NEW YORK (AP) -- The Yankees insist they will be spending less, not more, next season.
Clearly sensitive to criticism following their signing of Mike Mussina to an $88.5 million, six-year contract, the three-time defending World Series champions project their opening-day payroll at below $113.4 million, its record level on Aug. 31.
''The Mike Mussina signing would be neutral, or in fact might even save money in the overall budget,'' Yankees president Randy Levine said after completing Mussina's negotiations on Thursday.
The Yankees have 16 players on their 40-man roster signed at a total of $80.6 million -- and infielder Alfonso Soriano ($630,000) and pitcher Adrian Hernandez ($600,000) might not be on the opening-day roster.
That would leave the total at $79.4 million for 14 players:
starting pitchers Roger Clemens ($10.3 million), Mussina ($10 million), Andy Pettitte ($7 million) and Orlando Hernandez ($2.05 million)
relievers Mike Stanton ($2.45 million) and Allen Watson ($1.7 million)
outfielders Bernie Williams ($12,357,143) and Paul O'Neill ($6.5 million)
first baseman Tino Martinez ($6 million)
second baseman Chuck Knoblauch ($6 million)
third baseman Scott Brosius ($5.25 million)
backup catcher Joe Oliver ($1.25 million)
designated hitter David Justice ($7 million)
backup outfielder Glenallen Hill ($1.5 million)
Four players are eligible for salary arbitration, and the Yankees project shortstop Derek Jeter at $13 million, closer Mariano Rivera at $9 million, catcher Jorge Posada at $4 million and reliever Ramiro Mendoza at $1.5 million.
That would leave the payroll at $107 million for 18 players, with Luis Sojo's $500,000, one-year contract due to be announced next week. It probably will cost $2 million for so for the remaining six players, a group that includes left fielder Shane Spencer, backup Clay Bellinger and reliever Dwight Gooden, who probably will agree to a minor league contract next week.
If the Yankees sign another reliever -- Tom Gordon is a possibility -- and bring back David Cone at a base salary of about $500,000, the payroll could go up as much as another $2.5 million to about $112 million.
While some said the Mussina signing is a case of the rich getting richer, the Yankees are said they're actually saving money for that spot in the rotation -- citing Cone's $12 million salary last season, when he went 4-14.
''Usually, I think the Yankees spent their money wisely,'' Seattle Mariners general manager Pat Gillick said. ''If they have the revenue, they should spend it.''
Commissioner Bud Selig chose to focus on how few teams were competing for Mussina.
''This is another event that illustrates the disparity scenarios I've been talking about,'' he said.
The Yankees' payroll for 2000, when they won their fourth World Series in five years, started at $92.5 million on opening day. When New York struggled, it added eight players: Justice, Sojo, Hill, Gooden, Jose Canseco, Denny Neagle, Luis Polonia and Jose Vizcaino. That increased the payroll to more than seven times the total of the Minnesota Twins, who spent $15.8 million on their players.
Ten of the 30 teams had payrolls less than one-third that of the Yankees, including two that made the playoffs, the Chicago White Sox ($36.9 million) and Oakland Athletics ($32.7 million).
For them, it doesn't matter if the Yankees' payroll isn't going up. Even if it stays at the same level, it will be difficult for many teams to compete.
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