5 Ways Yankees Can Spend the $19 Million Saved on Teixeira's Contract This July
Just when you thought the New York Yankees couldn't catch a break, along comes the Insurance Fairy to provide the team with a life line heading into what figures to be a very busy trading season next month.
According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, thanks to Mark Teixeira's problematic wrist this season, first in the World Baseball Classic and then again on June 16, the Yankees are going to collect nearly $19 million in insurance money.
It is no secret that the Yankees have a lot of roster problems right now, Teixeira being just one of them right now, and will likely need to make a move or two if they want to be serious playoff contenders come September.
It is also well known that the front office has been reluctant to spend a lot of money in hopes of getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold next year. The silver lining of Teixeira's injury, aside from the money, is that because the season has already started, any additional money added to the team for this season won't count for their luxury tax.
When Boston signed Adrian Gonzalez to an extension early in the 2011 season, it didn't become official until after the team could declare his $6.5 million salary toward the luxury tax (h/t Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet New England).
So with this new financial wealth at their disposal, here are the best moves the Yankees could make.
Note: All player salaries courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts unless otherwise noted.
Acquire Justin Morneau from Minnesota
Let me paint a dark and gloomy picture for you. On Friday night against Baltimore, the Yankees are starting David Adams at first base. This is the same David Adams who is currently sporting a .179/.220/.274 slash line in 28 games.
Things are rough for the Yankees at first base right now. At first glance, Morneau wouldn't appear to be a huge asset for this lineup. The 2006 AL MVP is hitting just .284/.332/.391 with three home runs in 71 games this season. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence, especially for a player making $15 million in 2013.
However, there are a few ways he can dramatically help the Yankees lineup.
For starters, Morneau has hit well against right-handed pitching this season (.298/.351/.431 in 188 at-bats). Even though he only has a slugging percentage of .290 on the road, you have to think that getting him out of spacious Target Field and into the short porch of Yankee Stadium would help his power production.
The Minnesota Twins really have no reason to keep Morneau at this point. He is 32 years old and in the final year of his contract. If they can flip him for a low B-level prospect, or even a high C-level, at this point, that should be considered a win.
Morneau would cost the Yankees around $7.5 million the rest of the season—that is if the math of reducing his salary in half because the season is half over holds true. He isn't a superstar anymore, but compared to Adams, Morneau would look like Lou Gehrig.
Acquire Mike Morse from the Seattle Mariners
If the Yankees decide that Justin Morneau is still too pricey, or they want to add a little more thump to their soft lineup (they are 15th in all of baseball with 80 home runs), Mike Morse could be an intriguing option for them.
Of course, that would require Seattle to put him on the trade block. Morse was one of the bigger acquisitions for the Mariners last offseason, and they may feel inclined to keep him since that lineup also lacks power.
Morse does present some problems that any team looking to acquire him has to take into consideration. He is very fragile, having played more than 102 games just once in his career. Combine that with the fact he is due to make about $3.5 million the rest of the year, it might be too much risk to assume.
On the plus side, unlike Morneau, who has a huge platoon split, Morse has no issues against left- or right-handed pitchers. He has a career OPS of .812 against righties and .873 against southpaws.
Morse is a cheaper option than Morneau without the same defensive value, but as a first baseman, his bat is much more valuable and could make him intriguing if the Mariners decide to try and shop him.
Acquire Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs
As dire as things are at first base for the Yankees, there aren't a lot of great options out there to provide an instant spark to the lineup. Morse is a hitter with some pop, but he hasn't hit a home run since May 27.
Instead of throwing money at the offense, the Yankees could decide that their best course of action to stay afloat in the American League East is by upgrading a depleted pitching staff.
The number of arms potentially available could make for a very fun trade season. Players like Yovani Gallardo and Cliff Lee, both of whom are signed beyond this year and likely unappealing to the Yankees as a result (assuming the Philadelphia Phillies decide to test the market for Lee).
But among starters who are set to become free agents, Matt Garza seems the most likely to get dealt. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that a number of teams are interested in the Chicago Cubs righty, though the Yankees are not listed among them. (The article does say that "several other teams" are seen as possible destinations.)
Garza struggled upon returning from the disabled list this season, but has gotten better lately, allowing just two runs in his last 22 innings pitched with 23 strikeouts. Granted, those starts have come against the New York Mets, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers, but at least he is producing against teams he should.
Right now, the Yankees are 13th in baseball with a 3.92 ERA from their starters. CC Sabathia has not looked like himself this year, sporting a 4.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have both been inconsistent. The only reliable starter is Hiroki Kuroda with a 2.77 ERA.
Garza is making $10.25 million this season, so the Yankees would be on the hook for just over $5 million if they decide to pursue the veteran starter. He doesn't fill their biggest need for offense, but sometimes, you can patch up one area to hide a weakness in another.
Acquire Carlos Pena and Bud Norris from the Houston Astros
Here is where we get a little greedy, but we know that the Astros are more than willing to deal players to add depth to their system. The front office did a great job of that last year, leaving very few assets in the big leagues for this season.
Carlos Pena certainly does not have the value of a player like Morse or even Morneau anymore, but he still represents an upgrade for the Yankees at first base. He has hit eight home runs and 13 doubles, so far, this season, while still walking enough to keep his on-base percentage at a respectable level (.331).
Even though Pena is basically a bench bat who should only play against right-handed pitching, he is so inexpensive at $2.9 million that the Yankees could find him to be worth the trouble.
As for Norris, he has been successful even though some of that doesn't seem sustainable. He has never had a season in which his home run rate was lower than 1.05—it is currently at 0.66. But the Yankees don't necessarily need to add a power arm to their stable. They just need someone who can provide quality innings.
Norris has given the Astros that for the last three years, racking up 508 innings since the start of the 2011 season. He is also inexpensive at $3 million and is under team control through 2015.
The 28-year-old has told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that he knows his future with the Astros is "out of my control."
Keep the Money and Stand Pat
The Yankees are a mess right now, and there doesn't appear to be any help on the horizon. Their best prospects are still at least a year away, if not more.
Their roster is filled with old, ridiculously expensive contracts that run at least through next season for players like Teixeira, Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez (though who knows how long he will be around), Derek Jeter (who has a team option) and Vernon Wells.
That doesn't even include impending free agent Robinson Cano, who will look for the biggest deal he can find as one of the premier players in the game, and Curtis Granderson.
All of that is to say things aren't going to get instantly better with a few players returning. Yes, A-Rod would be an upgrade over whatever they are trotting out to third base right now. But does anyone expect him to get better after having hip surgery at his age?
Yes, Jeter proved last year he can still rack up hits as well as anyone. But he is closer to 40 than 30 and hasn't played in a game all year. Is his timing really just going to come right back and ignite the offense?
Granderson is a mystery at this point, and he also had issues making contact when last we saw him on a daily basis.
Why take a chance and add salary just because you have money lying around on the hopes that you might be able to keep up with better teams like Boston and Tampa Bay to get in the playoffs?
It would be much more practical to accept the reality of the situation as it is, take the money and apply it to something what can benefit the franchise in a more long-term way this offseason when they have 11 impending free agents and nine other players eligible for arbitration.