How A-Rod's 162-Game Ban Impacts Yankees 2014 Roster, Payroll, Offseason Plan

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How A-Rod's 162-Game Ban Impacts Yankees 2014 Roster, Payroll, Offseason Plan
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New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's 211-game suspension was reduced to 162 games Saturday, and he won't be eligible for the postseason.

While Rodriguez doesn't appear to be giving up just yet—his Facebook page says he will take his fight to federal court—the Yankees can be all but certain that their 2014 season will be "A-Rod free," and they can plan accordingly. 

That plan could still go one of at least two ways. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports the team will save $27.5 million on luxury tax payroll, although they would still be assessed around $3.16 million because a full MLB year counts as 183 days.

With the money saved, the Yankees could either stay under the luxury tax threshold or go all out and continue their spending spree with an eye on putting the best possible team on the field in 2014. 

In order to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million, they may have to get creative in order to fill several remaining holes on their roster. Getting under could save them as much as $100 million over the next two seasons, according to the New York Post's Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman. ESPN previously reported that the Yankees' luxury tax bill for 2013 was $28 million.

Davidoff and Sherman note the club has just over $151 million in guaranteed contracts. Teams are usually charged an estimated $11 million for items such as insurance and pension, and another $5 million is likely to be budgeted for in-season minor league call-ups.

Not included in the total are projected salaries for the team's five arbitration-eligible players: Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, Shawn Kelley, Ivan Nova and David Robertson. According to MLB Trade Rumors, these five players would combine to make $16.2 million in 2014. 

In total, that's an estimated $171 million in player salary (I added $3 million for players who aren't yet eligible for arbitration). The aforementioned $16 million takes that total to an estimated $187 million.

Good luck filling out a roster that still needs at least one starter, at least two relievers and another player who could help fill the void at third base.

General manager Brian Cashman did a terrific job of bringing in some bargain-rate veterans last season. If the Yankees intend to stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, he'll have to do the same.

Below are some free agents he could target. 

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

 

Starting Pitchers 

After CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, the Yankees will have former top prospect Manny Bañuelos, who is returning from October 2012 Tommy John surgery, Vidal Nuno, Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren competing for the last two spots in the rotation. If just one of them can step up and make a solid contribution, New York will be in good shape. 

Counting on two of them, however, would be way too risky for a team hoping to stay in the playoff race for the entire season. If they can get 15-20 decent starts from a veteran like Erik Bedard, Bruce Chen (pictured) or Freddy Garcia, without having to pay either more than $1 million, they'd have an even better chance of remaining in the playoff race throughout the 162-game season. 

 

Relievers

David Robertson could very well be capable of handling the closing duties in New York. But who fills his eighth-inning role? Currently, Shawn Kelley is the leading candidate after he posted a 4.39 ERA with a 3.9 BB/9, 12.0 K/9 and 11 holds in 57 appearances last season.

It wouldn't be that much of a surprise if he could handle the job.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

But the club's bullpen gets thin after that, with lefty veteran Matt Thornton the only other proven pitcher slated to hold a spot.

If Cashman is bargain shopping on the free-agent market, he could possibly pick up a former closer, such as David Aardsma, Frank Francisco or Brandon Lyon, to help bridge the gap to Robertson. Or maybe Roy Oswalt (pictured), who MLB Trade Rumors reported would be open to a late-inning relief role in 2014, would take a $1 million deal for a chance to be the team's seventh- or eighth-inning setup man.

 

Third Basemen

Not even Mark Reynolds, a strikeout-prone slugger who isn't a great defender at the hot corner, is likely to fit into this shoestring budget. Michael Young might take a $1 million deal knowing that he'll have a shot at some semi-regular playing time. But I'm guessing he can at least double that amount on the free-agent market.

So unless they think someone like Yuniesky Betancourt or Alex Gonzalez are better options than Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nuñez, it's likely that they won't go the free-agent route.

One outside-the-box trade option would be Conor Gillaspie of the Chicago White Sox, who will have to hold off newly acquired Matt Davidson if he's going to have a spot on the 25-man roster. In 345 at-bats against right-handed pitching in 2013, the 26-year-old posted a .738 OPS with 12 homers and 13 doubles.

With Davidson expected to take over at some point in 2014, if not right away, the White Sox could be open to moving Gillaspie now.

A resulting 25-man roster with a sub-$189 million payroll for 2014 could look something like this...

 

Starting Lineup

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Derek Jeter, SS
  3. Carlos Beltran, RF
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  5. Brian McCann, C
  6. Alfonso Soriano, DH
  7. Brett Gardner, LF
  8. Conor Gillaspie/Eduardo Nuñez, 3B
  9. Brian Roberts/Kelly Johnson, 2B

 

Bench

  • Francisco Cervelli, C
  • Brendan Ryan, IF
  • Ichiro Suzuki, OF

 

Starting Rotation

  1. CC Sabathia, LHP
  2. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
  3. Ivan Nova, RHP
  4. Bruce Chen, LHP
  5. Michael Pineda, RHP

 

Bullpen

  • CL David Robertson, RHP
  • SU Shawn Kelley, RHP
  • SU Roy Oswalt, RHP
  • MID Frank Francisco, RHP
  • MID Matt Thornton, LHP
  • MID David Phelps, RHP
  • LR Adam Warren, RHP

 

Worth $3.3 billion, according to Bloomberg.com, the Yankees could go all out and...

  • Sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a three-year, $48 million contract.
  • Sign Grant Balfour to a two-year, $14 million contract.
  • Sign Francisco Rodriguez to a one-year, $3 million contract.
  • Sign Oliver Perez to a two-year, $5 million contract. 
  • Sign Masahiro Tanaka to a six-year, $114 million contract. 
  • Trade for Conor Gillaspie.

 

Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

A resulting 25-man roster with a 2014 payroll that could end up around $230 million could look something like this...

 

Starting Lineup

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Derek Jeter, SS
  3. Carlos Beltran, RF
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  5. Brian McCann, C
  6. Alfonso Soriano, DH
  7. Brett Gardner, LF
  8. Conor Gillaspie/Eduardo Nuñez, 3B
  9. Brian Roberts/Kelly Johnson, 2B

 

Bench

  • Francisco Cervelli, C
  • Brendan Ryan, IF
  • Ichiro Suzuki, OF

 

Starting Rotation

  1. CC Sabathia, LHP
  2. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP (pictured)
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
  4. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
  5. Ivan Nova, RHP

 

Bullpen

  • CL Grant Balfour, RHP
  • SU David Robertson, RHP
  • SU Francisco Rodriguez, RHP
  • MID Oliver Perez, LHP
  • MID Shawn Kelley, RHP
  • MID Matt Thornton, LHP
  • LR David Phelps, RHP

 

It's not my money, but a $100 million savings over a two-year period for a franchise that is valued at $3.3 billion doesn't seem like it's worth the difference in those two projected rosters.

The potential for a disastrous 2014 season, despite the three big-name veteran additions (Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann), that could occur with the sub-$189 million roster in place could have much greater long-term and big-picture ramifications than a $100 million tax hit over a two-year period. 

So go ahead, Yankees. You should spend your money. As much fun as it is for non-Yankees fans to see a $189 million team suffer through a terrible season, 2014 could be equally and even more pleasing if the "evil empire," with all of their high-priced superstars, could be taken down by a seemingly lesser opponent. 

The potential for a storybook ending would be much greater if the Yankees just continue to act like the Yankees. 

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