Project 189: The Path to 90 Wins

This marks the third installment of the IIATMS/TYA "Project 189" series after Mike and Brad did an outstanding job over the last two days. I have done my best to follow them up here. The point of this project is to create the best 2014 Yankees roster possible while staying under the $189 million luxury tax. This is assuming that Alex Rodriguez is suspended because there is really no way of the Yankees fielding a competitive team under the luxury tax with him on the payroll. The salary and arbitration numbers being used in these posts are from MLBTR's free agent profiles. Obviously, these numbers may not turn out right in reality, but it is just easier for everybody to work off the same numbers. Also, this is what I would do if I were Yankees GM and not a prediction of what Brian Cashman will do.

25- Man Roster: 

1. C- Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1.000M

2. 1B- Mark Teixeira (8/$180) $22.500M

3. 2B- Robinson Cano (8/$180) $22.500M

4. SS- Derek Jeter (1/$12.81+7M bonuses) $19.810M

5. 3B- Johnny Peralta (3/$36) $12.000M

6. LF- Alfonso Soriano (8/$136) $17.000M

7. CF- Brett Gardner (Arb 3) 4.000M

8. RF- Shin-Soo Choo (6/$100) $16.667M

9. DH- Mike Morse (1/$6) $6.000M

10. SP1- CC Sabathia (5/$122) $24.400M

11. SP2- Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $2.800M

12. SP3- Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56) $9.334M

13. SP4- Paul Maholm (1/$7) $7.000M

14. SP5- Michael Pineda (Min) $.511M

15. BN- Austin Romine (Min) $.511M

16. BN- Brendan Ryan (1/$2) $2.000M

17. BN- Eduardo Nunez (Min) $.511M

18. BN- Ichiro Suzuki ($2/13) $6.500M

19. BP- David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.500M

20. BP- Jesse Crain (1/$3.5) $3.500M

21. BP- Shawn Kelley (Arb 1) $1.500M

22. BP- Cesar Cabral (Min) $.511M

23. BP- Dellin Betances (Min) $.511M

24. BP- David Phelps (Min) $.511M

25 BP- Adam Warren (Min) $.511M

Total: $181.06M

40-Man Roster

26. 3B- David Adams (Min) $.080M

27. 2B- Dean Anna (Min) $.040M

28. C- J.R. Murphy (Min) $.080M

29. OF- Zoilo Almonte (Min) $.080M

30. C- Gary Sanchez (Min) $.040M

31. OF- Slade Heathcott (Min) $.040M

32. OF- Ramon Flores (Min) $.040M

33. LHSP- Manny Banuelos (Min) $.040M

34. LHSP- Nik Turley (Min) $.040M

35. RHSP- Shane Greene (Min) $.040M

36. RHSP- Jose Ramirez (Min) $.040M

37. RHSP- Brett Marshall (Min) $.040M

38. RHSP- Bryan Mitchell (Min) $.040M

39. LHSP- Vidal Nuno (Min) $.080M

40. RHRP- Preston Claiborne (Min) $.080M

Total: $.880M

Final Calculations: 

Total Roster Owed: $181.946

Salary Relief: $13M (From Cubs for Soriano)

Player Benefits: $12M

Cushion for Non-25 Man Players: $3.5M

Current Budget Owed: $184.446

Current Budget Remaining: $4.554M 

The Yankees have a ton of holes heading into this offseason,and it is pretty much impossible to fill all of them staying while under the $189 million budget. If the Yankees had more young players making the minimum that you could count on things would be a lot easier, but most of those guys are question marks. The Yankees will need to make a huge splash in this year's free agent market to field a championship caliber team in 2014, and that might not even be enough.

Losing Curtis Granderson, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and possibly Alex Rodriguez is a ton of production, and the Yankees only finished with an 79-83 Pythagorean record with those players. Those players had a combined 10.4 WAR for the Yankees last season, which would bring that Pythagorean to under 70 wins. Ouch. This probably isn't the winter of 2008 when the Yankees signed the three best free agents and were World Series favorites.

Starting with the offense, the biggest holes are catcher, the outfield and the left side of the infield. The three big players I wanted to include were Brian McCann, Shin-Soo Choo and Johnny Peralta, but I could only afford 2. I let McCann go because I would rather see Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine catch than Eduardo Nunez at third base or Ichiro Suzuki in right field.

I think McCann would be a perfect fit and is one of the best catchers in MLB. His swing would fit Yankee Stadium perfectly, and he would bring good toughness to the team. He would be able to catch for three more seasons before moving over to first when Mark Teixeira is gone and pave the way for Gary Sanchez hopefully. Unfortunately, I had to leave him out.

Bringing back Robinson Cano is an absolute no-brianer decision, despite some ridiculous thoughts by some that the Yankees would be better off reallocating his money elsewhere. There is no way that the Yankees can be competitive without Cano on the roster this year. Considering how durable Cano has been he should be able to age better than a lot of other players. According to FanGraphs, Cano was worth $30 million last year and $34 million in 2012, so the Yankees will probably be getting him at a relative bargain, especially with what seems like a pretty weak market for him.

A huge problem with the Yankees last season was a lack of patience at the plate that used to define them. Choo would help bring that back in a big way with his .423 OBP from last season. Choo could approach 30 home runs with the Yankee Stadium short porch, and his defensive in right field would be a lot better than it was in center field for Cincinnati. His career .243/.340/.381/.680 career slash line against lefties is his only weakness.

Peralta would be a big addition to the left side of the infield, as he can play shortstop or slide over to third. I like him over Stephen Drew because he is cheaper and does not cost a draft pick. Peralta hit .303/.358/.457/.815 with a 123 wRC+ until he got suspended 50 games for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. Peralta has a career 13.9 UZR, so he is also solid with the glove. Teixiera, Cano, Ryan and Peralta would be an elite infield defense.

Mike Morse is a player that I wanted the Yankees to trade for last offseason, and he could be a comeback player this year after a very poor year last year. Even with the down year Morse still has a career .808 OPS and 108 wRC+, so last year could very well have been a fluke with a brutal .254 BABIP. His opposite field power would fit in well with Yankee Stadium, and I think he is worth a shot.

Moving onto the rotation, Cashman has stated that the Yankees need to get 400 innings in free agency, and they do that here by picking up Masahiro Tanaka and Paul Maholm. Tanaka is a no-brianer because the posting fee will not count against the luxury tax, and he is the best pitcher on the market. Signing him for under $10 million a year should be a steal if he is as good as advertised.

I went with Maholm over Scott Kazmir because I just cannot trust Kazmir to stay healthy and the Yankees need innings. Maholm certainly will not light up the radar gun, but he has a spectacular 52% career ground ball rate. That is great for Yankee Stadium and would be great with the solid infield defense. Ryan would have to start all of Maholm's starts for Jeter. He had a career worst 4.41 ERA last season, but he was at 3.67 in 2012 and 3.66 in 2011. Maholm would have to replace Pettitte as the crafty lefty of the rotation.

The bullpen is pretty weak, but the Yankees really cannot afford to go out and spend a lot of money on a closer. A lot of times that does not work out anyways. Robertson should be fine as the closer, and you hope that Crain and Kelley can come close to repeating their career years from last season. Also, there are usually some players that step out of nowhere in the bullpen, so you have to hope that will be the case again.

So, we started at 69 wins, and lets see where we are now with the new players. I will give Choo (5.2 WAR) and Peralta (3.6 WAR) the same WAR's that they had last year. I will project Tanaka at a 4.0 WAR. Maholm and Morse  will not be as bad as they were last year and Crain will not be as good. I will give both Morse and Crain WAR's of 1.0 and Maholm's a 2.0 You also have to consider Mark Teixeira an addition since the Yankees got zero out of first base in his absence. I will give Teixeira his 2012 WAR of 2.7. Also, I will be generous and give CC Sabathia a bounce back season and a 4.0 WAR, after he posted a 2.7 WAR last year.

If you do the math that comes out to 89.8 wins. Obviously, that is a ton of projection and is an inexact science, but it is interesting. If the Yankees can get some luck and outperform their Pythagorean record like they did last year they should be able to make the playoffs. 90 wins could be enough for a wild card spot as it is anyways.

Here is my 2014 Opening Day lineup:

1. Brett Gardner- CF

2. Johnny Peralta- 3B

3. Shin-Soo Choo RF

4. Robinson Cano 2B

5. Mark Teixeira 1B

6. Alfonso Soriano LF

7. Mike Morse DH

8. Derek Jeter SS

9. Francisco Cervelli C