TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Hal Steinbrenner is excited about a relatively low-cost New York Yankees stocked with youth and optimism.
“I can’t ever remember a time like this, even 20 years ago, when so many of our fans knew about players that had never before even set foot in the Bronx yet,” the Yankees owner said Wednesday. “That’s exciting. To me that’s different. We’ve made an effort the last few years to acquaint all these kids with our fans. I think they’re all really excited not just about what they’re going to see on the big team but what’s following them as they progress through our system, and that’s pretty cool to me.”
After watching an intrasquad game at spring training, Steinbrenner repeated the Yankees will fall below the luxury tax threshold this season and discussed the addition of major league home run champion Giancarlo Stanton to a rebuilt Baby Bombers team that came within one win of reaching the World Series last year.
“It’s going to be fun to watch him and all these young guys,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s just going to be an exciting year. Got to stay healthy, that’s half the battle.”
New York could start the season with rookies Gleyber Torres at second and Miguel Andujar at third, Aaron Judge playing his second full season in right, Gary Sanchez in his second full season at catcher and Greg Bird in his first full season at first.
“Everybody is excited,” Steinbrenner said. “All the young guys we hoped would be playing well, are it seems to me. It’s early and there’s obviously a lot of questions to be answered.”
By increasing the total of young players on their roster, the Yankees are in a position to win now while cutting costs. New York’s luxury tax payroll projects to about $177 million, $20 million below the luxury tax threshold and $45 million less than last year’s final figure.
“It’s absolutely my goal,” Steinbrenner said of getting under the threshold. “We’ve got a good deal of breathing room right now and we’re not afraid to spend come July or even sooner if we feel that we’re not good enough in a certain area.”
Stanton, the 2017 NL MVP after hitting 59 homers and driving in 132 runs, was acquired in a December trade with Miami. Asked how he feels about Stanton, Steinbrenner joked his presence “makes me feel short.”
New York pays tens of millions each year in revenue sharing, and Steinbrenner wonders how those funds are used. The players’ association filed a grievance last month against Miami, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, accusing the teams of failing to appropriately spend revenue-sharing money. Union head Tony Clark maintains a significant percentage of teams is more focused on rebuilding for future years than trying to win this season.
“I’m not a forensic accountant, so I haven’t gone team-to-team and kept track of every dollar they spend,” Steinbrenner said. “As far as the teams we’re looking at now, I just don’t know. If the team takes the money that they get and puts it into their player development system to produce better players, is that OK? I guess there could be arguments either way depending on who you talk to.”
When revenue sharing began in the 1990s, then-commissioner Bud Selig said the purpose was to increase competitive balance.
“Has it always been the case that some teams haven’t used it the last 20 years for the right reasons? I think it’s fairly safe to say that’s probably occured from time-to-time,” Steinbrenner said. “There’s no doubt the sole purpose is competitive balance, so that fans this time of year of any team wouldn’t feel like their team has no chance whatsoever to make the playoffs.”
Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia each pitched three innings at the minor league complex against lineups that included Stanton, Sanchez, Bird, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius.
Sabathia allowed one run and four hits, including a wind-blown opposite-field homer to right by Aaron Hicks, and struck out three.
Tanaka gave up one run, on a Bird homer, and five hits. He struck out five and walked one. He allowed four runs and four hits over 1 1/3 innings on March 2 against Atlanta.
“Felt a little better than last time out,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I think the mechanics were a little bit more sound.”
Sabathia said Sanchez reminds him of a young Manny Ramirez.
“That’s enough said right there,” Sabathia said. “I think Sanchie is probably the best hitter in the lineup.”
1B Adam’s Lind’s deal calls for a $2 million salary in the majors and $150,000 in the minors if he’s added to the 40-man roster. He could earn performance bonuses in the major leagues of $50,000 for 90 games and $175,000 each for 100, 110, 120 and 130.
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