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A way too early look at the Yankees’ 2020 payroll situation

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The Yankees have a number of payroll options and changes going into the 2020 season.

MLB: AL Wild Card-Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has made it abundantly clear that he wants to win multiple championships with this core. The Yankees currently have an interesting roster, consisting of a mix of arbitration-eligible or pre-arbitration players, veterans signed to contracts, impending free agents, and those facing possible retirement.

They have essentially operated with the same core since 2017, when the Baby Bombers broke out and surprised the fanbase with a run to Game Seven of the ALCS. Since the beginning of 2017, the Yankees have had the third-best record in baseball, yet all they have yet to crack the World Series.

If the Yankees don’t find a way to win the last game of 2019, fans could grumble at what may seem like a missed opportunity. Yet, is the Bombers’ window actually closing, like the Cubs’ dying dream of a dynasty?

Speaking in 2018, Cashman claimed that “nobody cares about windows.” Well, to each their own Mr. Cashman, but here’s why he might feel that way. The Yankees have the third-highest payroll in baseball this season. Regardless of how the World Series plays out, Cashman will have some room to work with for 2020.

Take CC Sabathia for starters. He will be retiring at the end of the season. Sabathia earned $8 million in 2019, and you don’t have to worry about signing him back. Next, here’s a list of players that might not be Yankees next year based on free agency, lack of a roster spot, or other reasons: Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner, Greg Bird, and Edwin Encarnacion. Their 2019 salaries add up to $47.7 million. Now, of course, there are questions surrounding the return of these players. There is no indication of whether or not any of them will return for 2020.

Two have believable cases for returning next year. Betances has spent his entire career in pinstripes, and there’s a chance the Yankees make him some kind of offer. The same goes for Gardner, fresh off a career year, and who wants to play again next season.

On the other hand, a pair of bat-heavy first basemen may find themselves on the outside looking in. Bird has failed to stay healthy and has essentially lost the first base job to Luke Voit. Encarnacion has $20 million option in 2020, and he doubles down on two positions the Yankees already have filled.

Gregorius is in a funky situation. The Yankees have found their middle infielder of the future in Gleyber Torres, not to mention Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu, for what will be a total of about $12.5 million in 2020. Miguel Andujar will also return next season, creating even more of a logjam. Would the team hold out on singing the shortstop longterm? This may be a harsh reality for the Yankees given the strong ties he has with the team and the fanbase, but in the end, baseball is a business.

Heading into 2020 Spotrac calculates that the Yankees adjusted payroll before signing new contracts will be $164,628,571. To begin with, these are some 2020 40-man roster locks currently under team control or in arbitration along with how many years they have before becoming a free agent: Andujar (5), Torres (5), Voit (5), Urshela (4), Clint Frazier (4), Jordan Montgomery (4), Aaron Judge (3), Chad Green (3), Gary Sanchez (3), Tommy Kahnle (2), and James Paxton (1).

From this list alone, the Yankees have five or six stars all still under team control. You can draw the line wherever you want in terms of how much longer the Yankees will be able to retain all these players, but the Yankees will have this list of players either under team control or in arbitration for an average of 3.55 years.

This gives the Yankees and Cashman an unbelievable amount of flexibility. To at least be able to say we have control over the core of our team for the next three years or so with generally below-average salaries opens the Yankees’ window rather wide. A variety of things can change over the next few years of course. Some players may agree to contracts and others may be traded. Other players currently on long-term deals may come off the books as well.

However you draw it up, the Yankees have an established core of young players and will have a few seasons to work before you can start to make the argument that their window is closing. If the Yankees don’t win this season, fans will get antsy because they have been teased with a championship contender for three years with nothing to come of it. That’s fair!

It’s not fair, however, to act like the sky is falling. Yes, in regards to the Yankees’ ultimate goal, no championship this year will be a failure. In order to win a World Series, though, some things need to go your way and you also need to have a little luck on your side. The Yankees have also had extremely tough competition along the way.

Cashman already has experience in retaining a core group of players. Think back to the Core Four. They were able to win while they’re were young and also as a group of veterans in 2009. So no matter what happens in 2019, don’t lose faith. The Yankees are easily a team set up for long-term success.