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Yankees arbitration projections and what they mean for the 2016 payroll

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MLB Trade Rumors has released their salary arbitration projections for the 2016 season and the Yankees have several players who look to get substantial raises next year. Payroll has become a hot topic around this organization and unless they decide to increase it, there won't be much money left to sign anyone of significance.

After being acquired by the Yankees at the trade deadline, Dustin Ackley proved to be a decent pickup, when he wasn't on the disabled list with a back injury. Under control for two more seasons, he is projected to make $3.1 million in his second year of arbitration after making $2.6 million in 2015. Second base is one of the only position on the field that doesn't have a player locked up longterm, but it is yet to be seen whether or not Ackley is a full-time solution there.

Nathan Eovaldi proved to be the team's best starting pitcher in the second half of the season before missing all of September with an elbow injury. Thanks to such an effective season, MLBTR has him making $5.7 million after making just $3.3 million this year. He has two years left before he hits the free agent market and it might be time for the Yankees to consider locking him up to a longterm extension.

Classified as a Super Two, Didi Gregorius will go through four rounds of salary arbitration (three is the norm) before he hits free agency in 2020. After making a league-minimum salary of $553,900 this season, he's projected to get a $2.1 million pay raise of money well earned after turning things around with the Yankees. If his 2015 season is any indication of what he can offer moving forward, arbitration will be well worth it, though there's a chance they could extend him one of these years.

The Yankees have let it be known that they will indeed tender Ivan Nova a contract for his last season in pinstripes. He will also be entering his last year of arbitration and is projected to get a raise from $3.3 million in 2015 to $4.4 million next year. He missed a good portion of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and proved to be pretty bad in the rotation. Who knows what they decide to do with Nova next year–do they trade him? Put him in the bullpen?–but they likely can't rely on him as a regular starter.

Michael Pineda will enter his second year of arbitration and is projected to make $4.6 million in 2016 after making $2.1 million this year. MLBTR has him doubling his salary, likely based on the fact that he pitched his first full season this year, but he still missed a month on the DL and was actually pretty bad after coming back to the mound. He has another two years with the Yankees, so this is probably around the time to start considering a longterm extension. Luckily, there's plenty of time to keep thinking about it.

A free agent in 2019, Adam Warren will face salary arbitration for the first time in his career. After a $572,600 salary, he's projected to get only a modest $1.5 million after his time spent between the rotation and bullpen didn't firmly cement him in either category. It's possible his value could never be higher, and since he's still cheap, it's not that crazy to think the Yankees might at least explore a trade.

Justin Wilson had a great first season with the Yankees and looks to be a fixture in the bullpen for the next three seasons. Despite having such an effective season, middle relievers don't tend to get that much in arb money.MLBTR says he's due for a $1.3 million contract in his first year of arbitration after getting $556,000 in 2015.

The website also says that the Yankees have two more players set for salary arbitration in Sergio Santos ($900,000) and Andrew Bailey ($900,000), but I doubt they keep Santos and Bailey has a $2 million club option that they probably won't exercise (if they're sane). They might re-sign Bailey to a cheaper deal, let him pitch in Scranton, and hope that he somehow figures out how to be his old self again.

If we ignore those two and include the other seven with the rest of the players under contract, we get a good picture of what the 2016 payroll might be. Last year's payroll of $217,758,571 gets reduced by Stephen Drew ($5 million), Chris Capuano ($5 million), and Chris Young ($2.5 million) leaving in free agency, so take all 2016 contracts and the projected arbitration money of $22.7 million and it looks like the Yankees will have around $15 million to play with:

CC Sabathia $25 MM
Mark Teixeira $23.125 MM
Alex Rodriguez $21 MM
Masahiro Tanaka $22 MM
Jacoby Ellsbury $21.143 MM
Brian McCann $17 MM
Carlos Beltran $15 MM
Chase Headley $13 MM
Brett Gardner $12.5 MM
Andrew Miller $9 MM
Brendan Ryan $1 MM
Martin Prado $3 MM
Total $ in contracts $182.768 MM
Money in Arbitration $22.7 MM
Total Payroll $202.468 MM

At one point in time, this all wouldn't have mattered, but the Yankees are much more cost conscious these days. Instead of signing big names to high-dollar deals, Cashman has had to make savvy trades and use cost controlled talent (which isn't a bad thing). This offseason will be tricky because despite the obvious need to upgrade the team somewhere, there won't be enough coming off the books to do much with unless Hal decides to add payroll. Do they use the ~$15 million to replace who they will lose or do they invest that into one higher-paid player and use the farm to fill in the roster? We'll see.