NEW YORK — After spending 8 1/2 years in Boston and delivering a pair of World Series titles to the Fenway Park faithful, Kevin Youkilis was surprised when the New York Yankees expressed interest in fitting him for pinstripes.
At first, it was kind of like, ‘Wow!' he said Friday after finalizing a $12 million, one-year contract with New York. There's a lot of great Red Sox fans that just wanted the best for me going forward and I know there's going to be some that don't like the decision, and you can't worry about that.
A three-time All-Star, Youkilis becomes the Yankees' starting third baseman for at least the first half of next season while Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery. A-Rod's operation is scheduled for next month.
Obviously, he certainly cushions the blow of losing Alex, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. That's a difficult loss. When you have a healthy Alex Rodriguez, you have really one of the game's more productive players. But I couldn't think of anybody better to replace him in the short-term with as Kevin Youkilis.
While announcing the deal for Youkilis, the Yankees closed in on a $13 million, two-year contract with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The sides still had to finalize language and the deal will be subject to a physical, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not complete. Suzuki will get $6.5 million a year.
Youkilis, traded from the Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox in June, joined Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon as Boston players who made the switch to the Bronx in the heated rivalry. He'll get an early look at his old club: The Red Sox are set to open at Yankee Stadium on April 1.
I reached out to Johnny. He just said you're going to love the experience. It's a great place to play, Youkilis said.
But Damon also has felt the wrath of Red Sox fans.
He's had a hard time in Boston. I saw him the other day. It's kind of upsetting to him, the fact that they've been pretty rough on him, Youkilis said.
He also plans to speak with Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain. The pair feuded in the past over tight fastballs.
It's not a big deal to me, Youkilis said. If it was that big of a deal, I wouldn't be signing with the Yankees.
Chamberlain left Youkilis a voicemail this week, but they haven't spoken.
I haven't been able to return so many calls, Youkilis said. But I'll reach out to him and talk to him.
If and when Rodriguez returns, Youkilis figures to see time at first base backing up Mark Teixeira. He also could get some games at designated hitter.
And they told me I'm going to play shortstop, too, Youkilis said before quickly adding he had no intention of taking time away from Yankees captain Derek Jeter: I'm just kidding. They're definitely not going to put me at short. If they put me at short, we're going to be in a lot of trouble.
Rodriguez, who turns 38 in July, will have surgery in mid-January, and the Yankees said the anticipated recovery time is six months.
I'm not going to guarantee anything about when he's coming back or how he'll come back. So we'll just have to wait and see, Cashman said. We hope we can bring him back into the fold and have the high-caliber player that we hoped to have prior to these injuries. But our season and our team is going on regardless, and therefore that's why this was such an important acquisition.
Rodriguez is owed $114 million by the Yankees as part of his record $275 million, 10-year contract.
NEW YORK — The New York Yankees were hit with an $18.9 million luxury tax by Major League Baseball, the 10th consecutive year they will pay a penalty for their spending.
The team finished with a $222.5 million payroll for purposes of the tax, according to figures sent to teams Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press.
Following its payroll-shedding trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, Boston finished just $47,177 under the $178 million threshold. The Los Angeles Angels wound up at $176.7 million and Philadelphia at $174.5 million.
Figures include average annual values of contracts for players on 40-man rosters, earned bonuses and escalators, adjustments for cash in trades and $10.8 million per team in benefits.
New York has run up a luxury tax bill of $224.2 million over the past decade, with the fee increasing from $13.9 million last year. The Yankees' tax rate rose from 40 percent to 42.5 percent this year and figures to climb to 50 percent next season. But they hope to get under the threshold in 2014, when it rises to $189 million. Dropping under the threshold would lower their potential tax rate in 2015 to 17.5 percent.
It affects my decision-making process, my communication about the pressure points we have, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, adding that market rates for free agents also impact his choices.
For the regular payroll calculation — 2012 income plus prorated shares of signing bonuses — spending by the 30 big league teams broke $3 billion for the first time at $3.15 billion after falling $43,000 short of the milestone last year.
The Yankees finished at a record $223.3 million, their 14th consecutive year as the biggest spender and topping their previous mark of $222.5 million in 2008.
However, the Dodgers could break that mark next year following a summer and autumn of acquisitions. Los Angeles currently is at $207.9 million for 21 signed players, including adjustments for the August trade with Boston that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers. The Yankees are at $182 million for 14 players, including a deal with Ichiro Suzuki that hasn't been finalized.
You don't get a trophy for having the highest payroll, Cashman said. I'm not going to feel weird either way, if we're the highest or we're not the highest. That's not the issue. Just want to be the best.