Yesterday, arbitrator Frederic Horowitz released his decision that A-Rod’s suspension for violating MLB’s collective bargaining agreement for using banned substances should be reduced from 211 games to 162 games. A-Rod will miss the entire 2014 season, including the playoffs, but under the CBA, nothing will prevent him from showing up to Spring Training. A-Rod will seek an injunction in Federal Court, but the odds of his case being heard are ‘very slim‘. A-Rod will not collect his $26 million salary and the Yankees can essentially coin it as ‘found money’ for other free agents or trades.

It remains to be seen whether the Steinbrenner family will rid themselves of A-Rod by cutting him and eating the three year, $64 million remaining on the deal. Baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, so the Yankees will have to pay out $64 million. This is decision is a topic for another article, but in the context of the 2014 season, the Yankees have $155 million committed to players and will likely pay out another $13-$15 million in arbitration. We’ll get into specifics after the jump, but as sit stands, the Yankees have another $26 million at their disposal and an even bigger gap at third base.

Before we dig into player options, let’s review current 2014 salary commitments:

MLB Trade Rumors estimates that the arbitration hearings will net out to approximately $15.0 million for the five players. 

After arbitration hearings and A-Rod’s suspension, the 2014 Yankee payroll comes in around $167 million. We’ve heard the team’s desire to have its payroll below $189 million in order to reset its luxury tax rate on dollars spent above $189 million from 50% to 12.5%. To meet this obligation, the payroll must stay below $189 million for the entire season. The $189 million threshold is not a mandate, but the tax savings obviously make it attractive. 

There’s no denying that the Yankees have a major interest in Japanese ace, RHP Masahiro Tanaka. A-Rod’s ‘found money’ will definitely help them in negotiations and reports indicate both LA teams and the Yankees are the front runners to land his services. I’m a little skeptical about the seriousness regarding the Dodgers’ interest given their $206 million payroll, which doesn’t include the $19 million Clayton Kershaw will receive in arbitration (or massive extension he’ll receive). Both Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez need new deals, so I’m wonder if they can truly afford $20 million per season for Tanaka. 

A six-year, $120 million contract is reasonable estimate for Tanaka’s services. If we assume the Yankees backload the deal, the payroll will come in around $185 million. Adding Tanaka will be a major boon for the Yankee rotation, but the infield still appears pretty bleak. With Tanaka in the fold, here’s your opening day lineup:

C: Brian McCann
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Kelly Johnson
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Carlos Beltran
DH: Alfonso Soriano
Bench: Francisco Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez, Brennan Ryan, Ichiro, Zoilo Almonte, TBD

SP1: CC Sabathia
SP2: Masahiro Tanaka
SP3: Hiroki Kuroda
SP4: Ivan Nova
SP5: Michael Pineda/David Phelps/Vidal Nuno/Adam Warren

CL: David Robertson
RHPs: Shawn Kelley, David Phelps/Adam Warren/Michael Pineda
LHP: Matt Thornton, Cesar Cabral

There are obvious holes in the infield, particularly at 2B, 3B, and SS since we can’t assume Derek Jeter will be ready to play a full-season.  The 40-man roster is pretty full and the Yankees seem unwilling to give a major league contract to any of the remaining free agent infielders. Stephen Drew is the best available infielder, but the Yankees don’t appear interested. There’s little to no insurance for newly-minted closer, David Robertson, but given Robertson’s impending free agency after this season, the Yankees need to know whether he can close without any direct challengers. 

Tanaka is obviously the next big domino to fall. If the Yankees fail to land Tanaka, I’m not sure where they turn. I wrote why I’m not a fan of the remaining 2014 free agent starting pitching class. If they land Tanaka, the starting rotation, outfield, and catcher position has been upgraded while 2nd base, 3rd base, and the closer’s role remaining unsettled. Tanaka has less than two weeks to sign with a MLB club, so we’ll receive more clarity about the team in the coming weeks.