At the recent owners’ meeting, Yankees boss Hal Steinbrenner chatted about the summer trade period, as David Lennon of Newsday was among those to report. Unsurprisingly, Steinbrenner made clear he expects starting pitching to be the focus for the Yanks now that slugger Edwin Encarnacion is in the fold. But his most interesting comments were related to the team’s financial approach.
Notably, the top organizational decisionmaker expressed some willingness to consider deals that’d put the team into a higher luxury tax bracket. Estimates put the Yanks at about $15MM of salary (as calculated for competitive balance tax purposes) shy of the $246MM payroll line, at which point a team would pay 62.5% tax on spending over the first luxury line and see its next top draft choice fall by ten spots.
Steinbrenner says he’d okay a decision that triggers those penalties, “if I really felt we needed that deal, that it takes us over the top.” That’s a bit of a different position than was enunciated recently by GM Brian Cashman, who indicated that the team wass “trying to stay under the second luxury tax penalty” when it capped its offer to free agent starter Dallas Keuchel.
That’s not to say that Steinbrenner necessarily expects to need to make such a call. He noted that the club has “a decent amount of cushion” before it’d reach the top tax bracket. That’s true, though there are certainly some high-end players who’d be of potential interest that would require the Yanks to do some soul-searching — or find creative means of shedding other salary.
If you don’t want to take on money, you typically have to give up good young talent. The Yankees’ current roster is loaded with bats, leading many to wonder whether outfielder Clint Frazier will be dangled. Steinbrenner said he believes Frazier has a “great career a head of him” and expects the youngster to be “a big part of this team going forward,” though he certainly also left conceptual room for a deal.