Moving on to the pitching staff, the news is a little easier to swallow in that there are not contract which are crushing the Yankees financial investments.
The good news is that the Yankees have received much better value from their pitching staff than their position players. While the total difference is negative, once Mariano Rivera‘s totals are removed (an injury should not take away from the performance of others) the Yankees rotation and bullpen members have been carrying their weight.
Beginning with members of the rotation; Ivan Nova, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes, who all have reasonable contracts, have already surpassed their break-even requirements. Hiroki Kuroda should have no problem surpassing his contract worth and in fact could generate a handsome “profit”. Despite the fact that CC Sabathia will make $23MM this season, he continues to provide more than enough on the field to offset the costs. A second half similar to his first will have Sabathia’s performance value keeping pace with his salary.
In the bullpen, the surprise crew of Clay Rapada, David Phelps and Cody Eppley have flown past anything expected of them this season on the field and due to their inexpensive contracts, they come off as major bargains.
The same can be said for David Robertson who continues to impress in the eighth inning role. His accomplishments on the field far outweigh his compensation. The good news for the Yankees is that they have two more seasons of Robertson at arbitration costs versus market value.
Rafael Soriano has had a magnificent season as he has seamlessly taken over the closer spot in Rivera’s absence. With that said, Soriano is WELL paid for his efforts. The contract was deemed expensive from the outset and in terms of WAR it is. He’ll have to be even better in the second half to match his salary. While this is possible, the Yankees will be happy with the same execution and I’d expect nothing more.
What does all of this say about the Yankees financial situation? Nothing really more than what we already knew. They overpaid players who were on the wrong side of their prime in Jeter, A-Rod and Teixeira. Jeter and A-Rod may create some extra value monetarily off the field, but as far as on the field performance in relation to their salary, they may never be the same as in their heydays. What some baseball fans outside Yankees Universe may not know is that the Bombers are looking to pull back spending to about $189 million for the 2014 season. The reason is largely because the Yankees front office (as well as many others in MLB) is looking at similar numbers when determining what they will spend on payroll in the future.
The Yankees have the benefit of a tradition and brand which creates revenue in many ways. That revenue far exceeds most of the teams in the game and certainly gives the Yankees and edge. The YES Network alone more than compensates any “losses” they may claim in the business side of the ball club. That being said, it is a business and the Yankees like any other, will look for ways to reduce spending where possible. The anticipated payroll reduction is going to be difficult with the albatross contracts, but there are many ways to offset them, which the Yankees began years ago with a new attention to international development and a willingness to maintain talent in the farm system which they intend to use at the major league level, or utilize as trade bait for less expensive MLB-ready talent.
The Yankees may “print” money in some eyes, but they will try hard not to waste it in the future.
Thanks to FanGraphs.com for WAR values and to Baseball Prospectus, namely, Cot’s Baseball Contracts for the Yankees’ contract values.