The Yankees look "more vulnerable than they've been in years" heading into the '13 season, as team Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner's "insistence on getting below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold for 2014" has left them "without their traditional route (big spending) for fixing the problems," according to Danny Knobler of CBSSPORTS.com. Steinbrenner has "insisted to other owners that the $189 million mandate is very real, that he won't budge on it." By getting "under the luxury-tax threshold for that one year, the Yankees would re-set the penalty, which otherwise goes up every year." They also would "gain other benefits." However, the "question that others are asking is whether they really will stick to it, if the winning stops and the attendance drops" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/3). In N.Y., John Harper writes these are "not the best of times to be GM of the Yankees." With Steinbrenner’s payroll edict for '14 "hanging over his head," Yankees GM Brian Cashman "couldn’t even keep [C] Russell Martin from leaving to sign a two-year deal with the Pirates ... a move that leaves him desperately in need of a No. 1 catcher." The team also needs to "find someone to play third base for at least the first half of next season, and maybe longer," after Cashman announced yesterday Alex Rodriguez will have hip surgery next month. Cashman is "accustomed to having the upper hand at this time of year, dealing from a position of power afforded by the Yankee payroll and its star power." But times "are changing, and quickly." For the moment, "at least, his job is no longer the envy of his peers" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/4).
STILL TOP OF THE HEAP? USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes the Yankees have "become a poor man's version of the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates, working the edges of free agency and hoping to fill holes frugally." The club has not "signed a free agent outside of their organization this winter, bent on getting their payroll under $189 million by 2014." They used to "operate with an open bank vault, and now they're searching under couch cushions for loose change" (USA TODAY, 12/4). MLB Network’s Dan Plesac said, "We’re just not accustomed to them not being in on Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton. Whoever the big-ticket items were the last five, seven, 10 years, the Yankees were either in the middle of it or … they were lurking on the fringes. Right now, they’re taking a step backward” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 12/3).
BUILDING A WEST COAST POWER: In L.A., Bill Shaikin wrote the Dodgers go to the MLB Winter Meetings with their "newfound financial muscle so menacing that rival executives grudgingly suspect ... that the team is in on every available star." As the Yankees "tighten their belts ... the Dodgers can play Goliath." If the Dodgers sign Greinke, they "could have four players earning $20 million next season." And, less than "one year removed from bankruptcy, this is astonishing: They could miss on Greinke and still field the first $200-million payroll in National League history" (L.A. TIMES, 12/3). ESPN's Karl Ravech said Dodgers GM Ned Colletti "has seen his world turn upside down, in a good way." Under Frank McCourt's ownership, there "wasn’t a lot of money to spend, and now it seems like there’s an endless supply." There is a "huge television deal coming" to the team, which "allows them to spend a lot more money." People are now comparing the Dodgers to the Yankees, but the "seemingly apparent outward difference is the Dodgers kind of brag about it, they make no secret that, 'We have money, we’re in on everybody. We’ll spend it.'" That is something the Yankees "didn’t always do” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN2, 12/4).