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The Yankees, the luxury tax threshold, and the “affordability” of Yu Darvish

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The Yankees need to shed payroll to afford Yu Darvish, and it sounds completely crazy to me.

New York Yankees Introduce Masahiro Tanaka
Wait a minute, I’M RICH!

Congratulations, Yankee fans. We have now reached that part of the offseason where the football team you root for has once again let you down in an embarrassing fashion, leaving you to count down the days until pitchers and catchers report. Oh, you don’t root for the Bills? Again, congratulations to you.

Spring training is just around the corner and many free agents still do not have a team to call home. While the Yankees’ roster looks pretty much done, Brian Cashman has stated that he’d still like to make one more move to acquire either an infielder or a starting pitcher. Both of those types of players exist on the free agent market.

One such player is Yu Darvish. I want Yu. I want Yu so bad. I want Yu so bad, it’s driving me mad.

Truth be told, I really do not want Darvish that badly, except as an excuse for puns and headlines like the sentences above. I would prefer him over a pitcher who would cost the Yankees’ prospects. Darvish would only cost money that is not mine. Mind you, I don’t have any problems trading prospects either. When a team has an abundance of both, it seems wiser to spend money rather than young talent to fill a need. Simple enough, right? Wrong!

As made painfully evident this offseason, the Yankees have no plans to go over the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. They would rather spend less money and give up prospects. There’s nothing really wrong with that. Again, they have an abundance of talent and momentary need should supersede the future if you’re planning to go for it all. Spoilers: they are.

If they can get what they need via somewhat expendable prospects, rather than money, fine. If a Clint Frazier gets traded, good luck to him and hopefully the team he winds up on is intelligent enough to properly market his glorious flowing red hair. Wait, he cut it short again? This damn team, I swear.

We saw the debates regarding Gerrit Cole because fans did not feel he was worth the prospects. That I understand. The Yankees have done nothing but market their farm and the youth movement for some time now. The difference between now and 2013-2014 is that their farm is actually worth promoting. Gleyber Torres at second or third base is vastly more appealing than Rob Refsnyder. Prospect hugging is normal reaction when your farm is ranked so high and Aaron Judge was a Rookie of the Year winner and MVP candidate. While I don’t agree that Gerrit Cole was not worth trading Frazier or Miguel Andujar, I get why fans made that argument.

When it comes to the affordability of Darvish and the luxury tax threshold, though, I’m in a weird place. Some fans do not want Darvish because they really believe in Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, and so on. The 31-year-old would likely hamper their chances at becoming the young, cost-controlled aces fans think they can be. That is fine, I guess. We all want things.

If it’s a matter of not wanting to give Darvish a crazy seven-year deal, that also makes sense. What is a tad strange is seeing fans and beat writers continue to point out the need to shed payroll in order for the Yankees — the New York Yankees — to “afford” him and not call them out on it.

Some suggest trading Jacoby Ellsbury or David Robertson to make room for Darvish. Other’s think that the team could maybe get him cheap. I have another suggestion: The Yankees should just sign Darvish and say, “To hell with the luxury-tax threshold!”

Make no mistake, this is Plan 189 all over again. It’s just Plan 197 now. Yankees fans were upset with Plan 197 when it was called Plan 189. “Why is Hal so cheap?” and “Steinbrenners should sell the team” and the always popular “If the Boss were here...” phrases were bandied about then. Why aren’t they now? Darvish is available and it’s possible he’s the difference between a great team and a dominant one.

The Darvish situation should not be a factor regarding trying to trade Ellsbury. Suggesting that the Yankees should try and trade D-Rob to afford Darvish sounds insane to my pinstriped ears. They can easily afford Darvish. In case you’ve forgotten, the Yankees’ wealth went to plaid a long time ago. Who cares about the price? Years? Sure. Price? Bunt that. They’re the Yankees!

Perhaps that’s a bit hyperbolic. It’s just very surprising to see people, fans and writers alike, not calling out the Yankees for being cheap here*. I repeat, Plan 189 is Plan 197. There’s no denying that Plan 197 makes financial sense for the Steinbrenners. As Matt Provenzano wrote earlier this year:

In theory, though, this could change in 2019. The Yankees are set to go under the tax this year, meaning that their first offense next year would only be taxed at 20%, meaning they would actually be taxed at a lower rate than they had been in the past.

See? No great mystery here why Hal and friends do not want to go over the luxury tax threshold. It’s not that I don’t understand that Plan 197 saves them money. It’s that I just don’t care. Does anyone else?

Plan 189 came about when the Yankees were teetering on the abyss of the “we need Vernon Wells to play third base” black hole. Yes, that happened. Plan 197 is backed by a Yankees team that is younger and more stacked than a burger on Man V. Food. They have Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, and -chuckle- Giancarlo Stanton going into the 2018 season. We’ve come a long, long, LONG way. Plan 189 did not come to fruition. Plan 197 might.

The same argument should ring through. Our new tower of glorious flapjacks should not have any impact on the Yankees acquiring the best pieces available when they have the resources to do so. Years ago, we’d be yelling at the Steinbrenners for pinching pennies. Now? Meh.

Sure, the penalty for Plan 197 is greater than Plan 189. It’s still not much considering how financially healthy the Yankees are. Also, it’s not my money and I don’t care about the Steinbrenners. They’ll be fine. Despite the Yankees having an already loaded outfield, with even more in the minors, they traded for Stanton because he’s Stanton. He makes the offense better. Darvish makes the Yankees’ pitching staff better. Better is better.

Maybe I’m alone on this. There is a chance I’m still bitter that Plan 189 possibly stopped the Yankees from signing players like Robinson Cano and Max Scherzer to long-term deals. Perhaps beat writers suggesting trading away stellar members of their bullpen to “afford” Darvish just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I’m worried about the Yankees forming a new dynasty core and then not wanting to pay them for fear of going over the luxury tax threshold in the future. These probably aren’t real problems but gosh darn it, I’ve got a blog and I’m rantin’ here!

This could all just be the result of reading articles and seeing the words “luxury tax threshold” too many times in a dreary, boring offseason. Writers have to continue to mention it because of how adamant the Yankees are about staying under it. I just want the best for the 2018 Yankees. Am I just being selfish here? Am I just plain crazy? Free free to @ me if you know the answer.

The bottom line is that I want the Yankees to win the World Series in 2018. Last year was the most exciting season we’ve seen in a while. Heck, it’s getting harder not to be irrational and hop aboard the “O-M-G we’re building a dynasty” hype train. This year is the 20th anniversary of the greatest season of Yankee baseball I’ve ever seen. This lineup makes me feel like it’s possible to see that again.

I don’t care about their goal of getting under $197 million. If Cashman honestly thinks that Darvish can really help bring home a World Series championship more than Montgomery and Adams, make him a reasonable offer and sign him if he says yes. Plan 197 should not stop them from putting the best possible team on the field this year. After all, it’s not my money they’re spending. It’s not my money being taxed. It’s not yours either.

*The Yankees are constantly in the top three highest spending teams in the league. They are NOT cheap.