If the Yankees are to make a move this week at the GM meetings, it could be to clear some money off their payroll. This could be a major move (Curtis Granderson) or less so, like a Phil Hughes or a Joba Chamberlain, who are free agents next year.
My colleague, Wallace Matthews, may be right that this week will be much ado about nothing, but if Brian Cashman wants to make his decision-making easier he needs to find some payroll flexibility.
The issue with the $189M goal for 2014 is that it would seem to hamper any moves for a guy like Russell Martin. The Yankees, under Hal's orders, are operating more by NFL or NBA rules than the more open-market MLB CBA.
Every million you offer Martin is one that can't go to Robinson Cano, a free agent next year, or to the outfielder who will replace Nick Swisher. So if I were Cashman, working under these constraints, I would want to create some room for myself to operate.
The Yankees will already save $13 million if Rafael Soriano does not come back. With Swisher not returning, the Yankees can bank $10.25M. But the money that flows back in is not definitively flowing back out.
So, let's say, by way of example, if you were to trade Granderson, suddenly you would open up another $15 million to play with. Now, you also would be giving up 43 homers and, despite his struggles connecting bat with ball, Granderson is certainly an asset.
Let's say you wanted to sign Torii Hunter. That will probably take at least a two-year, $24 million deal. You could also sign Ichiro Suzuki for, let's say, two years and $12M. So, going into '14, you would have two-thirds of your outfield covered for $18 million with their contracts set to expire at the end of the year.
(Note: In '15, the Yankees should be free to spend crazily again, if they want, because if they hit $189M they will reset their luxury tax number for future years. Plus, presumably, you will receive young assets for Granderson. You will also buy two years for Mason Williams and Tyler Austin to develop.)
For '13, you could move Brett Gardner to center and have him flanked by Hunter and Ichiro. You are better defensively, at the least. If you don't trade Granderson, then you run the risk of just losing him next year for a first round pick.
The Granderson proposal is just a for-instance. There are a million ways Cashman could create payroll flexibility. That could be Cashman's first step in restructuring this team and this payroll. It could start this week.