For just the second time in the past 19 seasons, the New York Yankees were left to watch October baseball from the comfort of their own homes. It seems the club's front office is preparing to make moves to ensure that doesn't happen again in 2014.
Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York is reporting that, as team officials prepare for Monday's organization meetings, the front office is setting a course of action that could result in the Yankees spending up to $300 million this offseason.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner has long maintained the club's internal goal for 2014 would be getting total team salary under $189 million, MLB's luxury tax line. The Yankees are due a record $29.1 million luxury tax bill for this past season, which would put their total at over $250 million since the system's inception.
Getting under the $189 million line would reset New York's "tax clock," bringing it back to first-time offender status. Luxury tax payments are divvied up among smaller-market clubs. Steinbrenner's plan would allow the team to reinvest the saved money internally.
While it seems a $300 million spending spree would fly in the face of those plans, sources told Marchand the Yankees feel they can sign two marquee free agents and stay under the luxury tax. They can do that mainly because a possible $90 million could come off their books this winter.
That number assumes that an independent arbitrator holds up the 211-game suspension of third baseman Alex Rodriguez. The former MVP is due a salary of up to $31 million next season should he reach very attainable bonuses in his contract. Should Rodriguez's suspension be upheld, the number would dip accordingly but still be significant. A number of players, including Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, will see their high salaries go off the books.
With that money, the club plans on making star Robinson Cano, who will likely become the highest-paid second baseman in history, its top priority.
The source also cites Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka as the club's second target behind Cano. Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA this past season and is expected to draw a "posting fee," the money paid with his Japanese club to negotiate a contract, that rivals the $51.7 million the Texas Rangers paid for Yu Darvish.
The key to that, however, is whatever New York or any other team pays in a posting fee is not counted toward the luxury tax—only his salary counts.
The Yankees have already got one of their biggest offseason roadblocks out of the way. Manager Joe Girardi, who was expected to draw interest from a majority of the open jobs this winter, signed a four-year extension last week. While managerial salaries do not count toward the luxury tax, locking up Girardi allows the front office to wholly shift its focus toward infusing new talent to the roster.
Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran are among the Yankees' other primary targets, sources told Marchand. It's unclear how much Beltran or McCann will draw on the open market at this time.
New York finished 85-77 in 2013, posting its worst winning percentage since 1992.
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