New York Yankees Analysis: What could happen if Steinbrenner opens up the purse strings?

trevor bauer, New York Yankees
Sep 23, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (27) throws against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Today let’s take a look at a New York Yankee fan’s dreamworld where Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman decide they see a great opportunity to reach the World Series now that their greatest opposition, the Tampa Bay Rays seem not to be as strong a team now that pitcher Chalie Morton has walked to the Atlanta Braves and their ace Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres. Please make no mistake about it that the Rays are a smart team and will still be a potent opponent, so the Yankees will have to have a very talented team in the 2021 season to take advantage of the opportunity that lies ahead.

In this scenario, the New York Yankees sign DJ LeMahieu and cave to his demands for a five-year contract. Assuming they do that, they then have to address the starting pitching. In this scenario, we suggest that Steinbrenner will allow a payroll similar to the Yankees 2020 level, going over the luxury tax threshold.

The Yankees have a base salary on the books at about $133 million. Should they spend to 2020 levels, it gives them just over $100 million to spend, less LeMahieu’s signing leaves them $75-80 million to spend.

The New York Yankees starting pitching situation is not quite as dire as some assume it is. They have leading the rotation, ace Gerrit Cole, they have the returning Domingo German, 2019’s best Yankee pitcher, and before a mid-season, Luis Severino’s return who’s 2017 2018 record was 33-14. Besides those three, they could bring back Masahiro Tanaka and let the promising young up and coming pitchers to fight it out for the fifth spot on the rotation. The only problem with this look is that German, after not pitching for a year, has been beaten up in Winter ball, and the Yankees have no way of knowing how Severino will pitch after not pitching for two years.

Under this scenario, the Yankees will not take a chance and hire a true number two pitcher in Trevor Bauer. A Cole/Bauer one-two would be devastating to opponents. The Yankees would also re-sign Masahiro Tanaka.  The Yankees have questions in the bullpen; they have the undependable relief of Adam Ottavino and losing Tommy Kahnle to the Dodgers. To correct this, the Yankees will hire Liam Hendriks and Aaron Loop. Hendriks had the best ERA out of the bullpen last season, and Loop will provide a left-hand mix and match reliever. The Yankees will also stop depending on Aroldis Chapman as their closer considering he has given up the winning run in the postseason in the past two years. Instead, they will look at the lineup ahead and choose either Chapman or Britton using analytics.

The Yankees will hire Andrelton Simmons as their new shortstop replacing the deficient Gleyber Torres and allowing him to go back to second base, his normal position. That will put the Yankees to use the returning DJ LeMahieu just as the Dodgers would have should they be able to sign him, as a player that will play all infield positions and DH to keep him in the everyday lineup. He will also provide across the board insurance in case of injuries.

The Yankees will sign Yadier Molina to alternate with Gary Sanchez as the everyday catcher. Kyle Higashio will be the backup catcher and the personal catcher of ace Gerrit Cole. Molina will provide a veteran presence that may aid Sanchez in his long term development.

With all of these changes, the New York Yankees will be hard to beat and have the best chance since 2009, the last time they won a World Series. If there is a year to spend, this is it. The “Baby Boomers” are aging, and this may be their last chance to take advantage of their talents if the Yankees choose to do nothing. Okay, so what will all these mentioned changes cost the Yankees? $233 million, seven million than last year.

Here’s the breakdown: Base salary $133 million, DJ LeMahieu ($25M), Trevor Bauer ($25M), Masahiro Tanaka ($12M), Andrelton Simmons ($12M), Yadier Molina ($10M), arbitration ($10M), Hendriks ($5M), and Loup ($1M). Of course, these figures are not exact but are in line with probable amounts these players can expect, and the Yankees still have $7 million in wiggle room and still stay below last year’s payroll. They could also still sign Brett Gardner for outfield insurance. The only serious question here is if they can sign Bauer on a one-year contract after announcing he is looking for a long-term deal, something the Yankees will not commit to. It is possible the Yankees could work out an inflated one year deal like the $25 million mentioned to allow him to wait for a better deal after 2021. With a team built like this one, he might think getting a World Series ring is worth the deal.

The bottom line is that it is not likely any of this will happen even though the New York Yankees have the financial wherewithal to accomplish all of these deals. I previously wrote an article stating why this is the year for the Yankees to spend. You can find that article here.

EmpireSportsMedia, com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.