NEW YORK -- While all the talk to begin the offseason is about the New York Yankees' stated desire to cut the yearly payroll to $189 million, the front office is devising a plan that could have the team going on a $300 million shopping spree, sources have told ESPNNewYork.com.
The Yankees will begin their organization meetings Monday where they will settle on a strategy that they believe can cut payroll to $189 million while spending big on free agents.
The Yankees' initial main targets are expected to include their own Robinson Cano, Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, according to sources.
The possible outlay of $300 million or more in total salary is similar to the number commonly associated with the winter of 2008-09, when the Yankees spent $423 million on CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett over the lives of their multiyear contracts.
The Yankees think they can add at least two top free agents this winter and remain under team owner Hal Steinbrenner's goal of reducing total salaries to less than $189 million. Steinbrenner has said he would like to reduce the team's luxury tax and revenue sharing numbers so that he can reinvest the money instead of paying out to smaller markets.
Here's how they can do it:
• A source said the Yankees are shedding around $85 million to $90 million in payroll from their 2013 numbers, which includes the salaries of retiring players Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte as well as Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Curtis Granderson becoming free agents. The Yankees have a strong interest in Kuroda returning and would be amenable to Granderson if he took the one-year qualifying offer.
• Derek Jeter has a player option that he can pick up that will drop his salary from $17 million to $9.5 million.
• Outfielders Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano will be paid nearly $44 million next season but only a fraction of it will be paid by the Yankees because of trade agreements with the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago Cubs, respectively.
• If Alex Rodriguez's suspension is upheld, the Yankees would not be charged with the up-to-$31 million that he's due next season. Rodriguez's contract calls for $25 million, but can add an extra $6 million if he hits six more homers and ties Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list with 660. The bonus would count toward the luxury tax.
The offseason spending begins with Cano. The Yankees want to retain him and know the bidding could exceed $190 million. If it does and they keep Cano, they will be two-thirds of the way to the $300 million mark.
The estimated amount of Cano's salary for 2014 would be in the $20-25 million range, which the Yankees believe would fall within the $189 million in total of salaries for next season.
Tanaka, a 24-year-old right-hander, would then become a key component of the Yankees' offseason plan, sources said. The team is expected to make a "strong bid," according to one official with knowledge of the team's thinking.
Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season, is expected to be posted this winter for major league teams to bid on. If the Yankees win the bidding -- which could be higher than Yu Darvish's $51.7 million -- the Yankees would then hope to sign Tanaka for close to the same deal that Darvish received from the Texas Rangers (six years, $10 million per season).
While it would almost definitely cost the Yankees more than $100 million in total money, the posting fee doesn't count against the Yankees' salaries. So, in effect, the Yankees could replace Pettitte's $12 million salary with Tanaka's estimated $10 million for the sake of luxury tax.
A source said the Yankees realize that Tanaka would also demonstrate Steinbrenner's stated goal to reinvest the savings from falling beneath the $189 million threshold.
While Cano and Tanaka appear to be the Yankees' top two targets, they also have interest in McCann and Beltran, among others. McCann is the top catcher on the market and could land a deal in the range of five years and $75 million. A general manager told ESPNNewYork.com that he could see McCann receiving a contract for six years and $100 million because of his ability to transition to first base at the end of the deal.
Beltran, who will be 37 at the start of next season, is completing a two-year, $26 million contract with St. Louis. Before he signed his seven-year, $118 million contract with the New York Mets in 2005, Beltran offered to take less money to go to the Bronx. The Yankees declined. Now, depending on how the offseason unfolds, he will be on their radar.