Some people still revel in the failings of the Evil Empire. Anytime a piece of bad news comes out and the Yankees' name is stamped in the headline, there are fans who simply rejoice. They can't help it. These fans aren't rooting for people to get injured, they are rooting for the Yankees to stumble. It's been that way for years, but the Yankees always manage to bounce back. This time, though, New York may not be able to recover.
In the past, the Yankees would throw as much money as it took at a problem and would simply hope it went away. This was a strategy that only they could pull off and had worked for years. Heck, the Yankees have made it to the postseason 17 out of the last 18 years. In that run, they've won five World Series rings. That's impressive, but the spending never stopped. Until now.
Under Hal Steinbrener, the Yankees are content with running their club just under the luxury tax cap. That means New York has had to find ways to reduce payroll going forward. It will take them a couple years to get there by most accounts, but the goal is to operate under the $178 million (soon to be $189 million) luxury tax ceiling. Unfortunately, the team's past decisions have now put them in a position where they are paying astronomical salaries to players who may not be able to contribute.
Players like Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Phil Hughes, and more have suffered injuries this spring. Those four players will not be ready coming Opening Day, and the Yankees lose money with every inning that goes by and they're on the bench. Under usual Yankee circumstances, the team would go out and make a trade for the best player they could get at each position. If there were a good free agent left on the market, New York would throw gobs of cash at that player and bring him on board. Now, they can't do that - or rather they don't want to do that.
The club is rebuilding its farm system, so trades for even lower priced players are unreasonable. New York would have to give up a solid young prospect to make a trade to fill any of the four positions left vacant by the injuries mentioned above. They can't and won't do that. The Yankees can't go out and spend a ton of money on free agents either. Their Opening Day payroll is expected to be around $210 million this year, so they've got some work to do there. They can't simply add to that payroll and bring in a free agent.
It's a predicament to say the least. But it's a predicament the club has forced itself into. Large contracts can help win games if given to the right players, but if injuries creep up and cause the plan to back-fire, there's no real contingency plan. In truth, there's no real contingency plan for spending aside from more spending. Based on the estimated time A-Rod, Granderson, Teiexeira, and Hughes are expected to miss, let's take a look at how money money will be lost to the DL just in those players:
A-Rod ($29 million 2013 salary - out through the All-Star Break): $15.22 million
We don't know for sure when Rodriguez will be back, but if it is through the All-Star break, we're talking roughly 85 games. If we say that his $29 million salary is spread out evenly over the course of a 162-game season, A-Rod will sit on the bench and cost the Yankees $15.22 million.
Granderson ($15 million 2013 salary - out until May): $2.68 million
Curtis Granderson is expected to be out 10 weeks. He should return in early May. Obviously an exact date is impossible to pinpoint, so we will just pick one; May 3rd. If Granderson returns by May 3rd, he will have missed 29 of the team's games. That breaks down to $2.68 million lost.
Teixeira ($23.125 million 2013 salary - out 8-10 weeks): $5.4 million
Teixiera should return around the same time as Curtis Granderson. Since his injury happened about a week and a half after Granderson's, we'll add a week and a half to Granderson's projected return date to pick Teixeira's. That comes to May 14th and 38 games missed.
Hughes ($7.15 million 2013 salary - out two weeks): $264,815
Phil Hughes has the shortest recovery time. He is expected to return soon, but there is no guarantee the Yankees' pitcher will be ready for Opening Day. On the less than conservative side, we'll say he misses the first week of the season. That's six games.
Add it all up, and the Yankees are wasting over $23.5 million in payroll on just four injured players. They've painted themselves into a corner that no amount of money can help them out of. At this point, the Yankees have to simply wait for their injured players to come back. They can look at internal options for replacements, but trades and high-priced free agent signings are unlikely.
That's the cost of winning at all costs.
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