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Alex Rodriguez suspension: Is Plan 189 back on or still possible?

Will A-Rod's 162-game suspension enable the Yankees to resume their plans for a luxury tax-avoiding payroll?

Jason Szenes

Update: Ding-dong, the witch is dead. Huzzah.

The results are in, and Fredric Horowitz ruled that Alex Rodriguez's suspension from the Biogenesis investigation will last 162 games, essentially the entire 2014 season. While the Yankees' production from the third base position will take an obvious hit, they are undoubtedly pleased that they will not have to pay all of A-Rod's $25 million salary next season. In luxury tax calculations, A-Rod's hit was due to be $27.5 million due to the average annual value (AAV) of the 10-year, $275 million contract he signed prior to the 2008 season. However, Joel Sherman reports that in wake of the suspension, the Yankees will only be credited with $3,155,737.70 for A-Rod. (The remainder comes from off-days, which he still gets paid for; okay then?)

So now that A-Rod's 2014 payroll hit has been established, will the Yankees be able to reach their goal of a $189 million payroll? The long rumored target would help them avoid the luxury tax in 2014. Here's where the payroll currently stands:

Non-Arb MLB Players 2014 salary AAV hit
CC Sabathia $23,000,000 $24,400,000
Mark Teixeira $23,125,000 $22,500,000
Masahiro Tanaka $22,000,000 $22,142,857.14
Jacoby Ellsbury $21,142,857 $21,857,142.86
Brian McCann $17,000,000 $17,000,000
Hiroki Kuroda $16,000,000 $16,000,000
Carlos Beltran $15,000,000 $15,000,000
Derek Jeter $12,000,000 $12,810,000
Ichiro Suzuki $6,500,000 $6,500,000
Brett Gardner $5,600,000 $5,600,000
David Robertson $5,215,000 $5,215,000
Alfonso Soriano $5,000,000 $4,000,000
Matt Thornton $3,500,000 $3,500,000
Ivan Nova $3,300,000 $3,300,000
Alex Rodriguez $2,800,000 $3,155,737.70
Kelly Johnson $3,000,000 $3,000,000
Brian Roberts $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Brendan Ryan $2,000,000 $1,666,666.67
Shawn Kelley $1,765,000 $1,765,000
Francisco Cervelli $700,000 $700,000
Kuroda's translator $85,000 $85,000
Vernon Wells $2,400,000 $0
Player benefits
$11,000,000 $11,000,000
Total $204,132,857 $203,197,404.40

The 2014 contracts for pre-arbitration players and minor league players have not yet been established. The likely salaries for pre-arb players, who will make at least the league minimum of $500,000 or what they made in 2013, and the likely minor league salaries of other 40-man roster players are added, provided by our friends Derek Albin and Chris Mitchell at Pinstripe Pundits.

Remaining Players 2014 salary est. AAV hit est.
Eduardo Nunez $533,300 $533,300
Michael Pineda $528,475 $528,475
David Phelps $512,425 $512,425
Adam Warren $500,000 $500,000
Preston Claiborne $500,000 $500,000
Dellin Betances $500,000 $500,000
Austin Romine $81,500 $81,500
J.R. Murphy $81,500 $81,500
Zoilo Almonte $81,500 $81,500
Vidal Nuno $81,500 $81,500
Cesar Cabral $81,500 $81,500
Dean Anna $40,750 $40,750
Manny Banuelos $40,750 $40,750
Slade Heathcott $40,750 $40,750
Gary Sanchez $40,750 $40,750
Shane Greene $40,750 $40,750
Ramon Flores $40,750 $40,750
Jose Campos $40,750 $40,750
Bryan Mitchell $40,750 $40,750
Nik Turley $40,750 $40,750
Total $3,848,450 $3,848,450
Combined Total $207,981,307 $207,045,854.40

The final total has the Yankees currently at about $185.5 million owed through AAV for the 2014 season, which doesn't leave much room at all to maneuver before hitting $189 million. Even if their offseason ended right now, they are at risk of going over on bonuses alone:

Player Bonuses Bonus value AAV hit
Jeter AL MVP $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Jeter 2nd-6th for MVP $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Jeter Silver Slugger $1,500,000 $1,500,000
Jeter Gold Glove/ALCS MVP/WS MVP $500,000 $500,000
Soriano WS MVP $350,000 $350,000
Soriano AL MVP $300,000 $300,000
Soriano top All-Star vote-getter $250,000 $250,000
Soriano ALCS MVP $250,000 $250,000
Soriano Gold Glove $75,000 $75,000
Kuroda 190 IP $250,000 $250,000
Kuroda 210 IP $250,000 $250,000
Roberts 250 PA $175,000 $175,000
Roberts 300 PA $175,000 $175,000
Roberts 350 PA $250,000 $250,000
Roberts 400 PA $250,000 $250,000
Roberts 450 PA $300,000 $300,000
Roberts 500 PA $300,000 $300,000
Roberts 550 PA $350,000 $350,000
Roberts 600 PA $400,000 $400,000
Roberts 650 PA $400,000 $400,000
Kelley 55 G $25,000 $25,000
Bonus potential* $10,050,000 $10,050,000

*In highest bonus scenario, the 2nd and 6th bonuses are unattainable

Obviously, Jeter, Soriano, and Roberts are unlikely to reach most of these bonuses at this point in their careers (especially the high-value Jeter MVP one), but if somehow everything breaks right for them, the Yankees would end up over $189 million anyway. So that alone might be enough to state that Plan 189 is dead.

Even if the Yankees are gambling on the side of "well, THOSE bonuses aren't happening" though, their ambitions to sign Masahiro Tanaka would easily push the Yankees over $189 million since there's no way Tanaka is signing for an AAV lower than $6 million. The Yankees have stated numerous times that they would go over $189 million for Tanaka, and running the numbers confirms that they would indeed exceed $189 million for him.

If the Yankees don't succeed in their efforts to sign the talented young righthander though, they will have about $5.5 million in payroll flexibility before reaching $189 million. If they make a couple low-cost, late free agent signings to plug their remaining holes (third base and the starting rotation, to name a couple) as they have in the past few years for the likes of Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, and Travis Hafner, then they could theoretically have a chance to finish the 2014 with a payroll under $189 million if most of the bonuses don't come to fruition. It's not really a smart business decision to gamble that the bonuses don't happen, however unlikely they might appear. If the Yankees choose to be frugal and the bonuses are somehow reached, then they're screwed anyway.

At this point, it seems pretty unlikely that the Yankees end up under $189 million before the start of the season, even if they don't get Tanaka. I'm skeptical that the Yankees wouldn't subsequently react by signing one of the other available top free agent starters (Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and co.), regardless of whether or not it's a good idea. I would be surprised if the Yankees felt comfortable going into the season with a rotation of Sabathia/Kuroda/Nova/Pineda/Phelps or some similar iteration. So no; even though technically Plan 189 is still possible, it doesn't appear that Plan 189 is very likely anymore. What say you?