The Yankees are going all-in for 2024.
The trade for Juan Soto is evidence of this new direction for New York, but with a bloated payroll that's tied up in contracts to older veterans, do the Yanks have the horses to capture their first World Series since 2009?
GM Brian Cashman will look to continue to add to the roster via trade, but it's unlikely any new free agent pickups are in the cards.
Cashman has kept Hal Steinbrenner from getting to the "Steve Cohen tax" in recent seasons, and there's no reason to believe he won't do the same for 2024.
That's where trades have become a valuable asset for Cashman.
While the signing of Marcus Stroman has probably kept the Yankees out of the Blake Snell/Jordan Montgomery sweepstakes it doesn't keep them from trading prospects for a young, controllable arm.
While that may be unlikely before the start of the season, it's an avenue that Cashman has charted around the trade deadline in recent years. But as we'll see, 2024 is indeed an all-or-nothing scenario as the team -- and the payroll -- will drastically change in 2025.
There will be plenty of salaries that come off the books following this season -- more on that later -- but there is also money wrapped up in Aaron Hicks.
The Yankees still owe their former outfielder -- now with the Los Angeles Angels -- more than $9 million over the next two seasons. While not ideal, the Yanks will navigate around it.
Here's how the Yankees' payroll situation looks for this season and in 2025...
Salary committed for 2024
Here are the key players the Yankees added this offseason and what they'll make in 2024:
Juan Soto - $31 million
Marcus Stroman - $18.5 million
Alex Verdugo - $8.7 million
Trent Grisham - $5.5 million
Caleb Ferguson - $2.4 million
Luke Weaver - $2 million
Victor Gonzalez - $860,000
As you can see, nearly $69 million is wrapped up in new Yankees in 2024, headlined by the $31 million Soto and the team agreed upon pre-arbitration. In total, New York is projected to have around $295 million committed -- about $306 million after taxes -- per Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Of the projected 2024 payroll, more than half -- $166.8 million -- is going to Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Rodon and Soto. Once put into those terms, it's easy to see why Cashman has had to find ways to improve by digging into the farm system for bench help or taking flyers on veterans like Matt Carpenter in the past.
But for a win-now team, and the unofficial cap on how much they will spend, Cashman and the front office will have to get creative.
The Yankees were right to walk away from negotiations at that point, and they pivoted to Stroman, who, they signed for two years and $37 million -- with an option for 2026.
How can Yankees improve in 2024?
There's not a lot of wiggle room for additions, hence why the trade route may be how Cashman operates -- especially considering there are plenty of expiring contracts coming up.
Gleyber Torres -- who is making $14.2 million in 2024 -- will be a free agent unless an extension is reached before the fall. His name has been involved in potential trades the last two seasons and if the Yankees need another starter by the deadline, don't be surprised if a deal is made.
Perhaps the team can also deal Verdugo or Grisham, solid bench outfielders, to a contending team for some help as well. Verdugo is on an expiring contract and Grisham will have his final arbitration year in 2025, so teams looking to shed payroll or keep it low could be buyers. This is a viable option if Jasson Dominguez returns from Tommy John surgery this summer and can produce and potentially become a regular starter.
In that same vein, the Yanks will likely look to improve from within in regards to their bullpen. The question marks surrounding the health of most of the starters have been out there, but the organization seems to be ready to plug holes as the season goes along with young, controllable arms.
Luis Gil and Luke Weaver have had success in this role in the past, while prospects Will Warren and Clayton Beeter could get there with good showings in the spring and in the minors. The Yankees had a similar problem in 2023 when they had a full rotation, but injuries allowed Clarke Schmidt to make his mark on the team. The same can happen this season.
What it means for 2025 and beyond
Here are the Yankees' projected payroll obligations from 2025-2028 per Cot's:
2025 - $187.3 million
2026 - $140.1 million
2027 - $121.1 million
2028 - $96.1 million
The Yankees have seven players who are playing on expiring contracts. In total, there's potentially $70.5 million coming off the books. A lot of that is coming from Soto's final year, but he'll likely be the main target for Cashman and the Yanks when he becomes a free agent.
Failing to sign Yamamoto actually gives the Yankees more flexibility to go after Soto, who could get a deal worth nearly $40 million annually over 12-plus seasons. He will be the priority to give the Yanks a 1-2 punch of Judge and Soto for nearly a decade. Even on the high end, the Yankees' salary would theoretically allow them to grab another bat. That's especially the case if Dominguez pans out.
If Torres is traded or not re-signed, the Yankees could move DJ LeMahieu to second -- his natural position -- and look at an upgrade at third base. Alex Bregman will be a free agent and could round out the Yankees' lineup, for the right price.
They also have a club option on Anthony Rizzo that would free up even more money for Cashman to try and retool for 2025 and beyond. LeMahieu could be moved to first and they can try and sign another second base option, or perhaps Oswald Peraza proves he can be an impact bat, keeping the salary low enough to address other needs.
On the rotation front, Rodon and Cole are the only two pitchers with long-term, big-money deals on the books. However, Cole has an opt-out after the 2024 season. With how the Yankees ace is pitching, he will likely opt out. But the Yankees have an opportunity to void that decision if they add another year to his deal at $36 million.
The Yankees have plenty of young arms on the verge of breaking into the big leagues. Warren, Clayton Beeter and Chase Hampton are all on the cusp or a year away, so New York can try and add the young arms into the rotation behind Cole and Rodon in the coming years to mitigate the payroll.
While Cashman and the Yankees are looking to win it all in 2024, they have an opportunity to retool in 2025 and beyond if they don't over-commit to older players and trust they have the prospects who can step up.
They'll also have to get "lucky" in free agency and hope players want to come here for the right price. It'll be difficult, but the path is there.