Count Michael Weiner among those skeptical of the New York Yankees’ stated plan to reduce payroll next year.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner says the team wants to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014. That means the player payroll would have to be about $178 million at most, using average annual values of contracts, since the total for the tax will include at least $11 million in benefits such as the pension plan.
”I can’t say it concerns me,” the players’ association head said Wednesday after meeting with Yankees players during his tour of the 30 spring training camps. ”I imagine that Mr. Steinbrenner is sincere when he says that, but like a lot of things, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
New York has paid $224.6 million in luxury tax since the current system began in 2003, including $19.3 million for 2012. The Yankees have been baseball’s highest-spender for 14 consecutive years but could lose that spot to the Los Angeles Dodgers this season.
Under baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, the Yankees paid tax at a 42.5 percent rate above the $178 million threshold last year and will pay at a 50 percent rate this season. If they drop under the threshold in 2014, their rate would drop to 17.5 percent for 2015.
Detroit’s Justin Verlander and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw are eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, and Tampa Bay’s David Price after the 2015 season. Verlander and Kershaw could sign new deals before going free, but it is appears less likely the low-budget Rays could afford a long-term deal with Price, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.
”We knew when we negotiated the last Basic Agreement that there were certain incentives build in for the Yankees to drop their payroll,” Weiner said. ”If the Yankees decide to drop their payroll to do that, I’m not concerned because they’re dropping their payroll to put themselves in position to greatly increase their payroll the next year, and that incentive was understood.”
Weiner also talked about Biogenesis of America LLC, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Cables, Fla., that has been accused in media reports of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs to athletes. Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees are among those athletes implicated in media reports; both have denied wrongdoing.
”I believe that members of our staff have met, at this point, with those players,” Weiner said. ”Our interest in finding out if anything happened down in Miami is just as keen as the interest of the commissioner’s office.”
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said the players’ union will continue to explore every option for a clean game.
”This is, what can we do to make it better,” Teixeira said. ”Guys are on the same page, generally speaking. It’s not going to go away, but we just have to, in our minds, know that we’re doing everything possible.”
Weiner succeeded Donald Fehr as union head in 2009, and this tour is his first of spring training since announcing in August he is being treated for a brain tumor. Weiner says he has been energized by meeting with the players.
”It’s great to see him,” Teixeira said. ”When you see him, that really put smiles on our faces because he didn’t skip the beat.”