The Yankees’ billion-dollar safety net screams ‘sell’ at deadline

Jul 20, 2016

NEW YORK — Every win feels like a loss. The New York Yankees have won three in a row, moving a game above .500 and a wee bit closer to delusion.

The Yankees should sell, which we have been saying for a month. It is the best plan for the future, so they can really be contenders again, sometime soon.

A 7-1 victory over the Orioles on Tuesday is nice, as Starlin Castro (two-run homer and two-run double), Nathan Eovaldi (5⅓ innings of one-run ball) and Anthony Swarzak (2⅔ scoreless innings, including bailing out Eovaldi in the sixth) had good nights, but too many more of these over the next week-plus and the Yankees (47-46) might not do what they need to do.

The Yankees should unload free agents-to-be Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran, while listening on basically everyone else. They need to get younger and deeper throughout the entire organization so that their financial power can really be felt as young players are joined by top free agents.

On the chance the young players acquired don’t work, the Yankees still figure to be OK.

Unlike most teams, the Yankees have a safety net. If they sell and their trades don’t end up bringing back much, they can just go to the ATM and spend a billion or so dollars. By unloading as many big contracts now for prospects, they can set themselves up for big spending.

The Yankees have had a perennially high payroll, but they really only spend crazy in free agency when money is coming off the books. This is what happened before the 2009 CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett spree, and the 2014 Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Beltran big-money bonanza.

What the Yankees might want to consider is unloading some of their bad contracts now, like the Red Sox once did with Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford.

How about trying to tie Ellsbury’s contract in a deal with Andrew Miller? Maybe you eat a little of Ellsbury’s contract, too, but you would get that ill-advised $153 million signing off your ledger. He still has four more years after this one. (He also has a full no-trade clause, so he would have to agree to a deal.)

However they slice it, if the Yankees trade Miller, they are going to make it painful for the team receiving him. He is maybe baseball’s best reliever, with two years left on his contract at a very reasonable $18 million. He is worth two or three top prospects.

The beauty for the Yankees, if they take money off the books, is that they can put most of it right back on. They could trade Chapman and then have a legit shot of signing him as a free agent.

In 2009 and 2014, the Yankees spent nearly half a billion dollars worth of contracts each offseason.

With the contracts of Teixeira ($23.15 million) and Beltran ($15 million) expiring at the end of this year, along with the deals of Alex Rodriguez ($21 million) and Sabathia ($25 million) ending after next year, the Yankees will have around $100 million in annual salary to invest.

After 2018, there is set to be a historic free-agent class, led by Bryce Harper. The Yankees will almost definitely be under the luxury tax threshold by then, which is rather significant.

As it stands now, since the Yankees’ payroll is higher than $189 million, they pay a 50 percent tax. If Harper were eligible for free agency this offseason and the Yankees signed him for $400 million, it would actually cost them $600 million because of the 50 percent tax. By 2018, they probably will be under the new threshold and will not have such a significant tax, if any at all.

Wouldn’t they be in an even better position for the likes of Harper if they have a young nucleus in place?

If the Yankees are going to have another sustained run, it will mostly be with a combination of young players and free agents obtained with their financial might.

Right now, the Yankees are in position to press the reset button, which could set them up for a lot of winning. They shouldn’t be fooled if a hot streak is coming.

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