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The Yankees owners don’t like missing the playoffs.  After missing the playoffs and finishing 12 games back (in a tie for third), ownership sent a message to Brian Cashman asking him to retool but not money be damned.  

As of this moment the Yankees are below their expressed target salary cap of $189 million.  That will change, and that cap will be full as soon as the Carlos Beltran contract becomes final, then they’ll go over by the time arbitration for their controlled players.

Alex Rodriguez will either be the budget saver or breaker when it comes to the luxury tax
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.
There is a big reason the Yankees want to get under the $189 million threshold.  As currently, because of progressive penalties (for being over year after year) the Yankees are in line to pay a 50 percent penalty on any moneys above that $189 million that they spend.  Thus a $14 million dollar player is really a $21 million dollar player in terms of Yankees dollars spent if the Yankees bring them aboard.

Bringing the team down to the $189 million mark would allow the Yankees to avoid paying luxury tax this season and would reset their penalty to a mere 17.5 percent if they were to go over the threshold in 2015.

But it doesn’t really look as if they are going to do it.  But maybe that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Owner Hal Steinbrenner made it clear earlier at the end of the season that $189 million was a goal, but not a mandate.

And for the Yankees winning is always the mandate.  So they retooled and retooled big time at least offensively.  While they lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, they brought it Brian McCann for $85 million (5 years), Jacoby Ellsbury for $153 million (7 years), Carlos Beltran for $45 million (3 years), Kelly Johnson for $3 million.  That’s a lot of offense.  It won’t make up for the power they lost, but it should provide a boost in terms of average and OBP.

Yet the most important signing of the offseason wasn’t any of these guys.  It was the re-signing of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, by far the Yankees most reliable starer over the past two seasons.  He’s the stalwart in what is otherwise a very unpredictable rotation, and he could be the key player if the Yankees are actually going to contend this season.

Certainly compared to the offense the pitching looks weak, though the Yankees wish they could rely on a nice bounceback from C.C. Sabathia and a season as good as the projected when when they traded for Michael Pineda.  Cashman could still do something about that.  There are sill some good arms out there, including Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who the Yankees could be players on.

And while things don’t look good for the Yankees getting underneath the salary cap this season, they could have relief in store if arbitrator Fredric Horowitz upholds MLB’s 211-game suspension of Alex Rodriguez allowing the Yankees to avoid paying him.  

That’s a big if.  And even if it does happen, A-Rod could very possibly still play while he takes the issue into court.  Because of that the Yankees have to play things cautiously, even after the verdict sometime in January.

That means it's really up to ownership as to how serious they are about trying to control the team payroll.  Anything less than full season of suspension will probably keep the Yankees above that magical $189 million mark and at the maximum 50 percent luxury tax threshold.

But they really could use another pitcher if they want to really boost their chances of returning to the playoffs in 2014.