Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote on his “Hardball” blog this morning that the New York Yankees would not be willing to offer Hunter even a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $20 million. This comes according to a source that Sherman said had been “briefed on (the Yankees’) plans.”
The GM meetings opened Wednesday in Indian Wells, California and will continue through Friday.
According to Sherman, the unwillingness to move on Hunter stems from the organization’s commitment to drop payroll below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold for 2014.
Team officials insist they are committed to gaining the financial benefits that become available by slashing payroll to less than the luxury-tax limit.
While many executives from other clubs are skeptical, given New York’s free-spending history, Yankees GM Brian Cashman was clear.
“We are not going to be over the $189 million,” Cashman said.
Upton would seem to be an affordable fix for the soon-to-be-created hole in right field. Incumbent Nick Swisher has until 2 p.m. Friday to accept or decline the Yankees’ one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer. It is expected that Swisher will turn the deal down and seek a long-term deal in free agency.
Upton has three years and $38.5 million left on his contract and, for luxury tax purposes, his annual salary would be $8.54 million. That’s based upon the average annual value of the six-year, $50 million contract he signed in 2010.
According to Sherman, the Yankees want to fill the hole in right field without committing much—if any—money for 2014.
There is a chance, however, that Hunter could be available on a one-year deal. At 37, Hunter has never played in a World Series and might follow the lead of veterans such as Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez, who turned down larger offers to play in New York on one-year contracts.
The skepticism of other executives around baseball is understandable. The Yankees are renowned for throwing embarrassingly large stacks of cash at players and have done so for decades. Will the commitment to keeping the payroll below the $189-million ceiling change should New York fail to make the postseason in 2013?
Only the guys with the last name of Steinbrenner know the answer to that question.