robertson walk, would open up the cash for a trophy acquisition. Or enough to bring back Robertson, pay for nice depth and keep ample space for a midseason acquisition. Either way, pray that Solarte continues to rake, not just for this season, but for 2015 too.

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