Could the Jays Outbid Yanks for Jayson Werth?


First of all, it isn’t even a sure thing that Jayson Werth will become a FA in 2011. The Phillies could trade him before then, which would allow another team to try to extend him past 2010. However, if he does remain with the Phillies, there is no absolute way they can sign him without first shedding some salary because it would take them over the luxury tax levels set by MLB, something the Phillies never want to do and also the same reason they deal Cliff Lee in favor of Roy Halladay.

So, with Werth’s impending FA status, the Yankee fans are already clamoring about the “fact” that they’re basically going to outbid all others to get their hands on Werth and that it’s basically a given thta he’ll become a Yank in 2011. Really? Beep, beep, beep, let’s back up the truck a little. Didn’t I hear the same thing when Adeiny Hechevarria was out there being bid on? And didn’t I say he would be a Blue Jay because his road to the majors was clear and the Jays could afford the same price? Yes, I did, and yes, he did.

Let’s evaluate the situation in terms of salary, shall we.

Yankees 2011 payroll situation

Thanks to Cot’s, we can get a very good feel about where each team will stand in terms of payroll. Without the inclusion of the salaries the Yankees will have to pay to keep Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter around, or all of the arbitration raises they could incur, the Yankees have $144,612,000 committed to their 2011 payroll. The big guys are as follows:

  • Arod – $32,000,000
  • CC Sabathia – $24,287,000
  • Mark Texeira – $23,125,000
  • AJ Burnett – $16,500,000
  • Jorge Posada – $13,100,000
  • Robinson Cano – $10,000,000
  • Nick Swisher – $9,100,000
  • Curtis Granderson – $8,250,000
  • Damaso Marte – $4,000,000

Let’s say Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera sign for $20 million and $15 million respectively (low end of what they could sign for), then the Yankees salary total becomes $179,612,000. But, we have a problem, as 2 of their top 5 pitchers – Javier Vazquez and Andy Pettitte will become FAs in 2011. Therefore, these guys either need to be resigned or replaced with candidates that can perform in the NY pressure. Each cost slightly above $11,000,000 in 2010, so we can give them the benefit of the doubt and say they’ll be able to fill those spots for $22,000,000, as there is nobody coming up from the minors to take those roles on. That brings us to $201,612,000 overall.

Then we have to include their 2 big arbitration eligible guys – Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Hughes in particular is getting a chance to become a starter in 2010. What if he does extremely well? He could be looking at a significant raise. The same goes for Joba, although his raise should be much smaller in the pen. Randy Winn, Chan Ho Park, and Nick Johnson will all become FAs, unless Nick Johnson‘s $5,500,000 mutual option is picked up, which would just worsen the situation – but does provide for one of the Yankees alternatives to Jayson Werth.

I’d like to paint the picture from this point for Yankees fans, bloggers, and columnists. You have over $200,000,000 already committed to a team that has Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher in the OF, with Jesus Montero possibly joining that group as a DH and OFer, and you want to have me (or us) believe that they’ll sign Jayson Werth at more than $17 million per season? (I used Matt Holliday‘s contract with the Cards at face value and Jason Bay‘s contract with the Mets and added some to make up for the age, health, and speed differences)

Let’s say the Yankees decide to bite the bullet and actually do offer sign Jayson Werth for $17 to $20 million, could the Jays outbid them and ensure Jayson he’ll get more playing time and a leadership role? Let’s see.

Thanks to Cot’s, we can get a very good feel about where the Jays stand in terms of salary commitment for 2011. The Blue Jays have only $33,143,000 committed to their payroll. The big guys are as follows:

  • Vernon Wells – $26,643,000
  • Aaron Hill – $5,000,000
  • John McDonald – $1,500,000

That’s it! Everyone else is either a FA or arbitration eligible. Lyle Overbay, Scott Downs, and Jason Frasor all come off the books and will be replaced internally with much cheaper options, while the remainder will be re-signed with decent raises that shouldn’t amount to a big hit for the Jays overall. For ease of additions, let’s say the average raise costs the Jays $1 million (which it won’t, it should be much lower on average). This would have to be done for 14 players, some ranging on the high side with Edwin Encarnacion at over $5 million, to the low side with many below $1 million. So, let’s add $14,000,000 to the $33,143,000 the Jays already have committed and we wind up with a whopping $47,143,000 with a generally full team in 2011. Now, you’d still have me believe that the Jays wouldn’t commit $20 million per year for Jayson Werth over 4 years or so?They would if they believe that it will put them over the top and allow them to compete with the other AL East teams.

The truth of the matter is that the Yankees have their hands tied behind their backs for the next 4 years. They have very little room to maneuver over those years because they’re committed to some huge salaries and salary increases, they’re committed to keeping the aging Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and possibly even Andy Pettitte with them as long as they can still play, and they can only go so far over the $200 million mark before ownership begins to look foolish. They know that if they go too high in terms of salaries it could lead to major backlash from other teams and their owners, and that it could eventually lead to a Cap and/or Floor system in MLB, something that would cripple them to be sure. Having said all that and having shown how the Jays can afford it, it doesn’t mean that the Jays will want or need to sign Jayson Werth. But, there are many other teams who will have the same budget space and could make a move for Jayson, that’s all I’m saying.

Jayson could actually have an interest in returning to his old franchise (he played for the Jays when he was 23 and 24 years old). He could also prefer to go to an AL team as he gets older because it allows him the chance to DH once in a while in order to save his knees ect.. If he asks for a 4 or 5 year deal, that deal will take him to age 36 or 37, so being healthy will be a big issue for him. He also knows that if he joins the Jays, he’ll be in the spotlight as they are in the AL East, he’ll join Travis Snider and Vernon Wells to make a pretty formidable OF, and he could push them to a new level as they welcome Brett Wallace and JP Arencibia into the fold. Besides, if one team is offering $19-20 million and the other can’t or won’t match, chances are you’re going to that team. The same applies to Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee. The Yankees will have problems matching what other teams offer. They’re just too committed to what they already have, although Cliff Lee would make the most sense since they could sign him instead of resigning Andy Pettitte. How can Yankees fans even consider them signing Carl Crawford? Maybe he should be the biggest target for the Jays, as he could slip into CF and move Wells to RF. He also would give the Jays the speed they need at the top of the lineup. As shown above, the Jays can actually “afford” the $25 million he may command next off season. Interesting……

So I ask you, are the Yankees still the favorites to sign Jayson Werth in 2011, or have I changed your mind at all about that “certainty”?