Project 189: Hot Hot Heat

In crafting my ideal Yankees team within the constraints of the $189 MM budget, I found myself bouncing back and forth between large improvements at a few spots on the roster (e.g., signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Garza), and incremental upgrades around the edges. Or, phrased differently, "stars and scrubs" versus "a team without flaws." In looking at the teams that made the playoffs this season, and remembering how awful it felt to watch Jayson Nix bat at the top of the lineup, I ended up favoring the latter approach. That being said, I do think that there are merits with both methods of team-building ... and I recognize that I am all but ignoring a large swath of gray area. Now, without further ado, let's dive right in.

25-Man Roster

01 - C: Brian McCann (5/$85MM) $17.000MM 02 - 1B: Mark Teixeira (8/$180MM) $22.500MM 03 - 2B: Robinson Cano (8/$180MM) $22.500MM 04 - 3B: Omar Infante (3/$25MM) $8.333MM 05 - SS: Brendan Ryan (1/$2MM) $2.000MM 06 - LF: Alfonso Soriano (8/$136MM) $17.000MM 07 - CF: Brett Gardner (Arb 3) $4.000MM 08 - RF: Curtis Granderson (3/$45MM) $15.000MM 09 - DH: Derek Jeter (1/$12.81MM) $12.810MM + $7.000MM Bonuses 10 - BN: Ichiro Suzuki (2/$13MM) $6.500MM 11 - BN: Eduardo Nunez (Min) $0.511MM 12 - BN: Vernon Wells (7/$126MM) $18.000MM 13 - BN: Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1.000MM 14 - SP1: CC Sabathia (5/$122MM) $24.400MM 15 - SP2: Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $2.800MM 16 - SP3: Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM) $9.333MM 17 - SP4: Paul Maholm (1/$7MM) $7.000MM 18 - SP5: David Phelps (Min) $0.511MM 19 - CL: David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.500MM 20 - RHRP: Shawn Kelley (Arb 2) $1.500MM 21 - RHRP: Preston Claiborne (Min) $0.511MM 22 - RHRP: Dellin Betances (Min) $0.511MM 23 - RHRP: Adam Warren (Min) $0.511MM 24 - LHRP: Vidal Nuno (Min) $0.511MM 25 - LHRP: Cesar Cabral (Min) $0.511MM

Total - $200.753MM

40-Man Roster

26 - LHP: Manny Banuelos (Min) $0.040MM 27 - LHP: Nik Turley (Min) $0.040MM 28 - LHP: David Huff (Min) $0.040MM 29 - RHP: Brett Marshall (Min) $0.040MM 30 - RHP: Jose Ramirez (Min) $0.040MM 31 - RHP: Chase Whitley (Min) $0.040MM 32 - RHP: Tommy Kahnle (Min) $0.040MM 33 - RHP: Danny Burawa (Min) $0.040MM 34 - C: Gary Sanchez (Min) $0.040MM 35 - C: Austin Romine (Min) $0.080MM 36 - C: J.R. Murphy (Min) $0.080MM 37 - IF: Corban Joseph (Min) $0.080MM 38 - OF: Zoilo Almonte (Min) $0.080MM 39 - OF: Ramon Flores (Min) $0.040MM 40 - OF: Slade Heathcott (Min) $0.040MM

Total - $0.760MM

Final Calculations Total Roster Owed - $201.513MM Salary Relief - $13MM (From Cubs for Soriano), $18MM (From Angels for Wells) Player Benefits - $12MM Cushion For Non-25-Man Players - $3.5MM

Current Budget Owed - $186.013MM Current Budget Remaining - $2.987MM

A few quick notes:

  1. My final calculations do not include the $7MM bonus for Derek Jeter.
  2. I initially had the Yankees signing Josh Johnson, to fill a high-risk, high-reward role in the rotation. His profile - power pitcher with groundball tendencies - and upside is right in-line with the type of financial gamble I feel that the Yankees should take every year. However, between my preparing this roster and creating this post, Johnson signed with the Padres. As such, I felt it would be prudent to remove him.
  3. Going forward, I will not be removing players from my roster if they sign elsewhere. In my mind, the idea of this project means that the actions or non-actions of the Yankees are largely irrelevant.

In my original draft, I did not have the Yankees signing McCann, largely for the reasons laid out by Mr. Brad Vietrogoski this morning. That being said, he is undeniably a huge upgrade over the Lovecraftian horror show that the Yankees trotted out behind the plate last season, and I am quite confident that he will be well worth his salary for at least three seasons. I am intrigued to see if this is a form of foreshadowing, as a either precursor to the Yankees either blowing past the $189 MM mandate or a show of confidence regarding Rodriguez's suspension. Hopefully, we will know the answer to this sooner rather than later.

Infante is a decidedly un-sexy option. His 102 wRC+ over the last four seasons and steady yet unspectacular defense at three positions cry "average." Just by being average, however, Infante represents a tremendous upgrade over what the Yankees trotted out to third base last season. Moreover, his positional flexibility would allow him to shift over to shortstop or second in a pinch, with a bat strong enough to give the team strong overall production at each stop.

As was the case with Michael's installment, this infield has very strong defense - a must for the rotation that I am planning on sending to the mound.

Re-signing Cano and Granderson gives the Yankees the power production that the team lacked for much of last season, and helps to balance the lack of oomph from the left side of the infield. I have confidence in Granderson rebounding to his 2010 through 2012 levels, and I believe that that is more than adequate for the team's needs. Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, or Ellsbury might be better than Granderson, but I am hesitant to surrender a draft pick and a bit more payroll for a non-guaranteed upgrade.

Draft picks were a paramount concern of mine in creating this team. The issue with the new version of the draft isn't just "how valuable is the 'x' pick." It's "how valuable is the 'x' pick, and how much value is lost down the line when the team's draft budget is severely slashed." Last year, the Dodgers had the 18th overall selection - the Yankees slot this coming June. The slot value for that pick was $2,109,900, and their total pool was $5,211,700 (an average of $521,170 per player) - meaning losing that pick would cost the team over 40% of its total draft budget. Their second round pick was slotted at $986,500, meaning that the loss of both would have left them with $2,115,300 for their round three through ten selections (and little wiggle room thereafter).

This is the reality the Yankees would face if they added Choo or Beltran to the team, on the heels of signing McCann. They would recoup some of that if and when Granderson signed elsewhere - the top compensation pick was slotted at $1,785,300 last season. If they had received that pick, their pool would've jumped to $3,900,600 (accounting for the loss of the first and second round picks). That would leave them with an average of $433,400 per player. That's a significant drop-off - particularly for a team that went over the $100,000 limit for several post-round ten selections a year ago.

Tanaka is the wild card in this entire equation, as he is the one name on the market that I would love to see the Yankees go all-in for ... and we aren't even sure if he will be posted this off-season. Regardless, I see Tanaka as a genuine asset - a young, reasonably priced pitcher that could step in as a mid-rotation starter. Given the unfortunate realities of the team's pitching staff, Tanaka may well be able to step in as the best or second-best starter in the rotation. I don't think that that's a package the team can afford to pass up.

Maholm, like Infante, is a bland name. He has never been much more than an average pitcher, and he is coming off of a season with a few injury questions. For all of that, he might be one of the five or six best pitchers left on the free agent market. Maholm limits walks, and garners groundballs at a well above-average rate (52.1% for his career). He also has the added benefit of being a left-handed pitcher, with a good track record of suppressing left-handed power. It would be foolish to expect him to be anything more than a capable fourth starter - but, in this case, that's all the Yankees would need. My heart begged me to include Roy Halladay, yet the brain would not allow that sort of uncertainty. Of course, that is a hypocritical stance, given my previous reference to Josh Johnson ... but I digress.

The offense, then, would look something like this:

  1. Gardner
  2. Jeter
  3. Cano
  4. Teixeira
  5. McCann
  6. Soriano
  7. Granderson
  8. Infante
  9. Ryan

Infante adds an element of contact that the Yankees have missed in the past, and he can fit in near the top of the lineup, as well. The healthy returns of Teixeira and Granderson give the Yankees five legitimate threats to hit 25-plus home runs (along with Cano, McCann, and Soriano). Cervelli would see the bulk of plate appearances against LHP, and Granderson will be spelled by Wells occasionally, as well. With a bit of salary maneuvering, I would like to see Rajai Davis on the bench in place of Wells and/or Suzuki. Such machinations would likely require a jettisoning of dead weight that is, frankly, very unlikely to happen.

I am quite comfortable with the team filling the bullpen from within. I have confidence in the Yankees ability to develop relievers, and the team has no shortage of power arms in the upper minors - as well as a bevy of starting pitchers that may not have the potential to start in the Majors. And, as was the case with Shawn Kelley less than a year ago, productive relievers tend to pop-up up on the waiver wire with some regularity.

Does this make the Yankees into a playoff team? I am not quite sure. I think the offense is very strong, with only one real weakness. The defense should be very strong at every position, and is constructed in such a way that would greatly benefit the pitching staff ... and that's the rub. The rotation is built on a shaky foundation, and the free agent market does not offer anything that comes close to a saving grace. While I am confident that Sabathia will bounce back, nothing is certain. With a bit of luck, however, perhaps a Michael Pineda or Manny Banuelos sighting will be in the cards.

Truth be told, with the logical hurdles that I came across in constructing this team, we may well be discussing bandaging a gaping wound when full-blown surgery is required.