Yankees Aiming Lower on the Payroll, but Higher on the Field


The Yankees, who had a $209 million payroll last season, have a number of big contracts coming off the books: those of C. C. Sabathia ($25 million), Alex Rodriguez ($21 million), Matt Holliday ($13 million) and Michael Pineda ($7.4 million). But don’t expect that to lead to the type of binge that ensued four years ago, when the Yankees let Robinson Cano leave for Seattle only to go on a nearly $450 million free-agent bender that brought in Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka.

Because baseball’s collective bargaining agreement delivers harsher penalties with each consecutive year a team exceeds the luxury tax threshold, getting below it would allow the Yankees to hit the reset button and put them in a position to spend freely next year, when there may be a bountiful free-agent class that includes Bryce Harper.

Still, with the Yankees valued this year by Forbes at $3.4 billion — nearly three times what the Marlins recently sold for — there is a case to be made that even luxury tax penalties as high as 90 cents on the dollar would be like nickels under the sofa cushions.

The Yankees drew praise for their business acumen from the agent Scott Boras, who held court as he ritually does at the general managers’ meetings. He lauded them for adding billions to their franchise value and more than doubling revenues over the last decade or so.

Alas, he wondered, why, amid such spectacular growth, would the Yankees’ payroll dip to what could be its lowest point since 2004?

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Scott Boras, center, talking to reporters at baseball’s general managers’ meetings in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday.

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John Raoux/Associated Press

“The fact that their payroll is going to be under what it was 10 or 15 years ago is something that everyone in the game has to look at and consider as to what are their goals,” Boras said. “What’s their principle? Again, we all know, when you have a choice, what do you do with your success? What do you do with the greatness of your business operation? And how do you reward the fans that allowed that to happen?”

When the gist of Boras’s comments was relayed to Steinbrenner, he smiled.

“I can see Scott saying that,” he said.

Of course, what Boras wants is both New York teams stepping into the market each winter with checkbooks open. It would be particularly nice this year, since he is representing outfielder J.D. Martinez, pitcher Jake Arrieta, third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer on the open market. (It wouldn’t hurt next year, either, when he has Harper.)

And so Boras also took a turn goading the Mets after General Manager Sandy Alderson said the club’s payroll, which was a franchise-record $155 million on opening day, would probably be coming down. While the Yankees could use a pitcher like Arrieta in the rotation, the Mets need a first baseman and a third baseman.

Boras, who had chided the Mets for shopping in the fruits-and-nuts section of the free-agent supermarket — and not for beef — said on Wednesday that it was up to the Mets to decide what neighborhood they wanted to live in.

“The team that is cutting payroll is providing their family less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They don’t have the resources. They are not living in the gated community of Playoffville.”

He added: “The Mets have all the materials to live in a palatial estate of Playoffville. The question is, When do they choose to begin construction?”

O.K. WITH GIRARDI’S OUSTER Hal Steinbrenner, who spoke on Wednesday for the first time since Joe Girardi was let go as the Yankees’ manager, said he did not have to be persuaded by General Manager Brian Cashman to make the change.

“I wasn’t following the recommendation,” he said. “I agreed with it.”

M.L.B. HOPES FOR JAPAN DEAL Major League Baseball is hoping to have a new posting agreement in place with the Japan league by early December, which would pave the way for Shohei Otani, who pitches and plays the outfield, to come to the United States, according to M.L.B.’s chief legal officer, Dan Halem.

There were several other items discussed at the general managers’ meetings. General managers will be responsible for electronic devices staying out of dugouts, an issue that came up when the Yankees reported the Boston Red Sox’s use of an electronic device to steal signs.

Pitcher timers and restrictions on mound visits are being considered as ways to eliminate dead time during games, and M.L.B. will review its testing procedures on baseballs after complaints by pitchers during the World Series that the baseballs were slicker than normal.

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