When Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner told Brian Cashman to stay under the tax threshold, everyone held their breath. It’s time now to exhale.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman has been operating with both hands tied behind his back since Hal Steinbrenner issued a fiat instructing Cashman to not extend the Yankees beyond the luxury tax limit of $210 million for the player’s payroll.
Ever the good soldier, Cashman has done that, parlaying almost $82 million on players who now occupy spots on the injured reserve list, with few of them set to return anytime soon. (partial list below)
Yankees: How Deep Is The Water?
Imagine yourself as Brian Cashman, knowing you desperately need a power-hitting lefty bat, a centerfielder unless you want to run Brett Gardner into the ground, an upper level starting pitcher to replace Corey Kluber, and probably a first baseman to replace Luke Voit, whose legs do not seem capable of supporting his bulk.
And to boot, you have to do all of this with $1,445,679, the remaining portion available to the Yankees before they exceed the luxury tax limit. (full table below)
Yankees Shareholders Lead The Cheering
One look at the proverbial bottom line – $0 Est. Tax Bill – may send cards and letters to Steinbrenner telling him what an excellent job he is doing – but about the Yankees team?
How are they doing? Up to this point, most would say okay, as they sit a mere two games removed from first place in the AL East standings, winners of seven of their last ten, with the fourth-best pitching in the major leagues.
Drill down a little deeper, though, and an offensive abyss is easily revealed because these are the Yankees ranking 22nd in batting average (.230), 21st in slugging (.379), with ten teams ahead of them in home runs, and last but not least, 21st in runs scored (196), an average of four runs over fifty games played.
These are the Bronx Bombers? Of course not, and Brian Cashman knows it better than anyone.
The sad truth may be that Hal Steinbrenner knows it too but is reluctant, or even worse, unwilling to do anything about it.
I hate to keep harping on this, but it’s true. George Steinbrenner would have sold three of his ships by now, giving the go-ahead to Cashman to spend what it takes (as he did in 2009) to win a championship for these deserving fans and the city of New York.
Make no mistake, though, Steinbrenner would have been hollering at Cashman, too, reminding him of that “stupid extension” given to Aaron Hicks that “cost me $70 million”. And why on earth did you ever let Didi Gregorius getaway, Brian?
But in his gut and with his wallet, George Steinbrenner could never be what his son has become.
Yankees: Once You’re In, You Have To Be All In
The problem for Hal Steinbrenner, however, is there’s no going halfway in, meaning he can’t just tell Cashman, “Okay, you can go $10 million over”, because unless the Yankees are willing to part with players the caliber of Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Chad Green, or Gleyber Torres (tradeable because you sign a quality free-agent shortstop next offseason) – then there’s no use in Cashman spending hours on the phone – and besides, losing these players accounts for only a smidgeon of the Yankees payroll.
Whoever is available for the Yankees to consume in a trade for quality will cost big bucks, and that’s aside from the quality the Yankees will be losing from the players leaving in trades.
Who do you want – Joey Gallo? He certainly would fill the gap as a power-hitting lefty using the short porch at Yankee Stadium almost at will. But he’s going to cost you $6 million, with more to come in his upcoming arbitration year in 2022.
Or, how about Lefty starter Danny Duffy, who is 4-3 with a sparking 1.94 ERA with the Kansas City Royals, a team going nowhere and stuck in the middle of the AL Central?
Duffy can easily slot into the number two spot in the rotation behind Gerrit Cole – but he’s going to cost the Yankees the better part of his $15 million salaries this year – and you’d have to be in the running to sign him as a free agent for next year and beyond, for even more money.
The list can go on, but you see the point.
Stuck with four players eating up almost $80 million (Cole $36 million), DJ LeMahieu and Aroldis Chapman ($15 million each), and Aaron Judge ($10 million), the chickens are coming home to roost for the Yankees – and that’s not even counting the $29 million owed to Giancarlo Stanton.
Hal Steinbrenner: Wrong Man In The Wrong Place
As the principal owner of the Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner can do anything he wishes with his money. His business instincts are conservative, and he appears to be satisfied seeing the Yankees as viable competitors on the field – making the playoffs every year while packing in 3 million-plus in attendance – albeit with no cigar.
Across the river, Mets fans lived for more than a decade with business-challenged Wilpons before they finally threw in the towel, allowing Steve Cohen, who clearly has the business sense, to realize New York is THE major market in baseball, to buy the team.
Is that where we are with the Steinbrenner family? Do they have a true definition and allegiance to the Yankees legacy that’s built up over the years? Do they even care?
Hal Steinbrenner talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk.
One of these days, he’ll stop by during a Yankees’ game to have a ten-minute “audience” with reporters who just happen to be there – and he’ll talk about how proud he is of Aaron Boone and all the players who are giving their very best…
Do you want to know what it will cost Hal Steinbrenner if the Yankees were to exceed the limit by as much as $40 million?
At that level, the luxury tax is set at 12% – so the tax would be a mere $4.8 million – the same $5 million Steinbrenner is signing a check for to pay off the final installment to Jacoby Ellsbury this year.
That’s how insane this is.
The Only Heroes Are In The Dugout
One can dream that Brian Cashman, who is now the longest-tenured GM in Yankees history, would kick up his heels, privately first but if necessary publicly, saying, “You know what Hal, this ain’t fun no more – and how about you start acting like the owner of the richest team in baseball…”
But we know that in the business of baseball, you go along to get along, and Cashman certainly has paid homage to that principle over the years.
So maybe, the only heroes we have are the players and coaches, good and bad, who report for work every day, doing the best they can with what they have, with no one with a chance to help the team having their backs…
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Andrew Pal Hal’s strategy of fielding a championship-caliber team without spending the kind of money the team has spent historically is not, in and of itself, a bad strategy. The problem is that it has failed. They still spend a small fortune, but the way they spend it, their roster management, and player development, in general, have all been problematic. For a team with such wealth and resources, the fact that they have so many holes in their roster is an embarrassment.
Jim Kulhawy Sorry, no sympathy…and I am a season ticket holder. This team was poorly constructed, and that’s on Cashman NOT Steinbrenner. How many years does the owner have to sit there and watch $200 mil-plus teams get beat by those whose payrolls are a fraction of that? Will there be a lux tax in the next CBA? Who knows, but there’s no reason to go out and spend more money the wrong way. The problem isn’t the payroll, the problem is with how the payroll has been allocated and to whom.
Frank Rivera Jim Kulhawy Jim you are exactly correct, if you can’t put a decent team on the field with money you are allotted, Cashman needs to go, sure blow money in Hicks, take in Stanton’s ridiculous contract, keep Sanchez around until you can’t get anything for him, mess up Frazier, get rid if Didi, move Gleyber to short when he isn’t a shortstop, have a ridiculous amount pitchers and hardly any bench players, if you can’t within the payroll limits, what are you proving should you win something, a few years down the line a team like the Padres will look for sympathy because they have outrageous contracts of Machado and Tatis and others they have, so if they win now and cry later that us their problem
Brian Decker Sr. He has to spend some more money if he has any plans on winning this year!
Jim Knight His father would kick his ass.
Peter O’Brien Doomed? Half the team is batting under 200 and they are in a playoff spot. They are as well-positioned as any team in the game despite a slow start. If the right deal comes along they will break the bank as usual. They are just about the best-run team in all of sports. No one ever had made every decision correctly.
Chris Justus Well actually this statement is false. We have already spent the money. We have a good team. They are underperforming and getting injured way too often. Money doesn’t always mean talent. The Rays and Jays are dominating us this year and their total team salaries are nowhere near ours. Maybe we need new scouts? Better farm system? Better management? I don’t know the solution, but money hasn’t proven to be it!
Steve Cameron You are so correct when the boss was there lord rest his soul in peace we would never have jeter expenses like stanton sorry DL stanton
Stephen Guardino Excellent article and to our disappointment Hal definitely is not his father BUT Cashman is still operating with one of the highest payrolls in the league. He’s had more than enough time and more than enough resources over all these years to assemble a better organization from top to bottom.
Richard Salomone He’s got a calculator for a heart. He makes millions win or lose. It’s much cheaper to lose. Put the millions in the bank, not in paying MLB cap taxes, is his credo!
Elisa Granata- Poitras Spending money doesn’t make you winners. I think they need to work with the young players to get them to become better.
Chad Landsman Good article and I can hear George tell Brian your fired, lets face it as you broke the contracts down, Brian signed a slew of them, such as Ellsbury, agreeing to the Stanton deal, Hicks for starters. Not a fan of Coles’s deals as well because unless he opts out, you have 7 more years to join Stanton and the team has to competitive such as a WS or you could have built this team like Tampa with more payroll than they spend. Now we have to see if he botches up any future contract of Judge. He did do a good job fleecing the Cubs on trades and good pickups along the way. Brian put himself in this hole and only he could dig his way out of it. I feel bad for Boone to inherit this injury saga. George would always move mountains for players any way that he could, he was the ultimate closer on deals. If he had to he would rename his ships as part of a deal and use theirs.
Joanne Gaumer They will never win until Hal stops worrying about the luxury tax. They sign these underperforming players who are always injured.
Jim Schiavo Sr. Don’t bash Steinbrenner the Yankees suck with runners in scoring position, look at all their batting averages, it’s home run or bust, I wouldn’t want any of the current players signed to long term contracts !!
Andrew Lorton Hal, sell the team to someone who actually gives a damn
Neil Kaufman If Hal Steinbrenner is trying to make money with the Yankees he would be better off selling the team and going into real estate development. The Yankees can easily afford the luxury tax! You can look it up……