What a whirlwind 36 hours it has been. First came the news that the Yankees had acquired Joey Gallo and Joely Rodríguez from the Rangers for four mid-tier prospects on Wednesday night. Then, not 24 hours later, we learned the Yankees had completed another trade, this time adding Anthony Rizzo from the Cubs for Kevin Alcantara and Alexander Vizcaíno.
In two fell swoops, the Yankees addressed the need for productive lefty bats to balance the lineup as well as shore up the defense — both Gallo and Rizzo lead the league in Outs Above Average at their respective positions, per Statcast. They make the team immediately better and are just the boost needed to make a push for the playoffs.
Before going further, let’s take a quick look at the contracts of the newest Yankees. I relayed yesterday that Gallo is earning $6.2 million in his second year of arbitration while Rodríguez is in the second year of two-year, $5.5 million deal, though the Yankees do hold a club option for 2022. This means that both players are controlled through next season. Rizzo on the other hand comes as a pure rental. He is in the final year of what turned out to be a nine-year, $74 million deal after the Cubs picked up both club options in 2020 and 2021. The lefty first baseman is making $16.5 million this year.
At first glance, it seems impossible that the Yankees could have added these impact players without compromising their until-now steadfast quest to remain below the Collective Balance Tax (CBT) threshold. All season, ownership and the front office has come under fire for seemingly prioritizing resetting their luxury tax overage rate — achieved by ducking below the $210 million first CBT threshold — so it felt improbable that they would shift course now having stuck to their guns despite enduring a rocky season.
Yet here we are, with the Yankees’ luxury tax number essentially unmoved from where it was at the start of the day on Wednesday. How did they achieve this you might ask? As it turns out, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman convinced the Rangers to foot the bill for the remaining salary owed to Gallo and Rodríguez. Similarly, the Cubs will cover the roughly $6 million still owed to Rizzo.
With Rizzo coming to the Yankees and, I’m curious to see what kind of deal the Yankees will execute in moving Voit. Have to believe they’re looking to add another pitcher. Still have about $4M under the $210M luxury tax threshold.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) July 29, 2021
That brings us to the final portion of our investigation: what these moves mean for the future direction of the Yankees. As Jack Curry points out, New York still has roughly $4 million to play with before hitting the CBT threshold. The bullpen could certainly use some help beyond just Rodríguez and Clay Holmes after pitching to a 5.37 ERA in July, even before the 14-0 drubbing at the hands of the Rays yesterday. And there is always a need for starting pitching — José Berríos anyone? — if they want to ease the burden on their taxed relief corps.
Curry also mentioned Luke Voit. Things look bleak for the 2020 home run king with Rizzo supplanting him from the lineup. Voit has missed considerable time this year due to various injuries, and though he is on the verge of returning, it’s hard to see how and when he would play. Curry reports that the Yankees are actively shopping him, so I fear we may have seen the last of him in pinstripes.
The Yankees’ farm system also took a hit with these transactions, though not as much as one might expect. Yes, they dealt a high volume of players, some of whom were highly regarded, but somehow, the top of their system was left untouched. That they traded for Gallo and Rizzo, got the Rangers and Cubs to pay for their remaining salaries, and retained the top-five prospects is nothing short of a coup.
I feel obligated to say that it never needed to be this difficult. The Yankees removed the strongest card from their deck when they chose to artificially cap spending rather than leverage the economic might of their money-printing empire. The hole they find themselves in from a divisional standpoint is thanks in large part to the financial restraint they exhibited over the winter. New York could have more adequately addressed their needs heading into the season, even if that meant eschewing the opportunity to reset their CBT payor rate.
Whichever side of the issue one stands, it is only fair to credit the remarkable maneuvering pulled off by Brian Cashman to add a pair of lefty Gold Glove All-Stars at zero payroll cost. He gets a lot of flak — and rightfully so — for questionable public comments about his players and for constructing a perhaps flawed lineup. Say what you will about the man, but he knows how to pull off a deal.