(Photo: Anthony Gruppuso Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport)
The New York Yankees, after bluffing that they would slash their payroll this winter, exposed their hand to the baseball world Tuesday night.
Yep, the Yankees are back to being the old Yankees.
Budgets be damned.
The Yankees reached a tentative agreement Tuesday night with prized free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven-year contract for $153 million, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told USA TODAY Sports. The person was unauthorized to speak publicly because the deal had not been announced by the Yankees.
The Yankees, who have spent much of the year discussing plans to lower their payroll below the $189 million luxury-tax figure in 2014, have now dropped $238 million in the free agent market with Ellsbury and catcher Brian McCann, whose five-year, $85 million contract was officially announced earlier in the day.
And, yes, a Yankees official intimated Tuesday night, they still badly would like to re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano. The Yankees have already offered Cano a seven-year, $160 million contract, but Cano is seeking at least $90 million more in his recent talks.
The Yankees already have a payroll of about $138 million for luxury-tax purposes, and that's for only 10 players. Then again, that counts Alex Rodriguez's $27.5 million salary, which would come off the books if arbitrator Fred Horowitz upholds Rodriguez' 211-game suspension through at least the 2014 season.
But, hey, it's just money, right?
The Yankees, who missed the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years this past season, are making sure there's no repeat in 2014, no matter the financial consequences.
The Yankees, who will pay a record $29.1 million luxury-tax penalty for their $236 million payroll in 2013, according to salary figures obtained by USA TODAY Sports, actually reiterated their desire to lower their payroll just three weeks ago.
"That's the goal," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told USA TODAY Sports at the GM meetings. "The main reason is instead of giving all of the money to the 29 other owners that are receiving that benefit, we would rather have our fan base receive it by putting it back into our franchise rather than giving to other competitors' pockets."