Ichiro may be the best option for right field given the Yankees' budgetary constraints (Image: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

A Guide to the Yankees' 2013 Payroll

Money is complicated. Money is even more complicated in baseball. With all the contracts and arbitration and qualifying offers and payroll and what-have-you, it can be daunting to even attempt to understand a team’s budget and payroll.

That’s why I, he of zero economic know-how, will indeed attempt to give you all a quick and dirty rundown of the Yankees’ payroll for 2013, including the spots that they need to fill, the amount of money they have to fill those spots, and some of the possible options to fill them. Hopefully, if I’m at all successful, this can be a layman’s guide to the Yankees’ current financial and roster situation.

This first table is the Yankee roster as it stands right now. All players with an asterisk are arbitration-eligible, meaning their salaries are only projected (courtesy of MLBTR).

I want to note first of all that not all of these players are guaranteed to be on the roster come April. The Yankees just picked up Eli Whiteside from the Giants, but I’m not sure whether they plan to make him their backup catcher or not. In addition, guys like Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, David Aardsma, and others, may not make the opening day roster. This is just the situation as I see it right now.

Based on the above situation, the Yankees need to fill the following positions: catcher, right field, designated hitter, starting pitcher(s), and bullpen. At the moment, they are at approximately $150 million in payroll. In 2012, their payroll was about $209 million. Given that they want to decrease that to $189 million by 2014, they are probably aiming for about $200 million or lower in 2013.

This means that the Yankees have about $50 million to spend in order to fill up their roster for Opening Day. Let’s see how that might pan out, using the contract crowdsourcing results from Fangraphs last week – or my own predictions for players not there. Keep in mind that most of these values are a bit conservative. Also keep in mind that these are not the only options, and not even the best options. My goal is just to speculate about the types of guys that the Yankees might consider acquiring given the payroll constraints.

Catcher: Russell Martin (2 years, $16 million), Kelly Shoppach (1, $3), Mike Napoli (3, $36)

These obviously aren’t all the options, but they are three different types of options. A guy like Shoppach would be the cheapest but wouldn’t add much value offensively. Napoli, on the other hand, would be fairly expensive due to his tremendous offensive potential. Martin, or someone similar (A.J. Pierzynski?), would be somewhere in between. I suspect the Yankees will go for the mid-range option.

Right field: Torii Hunter (2, $20), Nick Swisher (4, $56), Ichiro Suzuki (2, $16)

The Yankees will probably sign someone in the Hunter/Ichiro range rather than the Swisher/Josh Hamilton/B.J. Upton range. I also suspect that Swisher will cost significantly more than the above price, but I’m not sure by how much.

DH: Raul Ibanez (1, $6), Casey Kotchman (1, $3), in-house (<$2)

DH is a tough one because it’s likely that it will be filled by Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter much of the time. Like 2012, the Yankees probably won’t have a full time DH, but will instead cycle through veterans like A-Rod and Jeter half the time, and use the other half as a platoon.

Bench: In-house or free agent (<$1 million)

I won’t try to throw out names, because anyone here will either be a minor leaguer like Chris Dickerson or an uber-cheap free agent like Ty Wigginton. Either way, they won’t spend more than 1 or 2 million on this player.

Starting Pitching: Andy Pettitte (1, $5), Hiroki Kuroda (1, $13), Shaun Marcum (2, $20), Roy Oswalt (1, $6)

My guess is that the Yankees will sign one of Pettitte and Kuroda, or both, as well as another free agent like Marcum or Oswalt. The preference is obviously not to have Nova and Phelps both in the rotation, but to have one or both available for the all-important depth aspect.

Relief Pitching: Mariano Rivera (1, $13), Joakim Soria (1, $2), in-house (<$1)

Mo will probably come back, in which case there are only two more spots to fill. The Yankees will probably want another lefty – maybe Clay Rapada. Soria is certainly an option, but I think they probably add Rapada and Phelps as a long man.

OK, so where does that leave us? Using the above options, here’s a possible scenario which would put the Yankees right around $200 million and fill all of their holes:

 

As you can see, this looks very similar to last year’s roster. Initially that seems like a bad sign since most of these players are past their primes, but it’s pretty tough to cut the payroll by $8 million and make the team better, at least on paper.

On the other hand, the Yankees had the best record in the American League last year, and would be getting Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, and Joba Chamberlain all (hopefully) for a full year. With some good luck on injuries, those four would easily make up for the difference between Swisher and Ichiro.

The Yankees roster will almost certainly look different from the one above come Opening Day, and it could look drastically different depending on what the team does with the outfield and starting pitching. But this was a nice exercise in building a roster, and illustrates the difficulty that the Yankees will face in dropping their payroll even below $200 million, let alone $189 in 2014. Those dollars add up quickly, and with A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia and Jeter taking up $90 million all by themselves, there’s not as much financial flexibility as one may think. If the Yankees decide to spend more than $200 million, they’ll have much more difficulty cutting that money in 2014.

Tags: New York Yankees

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