Even if Alex Rodriguez gets a reduced suspension to, say, 50 games like the rest of the Biogenesis-related players, the Yankees are still all but guaranteed to go over the $189 million mark. However, the luxury tax is based on the end-of-season total, not the beginning-of-season total. With this in mind, the Yankees could try to shed off payroll during the year if everything blows up in their face.
There are a few problems with this idea, though. As Sherman says in his column, the Yankees seem to have this "Never-surrender DNA," which we have seen for years and years, especially last season. On July 27, just a few days before the Trade Deadline, the Yankees got two-hit by Rays' right-hander Chris Archer. Following that loss, the team stood at 54-50 and were in fourth place in the AL East (eight games back) and had to jump over three teams just to get the second wild card (3.5 games back). This came shortly after acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs, so you knew the Yankees were "buyers" although they did very little to upgrade the team following the trade.
The point is, the team wasn't playing well (26-34 record from May 21-July 27) for a long stretch of time and appeared to have very little hope of reaching the playoffs, even with the second wild card in play. They had a few trade chips, especially in Robinson Cano, who, despite only having a few months left on his contract, could have brought back a pretty decent return. If you remember, the Texas Rangers called the Yankees about Cano during the season, but were rebuffed. If the Yankees wouldn't surrender then, I have a hard time seeing them surrendering in 2014, especially given their spending spree this off-season.
Some names Sherman notes, if the Yankees do end up selling during the 2014 campaign, include Hiroki Kuroda (who has a no-trade clause), Alfonso Soriano (who also has a no-trade clause), Brett Gardner, and David Robertson. This is complicated in several ways. One: Kuroda and Soriano seem to be pretty attached to playing with the Yankees. Kuroda had the chance to be traded from the Dodgers a few years ago, but he used his no-trade rights to block a deal because he wanted to honor his commitment with the team. I have no reason to believe that still wouldn't be the case today. Soriano, on the other hand, would only waive his no-trade clause to come to the Yankees last summer and no one else. Then, there's Robertson and Gardner, both of whom could be the long-term future at closer and left field, respectively. Those two would need to be signed beyond 2014 and would probably need to be kept to have the best chance of doing that.
Next, it would have to take several months, perhaps all the way up to the Trade Deadline, for the Yankees to trade their pieces, and that makes things even more difficult. Sherman uses a "half-salary theory" as to how much money the Yankees would absorb of the respective traded players' remaining deals. But, if they're going to wait until the Trade Deadline, July 31, in other words, they would be selling off one-third of the respective contracts, since there'd be two months left in the six-month regular season. So, for example, Kuroda's luxury tax figure in 2014 is $16MM. If somehow traded at the deadline, the Yankees would be shedding about $5.3MM the rest of the way. Soriano's luxury tax figure is just $4MM, so they would sell off just $1.3MM, and so on and so forth.
Long story short, there's basically no chance this happens. In fact, there's not a snowball's chance in hell this happens. Personally, I'm not a fan of the Yankees' front office (more so with Randy Levine and Hal Steinbrenner than with Brian Cashman), but I don't think they'd be this crazy to punt the season at next year's deadline after going hog wild during the current off-season. Like we saw last season, it's just not in the team's DNA to forfeit the season and trade away key players at the deadline, even if they sit on their hands during the off-season (see last winter). I expect that to be the case next season, no matter how bleak the long-term future may be.
- Yankees rumors: New York "may wind up with" Ubaldo Jimenez
- Email correspondence between Alex Rodriguez and Randy Levine released
- Yankees Hot Stove: Masahiro Tanaka could be the youngest player on the team
- Yankees Rumors: New York plans to spend big on the 2014 international amateur class
- Yankees Hot Stove: What can be learned from Kei Igawa?