After the Yankees worked to get under the luxury tax limit last offseason, many New York fans expected a classic Bronx Bombers spending spree this winter, particularly with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in the free agent market. While that type of splurge hasn’t happened, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner rejected criticism that his team hasn’t been willing to spend. “I mean, we’re well above $200 million [in payroll] — we’re at $220 [million] right now — and we’re well above where we were last year,” Steinbrenner told ESPN News Services and other outlets. (Roster Resource projects the Yankees’ at a little under $203MM in dollars, though at just over $217MM in terms of luxury tax value.)
“I think we’ve definitely got a better club Opening Day than we did opening day last year, particularly in pitching, which is my biggest area of concern,” Steinbrenner said. In regards to the argument that the Yankees’ enormous revenues should necessitate a league-high payroll, Steinbrenner also pointed to the team’s high costs, as well as future money that is being earmarked to retain members of its young core. That said, Steinbrenner also didn’t rule out the possibility of more notable additions: “I’m never done until I’m done, and that’s usually not until Opening Day. Proposals come to me every day with these guys, between the analytics guys and the pro scouting guys, and I’m going to consider every single one of them.”
Here’s more from around the AL East…
- The Blue Jays have shown interest in veteran reliever Sergio Romo, Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted earlier this week. Romo is close to signing a new contract, as per Heyman’s earlier reports, though the mystery team may not necessarily be Toronto, as multiple clubs have been engaged in pursuit of the right-hander. Romo, who turns 36 next month, posted a 4.14 ERA, 3.75 K/BB rate, and 10.0 K/9 over 67 1/3 innings for Tampa Bay last season, which included 25 saves and five “starts” as the Rays’ opener. It isn’t out of the question that the Jays could also look to deploy Romo as an opener, given the number of young arms in Toronto’s starting mix as well as the veterans (Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Clayton Richard, Matt Shoemaker) who carry some injury-related question marks. It’s probably more likely, however, that the Jays see Romo as an experienced bullpen addition, in the same vein as their signings of Seunghwan Oh, J.P. Howell, and Joe Smith in the last two offseasons. By that same ilk, Romo could also become a trade chip for Toronto by midseason.
- The Rays are on the verge of a new TV contract that should be finalized sometime during the 2019 season, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The team’s last deal with Fox Sports Sun expired at the end of last season, and the two sides have agreed to “basically…a placeholder deal” for the coming year while the new contract is completed. Some notable obstacles remain, however, such as the exact length of the deal, as well as bigger-picture issues as the sale of Fox Sports Sun and other regional Fox cable networks, plus how the threat of the Rays leaving the Tampa/St. Petersburg area could impact the contract. “There still things in flux,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said, though “It’s going to happen. There’s a structure of a deal.” Exact figures of the new contract aren’t likely to be revealed, though Sternberg estimates the Rays will rank around 20th of the 30 teams in terms of TV revenue — the previous contract paid the Rays around $30MM per season, ranking them near the bottom of the league. Previous reports indicated that the Rays would earn $82MM per year on the next contract, though Sternberg says the actual total is “well, well, well under” that figure, and some of the expected increase has already gone into player payroll. “Much of the reason we’ve spent all that we have is because we knew we had some more revenue (coming) off of TV. Unfortunately [the contract is] going to fall reasonably short of what we anticipated four years ago,” Sternberg said.
- Under GM Mike Elias, the revamped Orioles’ front office has taken a big step towards modern statistical analysis, though some seeds towards this direction were planted last summer before Elias was hired. As Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun notes, several young pitchers acquired by the O’s last summer were obtained from teams (such as the Dodgers, Braves, and Yankees) that have already embraced analytics, leaving the prospects already well-versed in modern data and eager to learn more. “I’m big into the new analytics and stuff like that, so I like to see the data that I produce, I guess, with how my pitches play off each other,” said right-hander Dean Kremer, one of the youngsters Baltimore acquired from Los Angeles in the Manny Machado trade in July.