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The Yankees hope you don’t know how math works

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Are the Yankees posturing or are they just full of it? Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Last offseason, the assumption was the Yankees were holding back on spending in order to accomplish two goals: one, to stay under the luxury tax for the first time in the history of said tax in order to reset the penalties, and two, to keep room on the payroll for adding a top-tier free agent like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado before the 2019 season.

New York accomplished that first goal, as it looks like just the Red Sox and Nationals will end up paying the luxury tax in 2018. As for the second, well, the Yankees have been pretending they won’t make big free agency moves this winter, except, maybe they aren’t pretending after all. General manager Brian Cashman prefers the Yankees stay under the luxury tax threshold again, so as “to not line the pockets of opponents to use that (revenue) against us.”

That is some incredible bullshit, to be frank. The luxury tax penalties aren’t that severe, not by a long shot: the Red Sox crossed not just the first, but also the second luxury tax threshold in 2018 by spending $238.4 million, meaning they have another round of taxing on top of them, which will result in a penalty of ... $11.3 million. That money will go into the central fund to be distributed to the small-market clubs (MLB is phasing out the 15 largest markets from collecting revenue-sharing funds), which means the Red Sox are mostly financing like, an extra September call-up for teams in 2019.

The Yankees have paid out $341 million in luxury tax penalties in the previous 15 years in which they’ve exceeded the threshold, but even dividing that up over 15 years and splitting it among the rest of the teams doesn’t mean New York is, say, financing their rivals’ success. As a whole, sure, the Yankees are taking part in a process that helps smaller market teams make up for revenue disparities when you’re talking about all of the money going from one place to another through the central fund and revenue-sharing, but the Yankees alone aren’t financing it all.

Plus, with the way revenue-sharing works in the first place, 31 percent of a team’s net revenue goes into the central fund, anyway, so if the Yankees aren’t spending profits on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, they’re just going to end up giving part of that money back to the league, anyway, and then the Royals can use it to help pay Alcides Escobar to be a terrible shortstop or whatever.

The Yankees seem to be putting a lot of effort into making their fans not feel like Harper or Machado will be in pinstripes in 2019 and beyond, and while it could certainly still be a negotiating tactic and posturing to let Harper and Machado know that New York is perfectly happy to enter 2019 without them, it might also be Cashman and the Steinbrenners letting fans know that, just because they lost in the American League Division Series to their rivals doesn’t mean they’re going to go all The Boss on the rest of the league and start adding payroll on top of payroll. Not when there are some profits to be had by working on the margins and staying under the luxury tax threshold again.

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