One of Ryan's comments at lunch yesterday prompted me to do some research into the Yankees payroll (I forgot what that comment was, exactly, maybe Ryan can elucidate). Looking at Cot's Baseball Contracts, I came up with a list of the Yankees' top contractual obligations and determined when New York would be able to cut bait with all of their highly-paid talent, if they decided to. Amounts are an average per-year salary through the given year, giving an idea of how much payroll they're taking up, and how much will come off the books in what year.
Mariano Rivera: free agent this offseason ($10.5M in 2007)
Roger Clemens: free agent this offseason (prorated, actually paid Clemens about $17.4M in 2007)
Alex Rodriguez is signed through 2010, but has a 10-day window after this World Series ends to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent.
Andy Pettitte: $16M player option for 2008
Jorge Posada: $12M player option for 2008
Bobby Abreu: $16M club option for 2008
Kyle Farnsworth: $5.7M through 2008
Carl Pavano: $10M through 2008
Mike Mussina: $11.5M through 2008
Jason Giambi: $17.1M through 2008, $22M 2009 club option
Hideki Matsui: $13M through 2009
Johnny Damon: $13M through 2009
Derek Jeter: $18.9M through 2010
Kei Igawa: $4M through 2011
As you can see, a whole crap-ton of money comes off the books after next season for the Yankees. Of course, they may choose to re-sign a lot of these guys, but I just don't see Cashman going that route for anyone but Abreu. Everyone else is just dead weight on that 2008 list. If Rodriguez stays in New York next year, the Yankees will have contractual obligations to just five players (not including pre-arbitration guys): 3B, LF, CF, SS, and a SP. Cashman could certainly choose to wipe the slate clean after 2008, and let his minor leaguers fill most of the holes while signing free agents or trading to play positions that there are no in-house options for. The Yankees could, and probably will, look MUCH different in 2009 than they do now. Surprisingly to some, the Yankees' pitching prospects in the minors ranked first among MLB clubs at the beginning of the season according to Baseball Prospectus, with names like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Tyler Clippard. Whether their payroll will still be as bloated as it is now depends on how much say Cashman has on whether he uses young guys or free agents to fill his holes, and whether the Steinbrenner family continues to be as liberal with the pursestrings as George has been in the past. The fact that they were asking Joe Torre to take a pay cut to stay in New York may signify the first sign of payroll slashing as much as it signified their unhappiness with not winning the World Series since 2000. If the Steinbrenner family does indeed decide to keep paying players more than they're worth just to come play in New York, Cashman might not have much need to look to his farm system for much. The fact that all these players will be at least six years into their careers will pretty much guarantee that the Yankees of the future will be of the same mold as the Yankees of current, just with different numbers on their jerseys. Cashman, and the Yankees organization as a whole, has a crossroads to look forward to at the end of the 2008 season. Here's hoping they have enough sense to look to the future, not just of the club, but of MLB as a whole.