The Yankee Imperial March - US PRESSWIRE
The Evil Empire has been decidedly lacking in evil lately. They have not taken on a contract in a trade. They have not made the highest bid on any free agents of note. They talk of budgets and luxury taxes and underdogs. Only Yankees fans and Scott Boras think that behavior to be weird. The Yankee reputation was built another way. For the Yankees to get that Evil Empire reputation back a different approach is required. They had a chance this past offseason to go all Steinbrennery and fire every single player. Every single one.
If the Yankees had gone all out, it would have been difficult and pretty embarrassing. CC Sabathia would get traded, but not for a great return considering the money owed to him. Cano would fetch some solid prospects. Derek Jeter would be unceremoniously let go to whatever team claimed him on waivers. Mark Teixeira has an almost untradeable contract. He would have to be packaged with Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson to a contender (Rangers? Brewers?) willing to take on the remainder of the contract for a chance to win this year.
Michael Pineda wouldn't get much coming off injury. Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, David Robertson, and Joba Chamberlain might get the Yankees something in return. All catchers would be released. They wouldn't re-sign Ichiro Suzuki or Hiroki Kuroda. Mariano Rivera would be forced to retire. And Alex Rodriguez? Aren't he and his contract underneath an immovable tower of grand pianos and ACME anvils? It would probably take $25M this year and $20M for the four years after that, but the Evil Empire cannot let anybody stay behind.
The next step is buying a team to compete. The Yankees are still obligated to pay A-Rod $25M (in this scenario) and A.J. Burnett $8.5M, but with a $200M payroll that leaves around $165M in salaries for 2013.
A caveat: The Yankees flooding the market with money would likely cause the prices of all free agents to increase, although that cost would be mitigated somewhat by the current Yankees all taking up payroll space elsewhere. For the sake of this exercise, let's assume the free agent prices are the same.
Here is Team Evil:
The Lineup (Steamer/ZiPS projected WAR available at fangraphs.com)
Michael Bourn - CF ($7M, 3.3, 4.0)
Melky Cabrera - LF($8, 2.3, 2.5)
Shane Victorino - RF ($13, 3.0, 2.9)
Kevin Youkilis - 3b ($12, 3.1, 2.7)
Adam LaRoche - 1b ($10, 2.5, 1.9)
A.J. Pierzynski - C ($7.5, 2.9, 1.8)
Ryan Ludwick - DH ($1, 2.1, 1.1)
Marco Scutaro - 2b ($8, 2.5, 1.9)
Stephen Drew - SS ($9.5, 1.8, 1.7)
That lineup would not have a lot of power, but it would not have any holes and comes out to 25.2 WAR for Steamer and 22.7 WAR for ZiPS. The current Yankee lineup with A-Rod and Eduardo Nunez as the two main bench players projects 25.9 WAR and 24.2 WAR for Steamer and ZiPS, respectively. The average age of both lineups is around 33 years old.
The current Yankees (I used Rivera, Robertson, and Joba out of the bullpen for a total of 19 current players), have a total of 41.4 Steamer-projected WAR and 39.1 ZiPS-projected WAR. Team Evil comes through with a total of 41 Steamer-projected WAR and 38.7 ZiPS-projected WAR. Their projected plate appearances and innings both aligned pretty closely. However, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA did have the current Yankees at about 5.5 WARP better than the Evil version.
The new Yankees' salaries were actually $2M less than the current Yankees, although the future money owed, mainly in 2014 and 2015, amounted to $355M compared to the current team's $242M owed after 2013 (both include money owed to A-Rod). Team Evil would also have eleven contributors lined up to play in 2014 as opposed to the current configuration's four. They might still be just as good, but would you choose not to root for them? Or would you cheer for them more?
Note: For fun (yes, fun), I assembled a team of free agents signed to one-year contracts. It included a few of the players listed above as well as such luminaries as Delmon Young, Reed Johnson, and Carlos Pena (and Kelly Johnson, Nate Schierholtz, Lance Berkman, Alex Gonzalez, Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders, Mike Gonzalez, and J.P. Howell). That team cost about $100M and had a respectable 28.1 Steamer WAR. A comparable group of Orioles netted 30.1 Steamer WAR.