Now that the MLB Players Association and owners have agreed to the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement, the Yankees have a better understanding of how to proceed in free agency.
The biggest unknown for the Yankees headed into this offseason was getting a read on what the terms of the new luxury tax threshold would be moving forward. For the past few years, it has been owner Hal Steinbrenner’s sole mission to get his organization under $189M, therefore protecting his bottom line.
Now that we know the new tax threshold will begin around $195M and rise to $210M-$215M over the life of the new 5-year CBA, the Yankees have a firm understanding of just how much they can allocate in spending before facing any fines.
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Steinbrenner was already well on his way to achieving his master plan when the club dealt Brian McCann and his $11M per season through 2018 to the Astros last week. As of right now, the Yankees still have over $136M invested in seven players on the roster — not including Alex Rodriguez‘s final $21M. The club also has seven arbitration-eligible players to contend with.
Up until now, the free agency landscape has been convoluted with rumors galore — while the only massive contract signed was Yoenis Cespedes to the cross-town rival Mets. I honestly believe had the Yankees known about the final terms of the new CBA (which benefits them mightily), that they still would have stayed away from giving Cespedes a contract that averages $27.5M per season.
We’ve all heard that the Yankees have checked in, or made some kind of contact with just about every worthwhile free agent there is — which is interesting because in my estimation that’s only about a dozen or so names. Thankfully, Brian Cashman and his trusty budget can now drop the charade of impressing each suitor with a treasure trove of possibility and instead, focus on the handful of guys that will actually benefit this team in 2017 and beyond.
The Yankees are one of four teams still currently over the luxury tax threshold (Tigers, Red Sox, and Dodgers being the others) — and while this won’t likely change until 2018 (when $46M is wiped clean from the slate), at the very least, the Yanks now know that this time next year, should they be interested in signing a free agent or two (who turned down the qualifying offer), that it won’t ever again cost them a 1st round draft pick in return.
For clubs over the threshold, it will entail surrendering a 2nd and a 5th pick — while those under the tax line will only lose a 3rd round choice. I think we can all agree this is a fair business practice.
As for adding a 26th man to the roster — which manager Joe Girardi would have certainly used on a reliever (since he made the most pitching changes in 2016), this was vetoed — as was the proposal of doing away with September’s roster expansion of 40 players. I personally enjoy seeing what the farm system has to offer during the final full month of the season, especially for those clubs who have long since been eliminated from Postseason contention.
A major bonus to the Yankees and their recently impressive scouting system was that the much-talked about international draft option was rebuked as well. For an organization that gave the likes of Gary Sanchez a $3M bonus at the tender age of 16, this exclusion will allow them to continue to sign the best prospects that Central and South America have to offer.
The only downfall to the international player pool is that there will indeed be some kind of cap (TBD). One would speculate that it is likely to be higher than its current standing of $300,000 — which the Yankees surpassed mightily in 2014.
The final bit of good news for everyone involved in MLB is that each season will now start midweek, which will inevitably create 4-5 more off days. It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but until baseball significantly decreases the amount of games played as to lessen the severity of injuries and quality of bad ball played, this is at least a start in the right direction.