MLB Hot Stove: Yankees and Mets need to clear payroll before making more moves

So far this offseason, the two largest free-agent contracts have been handed out by the New York teams. Just like a good old days, eh?

The Mets retained Yoenis Cespedes with a four-year contract worth $110 million while the Yankees committed $86 million across five years to Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees also added Matt Holliday on a one-year deal worth $13 million.

Surely both New York clubs want to continue making moves this offseason — the Mets could use bullpen help and the Yankees need a little of everything — but, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, they’ll have to clear payroll to do anything else. They’re up against their spending limits. From Sherman:

In the aftermath of signing Cespedes to a four-year, $110 million contract (the largest per annum in franchise history), Mets officials have publicly stated a need to trade a significant salary before adding a needed setup man. They prefer to deal the $13 million owed Jay Bruce in 2017 rather than the $15 million of Curtis Granderson.

The Yankees are in the same situation, according to agents who have spoken to the team about their free-agent clients. This is why the Yankees continue to gauge interest in Chase Headley (two years, $26 million) and Brett Gardner (two years, $25 million) as a way to cut a significant salary.

The Yankees have made it very well known they intend to get under the luxury tax threshold as soon as possible, most likely in 2018. The Mets have set their own payroll limit well below the luxury tax threshold, which stems from ownership’s financial problems. The Wilpons are still reeling from the Bernie Madoff scandal.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman needs to clear payroll before making another move. USATSI

The two New York teams are essentially in competition with each other to clear salary. They’re both trying to dump pricey left-handed hitting outfielders. The Mets are trying to move Bruce and may have to settle for moving Granderson. The Yankees have been shopping Gardner. There are only so many teams in need of outfield help, so options are limited.

Keep in mind this could all be posturing. The Yankees in particular have a history of saying they’re out of money, then bam, they find a few extra million in the couch cushions to make that one last signing. Given their youth movement though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Holliday and Chapman are the extent of their free agency activity.

As for the Mets, their recent history suggests that when they say they’re out of money, they’re really out of money. Their ability to make moves the rest of the winter could be limited if they’re unable to move Bruce (or Granderson).

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