How is it that the Yankees always come out of these things relatively unscathed, with plenty of room to keep spending, spending, spending?
That’s the question Orioles manager Buck Showalter had this week as Major League Baseball prepares to lay the hammer on its latest rash of performance-enhancing drug use. The main target in the most recent probe, surrounding the Biogenesis clinic in South Florida, is Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees slugger may even get a lifetime ban from the sport, according to multiple reports.
That’s all well and fine for keeping baseball clean, but Showalter isn’t dumb when looking at the implications of such a suspension — especially for a certain American League East rival. If Rodriguez is suspended, he would go without pay, and the Yankees would be free from what is now widely seen as the worst contract in sports.
Rodriguez is due $86 million from 2014 to 2017, on top of what’s left of his $28 million salary for this season. A suspension would take the Yankees off the hook, as the pay players don’t collect when they’re suspended also doesn’t count toward a team’s payroll or the luxury tax.
“If [commissioner] Bud [Selig] lets them get away with that, they’re under the luxury tax,” Showalter told USA Today. “If they can reset, they can spend again, and I guarantee you in two years, Matt Wieters is in New York.”
The Yankees are trying hard to get under the luxury tax threshold for 2014. Their dipping below the $189 million limit at least once will have exponential effects on how much money they can spend in the future, since repeated offenses over the threshold increase the amount they have to pay on each dollar they hand out in salary. The fiscal constraint for next year would let the Yankees reset and start shelling out again for future free agents at a better rate.
Getting below $189 million looked to be a tall task before — but losing Rodriguez’s contract would make it easy very quickly.
Wieters is just one of many MLB players who could be lured to New York if the Yankees have room to spend. Wieters, 27, becomes a free agent in 2015, although the O’s could try to keep him by signing him to an extension earlier. While teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics seem to enjoy finding ways to win with little cash, losing the homegrown stars — such as Wieters — to New York is never pretty.
It’s especially not pretty if the Yankees got themselves into this mess in the first place. That sounds like Showalter’s point.
“They’re the ones who signed him to that contract,” Showalter said of the Yankees.
And they could again be the ones who skate away free.