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Printing Money in the Basement

posted by Tom Phillips:

With the economic downturn that is facing the country, the free agent market is a lot like a discount game of Monopoly. But instead of passing go and collecting $200, you get $10. And one of the players is playing with the money drawer in front of them.

That's right, once again we're going to hear more crowing about the disparity in the game, as right now the Yanks are set to ink C.C. Sabathia to a 7 year $160 million deal. While most front offices are dumping salaries and cutting staff, the Yanks are once again turning on the printing presss that they keep stored below the visitor's bullpen in the House that Ruth built and are opening up their checkbook. But are they really spending more in a relative sense than they did last year?

Let's remind everyone that they just shed approximately $85 million in payroll with the expiring contracts of Mussina, Giambi, Pettitte, Abreu, Pudge, and others. So chop about $23 million off of that for Sabathia and that leaves them with a comfortable $62 million to dole out. And let's also remind folks that the new stadium will be generating a substantial increase in revenue, along with their new concession company Legends Hospitality Management. It's safe to say that despite the downturn, the team will generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-$150 million more in revenue this season.

With their ace locked up, the next decision now is Lowe or Burnett. No knock to Lowe, who has shown durability and consistency in the past few years, but he's not the big time young power pitcher that the Yanks are looking to build their staff with. Power arms are the name of the game these days, and despite the injury concerns, Burnett has handed the Yanks far too many losses in his good days to not be the main focus of their pursuit. He has the potential to shut down oposing line-ups on his good days, and with the seasoning that will continue and his AL East pedigree he's the smart play here. $16 million a year sounds about right.

So now we're down to $46 million left from last year's payroll. What to do about a number five starter? Well, there's Phil Hughes, but the word on the street is that he could use some more seasoning on the farm. Statistically, most pitchers don't settle in to the major league comfort zone until about their 45th start, so getting some more quality time in the minors is a good thing for Hughes at this point. He's in the mid-thirties after last year.

Safe money is on the Yanks inking Andy Pettitte to a one-year incentive laden deal, for a base of $10 million and 3-6 in incentives. Pettitte needs to move quickly now if he really wants to come back next year, as the dominoes of free agents will fall quickly with Sabathia finally signed and the market for pitching now set. I think Andy will come back and close out the starting five.

That leaves $36 million in slashed payroll, minus some contract increases and things like the pension fund donation of 2-3 million that all teams will need to contribute due to the drop in the market and CBA rules. So let's knock $16 million off our total for all those other costs. Leaving a nice round $20 million left in the wallet.

Now can we think of a switch hitting first baseman with 30+ homer power and high OBP, potential gold glover, and high character guy left out there looking for a new deal?

On second thought, the guy playing monopoly not only has the money drawer, but all four railroads, the utilites, and Park Place and Boardwalk.

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