The Yankees have already been installed as the 2021 AL favorite to reach the World Series without any additions. So why not stand down?
The Yankees were installed by Las Vegas as the American League favorite to reach the World Series in 2021, only minutes after the Dodgers recorded the final out to win the title this year. Not surprisingly, the money in Vegas says the Dodgers will do again next year.
Like most of us, the oddsmakers in the betting capital of the world are well aware they are putting their money on a Yankees team whose 40-man roster no longer lists DJ LeMahieu, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ – all of whom are free-agent eligible.
Moreover, it looks like the Yankees will finally be turning a portion of their starting rotation to two young and untested studs – Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt. Luis Severino is not scheduled to return until May or June, and Domingo German, a convicted wife-beater, may never pitch for the team again.
Unlike us Yankees fans, oddsmakers may or may not want the Yankees to win; they believe instead, they are the team that will win.
So if that’s the case, perhaps we should take a closer look at the Yankees team that exists today, to maintain the team as it is (plus LeMahieu and Tanaka) before they jump headlong into this year’s crop of free agents.
Yankees Team Payroll Budget For 2021
While Yankees Chief Operating Officer Hal Steinbrenner has issued instructions to his GM Brian Cashman not to exceed the luxury tax limit of $210 million for the team’s payroll, according to Spotrac’s updated totals, the Yankees are already over the limit without making a single roster move.
Yankees May Have No Choice In The Matter
Assuming the numbers above are accurate, maybe the wrong question is being asked, and Brian Cashman’s first task before adding to the Yankees is to subtract payroll.
Being over the tax threshold by two million dollars is not going to make or break the Yankees or any major league franchise for that matter, and Steinbrenner is not likely hammer Cashman if that’s the way things turn out in 2021.
But you see the problem. Even if the Yankees throw J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Bauer, this year’s aces in this year’s free-agent class, aside – where is there room to retain either or both LeMahieu and Tanaka?
Tack on to that the fifteen or so Yankees who are eligible for arbitration this year, with each in line for at least the standard longevity raise, and still more dollars are needed to support the team as it exists today.
And by the way, not that it matters in the big scheme of things, but Jacoby Ellsbury will be drawing $5 million from the Yankees till next season.
Yankees: How Much Do LeMahieu And Tanaka Matter?
The Yankees have the option and almost certainly will tender an offer to both DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka. At today’s MLB pre-established cost of $18.9 million, the Yankees, if both players accept the one-year deal, will be looking at not the two million in arrears but a total of $40 million over the tax threshold.
Dare I remind you, this is without signing either Realmuto or Bauer (or both as many Yankees fans are crying for), or any other player on the free-agent list and trades Cashman may wish to that also adds to the payroll.
So, what’s left? There’s nothing “left” except the proposition to spend more against the odds of expecting a full 162-game schedule with fans in the stands in 2021.
Yankees: Number 28 Can Wait Another Year
This may be heresy among Yankees fans, but I, for one, can undergo another season of fruitless pursuit of a title that has eluded the team for more than a decade in exchange for aggressive pursuit of the free-agents coming along in the Class of 2022 Free Agents.
Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Corey Seager, Freddie Freeman – the list goes on and on with an amazing cast of players the Yankees can engage – next year – not this year.
All teams lost revenue and therefore lost money in 2020. Hal Steinbrenner claims the Yankees lost the most of all teams. And we can bitch and moan about his whining, but let me ask you this.
If we had a business together and from one year to the next, our sales revenue decreased from $5 million to $3 million, and even if we made a profit in that second year, would you not want us to cut back any way we can – to regain the profit level we had before?
So too with the Yankees.
The Yankees Will Not Be Trendsetters
The Yankees will not be the only team adopting an ultra-conservative fiscal strategy for next season.
Players tendered the offer of $18.9 million by their club (like LeMahieu and Tanaka) will think long and hard before testing the free-agent marketplace this year, deciding instead to wait another year while letting the COVID dust settle.
Marcus Stroman, who has or will soon receive the $18.9 million offer from the Mets, is rumored ready to reject the offer, choosing instead to take his chances in this year’s marketplace (Stroman’s lifetime record is 51-47 with a 3.76 ERA). Good luck with that.
Like the irregular 60-game season with sixteen teams making the playoffs, the 2021 offseason is “different” in proportions we have yet to realize.
All of which points to the Yankees taking a deep breath before disengaging themselves from the identity of a team always on the prowl, always ready to put up the bucks, and above all else, always willing to satisfy their fans – regardless of the cost.
Yankees Standstill It Has To Be
For one, I do not shed any tears for Steinbrenner and his shareholders when they open up the envelope containing their weakened dividend check in a few months.
But having said that, if you are among those who believe COVID is real (as I do), and we are not “turning the corner” to rid ourselves from it, then it follows that Hal Steinbrenner has earned a mulligan if he chooses not to spend wildly – or even at all – this winter.
Besides, what the hell? If Las Vegas thinks the Yankees have what they need to reach the World Series next year, and their money says so, this Yankees fan will go with it as the team is now.
Except, excuse me. DJ Lemahieu is a must-have. Work it out, Brian.