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Let’s talk money

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I’ve had a bunch of e-mails about the Yankees payroll situation recently, so let’s talk about it for a moment. According to the fantastic database [2] at Cot’s Contracts, the Yankees have approximately $170 million already committed to players for 2010. That doesn’t include arbitration deals for young players like Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner, and it also doesn’t include any deal that ultimately gets worked out for Andy Pettitte.

(FYI: Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jose Molina, Pettitte, Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang come off the books this winter for about $45 million while Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano and Damaso Marte get raises for about $15 million.)

In 2009, the Yankees payroll was approximately $206 million. With the winter meetings approaching next week, Brian Cashman is in Tampa today (and tomorrow) to talk with the Steinbrenners and other team officials about what, exactly, the team is prepared to spend on players this coming year.

The goal, at least in the long-term, has been for the Yankees to reduce payroll. There has been talk for a while now about how Hal Steinbrenner would like to see the payroll under $200 million at some point in the near future, and the Yankees made their big splashes last offseason – CC, A.J., Tex – because they had $100 million coming off the books that winter as well as the knowledge that this year’s free agent crop was weak.

It was a smart move and, if not for Roy Halladay, the Yankees would be in a position to easily drop payroll this winter. There is no free agent on the market right now that is a “must-get” for the Yankees in the way that, say, John Lackey is almost a necessity for the Mets to sign if they are serious about becoming a contender again. The Yankees do not have that big a glaring need that they couldn’t look at more mid-level players for and/or fill from within. Unfortunately, Halladay is the X-factor.

There has been speculation about the possibility that Halladay might not require a contract extension from the team that acquires him, and it’s true he hasn’t made that as public as Johan Santana did two years ago. That said, Halladay isn’t an idiot, and it would be insanely stupid for a 32-year-old pitcher who throws a ton of innings not to get some security at this point in his career. Halladay will want an extension and he will get it – figure on something like five years, $23 million (otherwise known as CC money)?

There are only a few teams who can afford that and the Yankees are, of course, one of them. But if the Yankees were to do that, they’d do so knowing that their 2013 payroll would include $62.5 million going to three pitchers: Halladay ($23M), Sabathia ($23M) and A.J. Burnett ($16.5M). That’s a lot for a group where Sabathia would be the youngest at age 33 (the other two would be 36).

Add in (the assumed) Jeter deal, A-Rod’s never-ending contract and the money owed to Teixeira, and suddenly the long-term budget projections for 2013 are looking particularly bloated.

It isn’t my money and, as I’ve said before [3], I think the Yankees would be foolish not to seriously consider making a move for Halladay. But even following a year where the Yankees surely flourished financially, it’s hard not to wonder – and hard not to blame them for wondering – just how much is too much?