In The Post this morning, Joel Sherman provided an update on where the Yankees' financial/roster filling priorities are right now, and included certain language implying that the amount of money they'd be willing to eat on A.J.'s contract has gone way up as a way to make those priorities happen.
"The perception has been that the Yankees have less than $2 million to sign a lefty-swinging designated hitter with free agents Eric Chavez, Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez and Hideki Matsui forming the field. Nevertheless, what the Yankees want to do most is sign Chavez and one of the DH types.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner already has expanded his budget once this offseason to allow the signing of Hiroki Kuroda. He has yet to say the Yankees can do so again in order to sign even one additional player, much less two. This is why the Yankees are quietly — but diligently — still working to trade A.J. Burnett.
They know no team will take all of Burnett’s remaining two years at $33 million. But if they could save, say, $4 million this year and next year, it would provide some wiggle room to finish off their roster heading into spring training."
At first glance, I can get on board with this idea. Moving A.J., at any price, does provide some payroll relief and sets up a classic "two birds with one stone" scenario if that extra cash gives them the financial flexibility to sign the guys they want to sign to fill out the roster. You could even make the argument that by eliminating A.J. from the pitching stockpile right now, the Yankees are killing a 3rd bird by starting to clear up the 5th starter/back of the bullpen picture.
But if they are really dead set on sticking to their budget, I would question the tactic of splitting the freed up money on Chavez and another DH. Chavez was only mildly productive in his limited role last season, and as a caddy to A-Rod at 3rd he's not particularly valuable because he's almost as likely to get hurt as The Horse is. I'd rather see that role filled by the likes of Nunez and Brandon Laird and allow the extra money to be used to sign someone like Johnny Damon for closer to what he's looking for rather than wait for his, or anybody else's, price to come down to $2 million. It's only going to be for a 1-year deal anyway, so whether you're talking $2 mil or $4-5 mil it really won't affect anything from a long-term payroll standpoint.