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January 2, 2003

The Daily Prospectus

The Yankees are Out of Control

by Derek Zumsteg

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When we got our new collective bargaining agreement this season, I figured the results would be predictable: dumb teams would remain dumb and squander their new money, smart teams without money would do better, smart teams with lots of money would do a bit worse.

I figured the Yankees might do one of two things. They could tone things down a little. With the free agent winter, they could easily spend much less on the supporting cast and save a lot by not exceeding the salary cap as greatly. It looked like they were headed this way, throwing little fits over hours of elevator operations, making big deals out of little cuts.

Or, they could hire a team of lawyers and kick off an NFL-style capology movement, spending their money around the cap. Renegotiate all the player contracts: Robin Ventura comes back for 2003 at $300,000 and is paid $4,000,000 by the YES network to host a half-hour weekly call-in show. Get team payroll under the cap, get all the revenue off the team books, and go to the league for handouts to demonstrate the stupidity of the system as designed.

What I hadn't considered was that the Yankees might go insane. So far, we've seen:

  • Roger Clemens agrees to a bizarre $8.1 million contract that doesn't actually pay him until 2004: $600,000 in 2004, $700,000 in 2005, $900,000 in 2006, $950,000 in 2006-2012, and $1.1 million in both 2013 and 2014. Clemens was going to get paid $10 million this year as part of his last contract. If he changes his mind and comes back next year, we'll see the Yankees give him a deal to pay him from 2015-2026.

     

  • Signed Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui to a three-year, $21 million deal.

     

  • Signed Cuban starter Jose Contreras to a four-year, $32 million contract.

     

  • Picked up the option on starter Andy Pettitte.

     

  • Re-signed Ventura for one year at $5 million.

     

  • Punted Mike Stanton to sign Chris Hammond.

This gives the Yankees a starting rotation of

Pitcher             Salary vs. cap
Roger Clemens       ~$8-$18.3 million [1]
Mike Mussina        ~$10-$12 million [2]
Andy Pettitte       $11.5 million
Jose Contreras      $8 million
Sterling Hitchcock  $6 million
Jeff Weaver         $4.1 million
David Wells         $3 million
Orlando Hernandez   facing arbitration

[1]: $10.2 deferred + $8.1 present value
[2]: $10 million salary + $12 million signing bonus paid over contract

Low end, the Yankees are going to be on the hook for $45 million just for those jokers.

They've got a nutty outfield, too:

Player              Salary vs. cap
Bernie Williams     $12 million
Hideki Matsui       $7 million
Raul Mondesi        $13 million, of which Toronto pays $6 million
Rondell White       $5 million
Juan Rivera         $1 million

A total of $31 million for the outfield. Huh. The infield?

Player              Salary vs. cap
Derek Jeter         $16 million [3]
Jason Giambi        $11.8 million [4]
Jorge Posada        $8 million [5]
Robin Ventura       $5 million
Todd Zeile          $1.5 million
Enrique Wilson      unknown, $1 million
Chris Widger        $800,000
Alfonso Soriano     $1
Nick Johnson        $1

[3]: $14 million + $16 million signing bonus paid over 8 years
[4]: $9 million + $17 million signing bonus paid over 6 years
[5]: $5 million + $15 million signing bonus paid over 5 years

A total of $44 million for the infield. Boy, that Jeter contract... he's going to get $21 million in 2010 at which time, if current trends continue, he'll be hitting like Greg Vaughn while fielding like Mo Vaughn.

To make the kind of comparisons you're going to see soon, the Yankees have two units that make more than six teams had in 2002 Opening Day payroll.

Now, we're likely to see some of this salary moved. The Yankees will probably be willing to pick up a good portion of Sterling Hitchcock's contract to see him play elsewhere, but there's also talk the Yankees may still make the Nick Johnson-for-Bartolo Colon trade, which would hike that payroll even higher.

The Yankees have come to an entirely different conclusion than anyone expected. They've decided that two years without a World Series title is two too many, and the cost for exceeding the payroll cap is much less than the potential profits to be made by investing heavily in their product, trying to catch the Dodgers and Mariners in Pacific Rim exposure, and bringing another cool trophy with all the little flags home to the Bronx.

I'm all for it. I love a diversity of approach. The Mariners want to spend $80 million to be competitive, the A's want to spend $45 million to win it all, the Royals want to spend $50 million to spin their wheels. It's going to be a weird, wild season.

Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

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