Yankees fans will recall that during the offseason the team embarked on a controversial decision, achieved only by jumping through hoops, to avoid the luxury tax threshold. Soon, the Yankees will reap the rewards of making that goal while the Red Sox can only stand by watching them.
Depending on the source you use, the Yankees have between $23-25 million left to spend before they reach the luxury tax threshold of $197 million in team payroll. Teams that spend more are taxed at a substantial rate depending on how far over the limit they go.
The Yankees, under the guidance of General Manager, Brian Cashman, usually a free-spending team operating with little or no regard for the tax, heeded the edict from principal owner, Hal Steinbrenner, to stop the line from moving. The 2017 General Manager of the Year, did that and still managed to hand over to Aaron Boone, the winning team we see on the field today.
Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox tried and failed to do the same, and according to Boston.com, “Boston’s payroll at the start of the season for purposes of the tax was $233.9 million, which will cause the Red Sox to pay a $9.4 million tax.”
Boston’s problem began the minute the Yankees contacted Derek Jeter, who promptly astounded the baseball world by trading Giancarlo Stanton to the Evil Empire. To the chagrin of Red Sox fans and media, General Manager Dave Dombrowski had no answer to this move, despite a massive campaign that was enlisted to sign free agent J.D. Martinez.
Knowing the signing would put the Red Sox over the threshold, Dombrowski played a waiting and dice game with Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras. Knowing Dombrowski’s eagerness to get everyone off his back, and to plug a hole in the Red Sox lineup that called for another power bat, Dombrowski succumbed, signing Martinez to a five-year $110 million contract.
Martinez, as expected, has been invaluable to Boston this season, and his home run gave his team their sole victory in the recent three-game set at Yankee Stadium. But that’s beside the point.
Both teams have starting pitching issues, and each needs another bonafide major league pitcher to offset current and (probable) future injuries on the staff. The Yankees have lost Jordan Montgomery until the middle of June, and both Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia can only be counted on in a start to start basis.
Boston has their diva, David Price, who’s down with numbness in his pitching hand. Price, who is rapidly building up a resume of discontent, can’t seem to figure out whether playing video games is more important than pitching, causing a missed start against the Yankees this week, refused to talk to reporters about anything and everything.
And there’s the kicker. The Yankees have money in the bank earning interest every day and it will be a delight to see Brian Cashman operating as the trade deadline comes closer in July, or perhaps even closer if teams like the Orioles and Tigers decide to fold their tents before that.
Round it off and call it $20 million. That’s plenty of juice being carried to the table even if pitching is bound to be a commodity sought by many teams. Start with the teams going nowhere this season, and it gets to be fun thinking about the possibilities. The Kansas City Royals could market Ian Kennedy ($16 million) and Danny Duffy ($14 million).
The Detroit Tigers have Michael Fulmer, their best pitcher making the major league minimum, a prize that would net the Yankees the ability to keep the balance of their money. Tampa Bay needs to decide soon if losing with Chris Archer is any different than suffering without him.
And the list goes on and will continue to grow as teams make judgments about the fate of their season and move according to those projections.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are not out of options. They can, if they choose to do so, go all in by adding more to the cap and resulting taxes to compete with the Yankees, just as they did when they signed Martinez. But money, as far as we know, is still not printed in Boston.
Given the high level the Yankees are currently playing at, and even if it were to continue, the team is in a position to cash in on their intelligent stand in saving and not spending, when such attractive pitchers like Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn were on the market.
That $20 million is merely a ripple in the pond of dollars available to the Yankees. And it’s almost assured Hal Steinbrenner will give the go-ahead to spend it. Cashman doesn’t need to buy a Lamborghini; a nice BMW will suit the team’s needs heading into the stretch run in August and September.
Yankees fans, sit back and watch the power of this secret weapon unfold against the Red Sox.