Post-DJ Part Two: Spending the Money

A little less than a month ago, I wrote about the possibility of a post-DJ LeMahieu life for the Yankees and included a bunch of options to replace him. If you’d asked me then if I thought that I’d write a follow up just a few days before Christmas, I’d’ve said no. Yankees or not, I figured DJLM would’ve signed with a team by now. Well, he hasn’t and the Yankees haven’t done anything in Major League free agency, so it’s given my mind time to wander. How could the Yankees spend if they don’t sign LeMahieu?

Without signing him, the Yankees would have about $35 million to play with before the first luxury tax barrier. In reality, it’s a little over that, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll say it’s $35M. For simplicity’s sake, too, I’m going to ignore the roster crunch that would happen in either of the scenarios I’m about to present. There’d be ways to work this out and this is a lot of wish casting anyway, so let’s roll with it. All salary assumptions are from MLBTR and reflect the contract’s average annual value for tax purposes.

My first plan is the ‘stick to the plan’ plan in which ‘stick with the plan’ means keeping Gleyber Torres at shortstop, even if LeMahieu signs elsewhere. Here goes, with $35M to spend:

–Sign Kolten Wong for $8M ($27M remaining)

–Sign Jose Quintana for $9M ($18M remaining)

–Sign Liam Hendriks for $10M ($8M remaining)

–Sign Brad Hand for $M ($1M remaining)

This gives the Yankees a viable replacement for LeMahieu, some starting depth, and good bullpen depth, too.

My second plan is a bit of a more nostalgic, get-the-band-back-together type plan.

–Sign Didi Gregorius for $13M ($22M remaining)

–Sign Masahiro Tanaka for $13M ($9M remaining)

–Sign Marc Melancon for $4M ($5M remaining)

–Sign Cole Hamels for $4M ($1M remaining)

All of them–except Hamels–have been Yankees at one point and are good enough to bring back. Hamels is a personal favorite and would be decent rotation depth with Tanaka back, too.

One thing we should not–aside from the aforementioned roster concerns–is that MLBTR’s salaries have shot pretty low. Hell, they project LeMahieu himself to get only $17M AAV. Additionally, I put the Yankees right up against the edge of the tax, which they may not want to do, in case they actually want to shop around at the trade deadline.

Even if they are a little more convoluted, there are paths to follow without LeMahieu; they could even be pretty successful! The simplest route–and the one fans likely want most–is to re-sign LeMahieu and go from there. There’s obviously still time to make that happen and build around that move. If they don’t though, the Yankees have options for that money.

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3 Comments

  1. Mungo

    As you noted, the Yankees won’t want to bring the payroll right up to the first luxury tax barrier; it would defeat what they were trying to accomplish. They won’t want to hamper their team construction during the offseason, as it appears they are doing, only to still blow by the first tax barrier during the season. It’s frustrating that they’re a slave to the luxury tax, but it would be infuriating if they planned to get under the luxury tax only to fail and go over by a few million by moves made during the season. I don’t see them doing that, so I suspect they want to leave at least a $5 million clearance, which would leave them with approximately $30 million to work with heading into 2021.

    I was hoping the last time the Yankees purposely went under the tax level — 2018 — would be instructive, but I don’t believe so. Post 2017, they had significant money come off the books to a level putting them substantially under the first barrier, even after adding in arbitration raises, off-season moves and eventual in-season moves. If my memory is correct, which it may not be, they still finished 2018 about $20 million under the tax level. They won’t have anywhere near that cushion, which means navigating the 2020/21 financials and team construction will be much more challenging than 2017/18.

    This is a financial high-wire act when factoring in a LeMahieu contract. An AAV of 18 million vs 22 million could ultimately impact being able to add a few million into a Tanaka contract so he returns, or being able to bring in a 4th outfielder. As argument sadly can be made that passing on LeMahieu may open better roster construction options.

  2. jim

    pitchers are NOT equal to every day exceptional hitters. they can go 2 weeks without a win while batters can do an awful lot in 2 weeks to carry a team

  3. Corky Butchek

    The intelligent baseball fan in me says resign DJ. The nostalgic fool says bring back sir Didi!

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