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How the Yankees' performance bonuses could affect final payroll

There are just 10 days left in the MLB regular season, and coming down the stretch, one of the fun things to watch will be how close certain players around the league get to reaching performance-based contract bonuses.

The Yankees have exactly 22 of those, worth up to $5.3 million, that could still vest, and the rub for them is that every one that does brings the team closer and closer to the $197 million luxury tax threshold they are desirous of staying below.

How could those bonuses affect the Yankees' payroll? Let's take a look at that, breaking the bonuses down into three (and change) categories based on how they can vest.

PERFORMANCE INCENTIVES
NEIL WALKER:
$125K each for 425, 450, 475, and 500 plate appearances
Walker has 374 plate appearances with 10 games remaining, so getting to 450 is impossible, and getting to 425 even is now a longshot. To do that, he would need to play every day and average 5.1 plate appearances per game - but he only even 27 plate appearances this month. Verdict: $500K saved

LANCE LYNN: $1m each for 170 and 180 innings pitched
Lynn sits at 148 2/3 innings, and should have two starts left on his docket. It's possible a relief inning or two in Game 162 could also be on tap, but standing 21 1/3 innings shy of triggering the bonus, he would need two complete games and at least 3 1/3 innings in relief to get there - and as it is, his three longest outings this season of any kind combine for only 20 2/3 innings anyway. Verdict: $2m saved

CC SABATHIA: $500K each for 155, 165, 175, and 185 innings pitched
Sabathia has 142 innings right now, and also has only two starts left (Friday and one next week). The latter $1.5 million of his bonus potential seems sunk, and while the first one is readily attainable, here's the rub for CC: he hasn't pitched more than six innings since June 29 in Boston, so he'd need his two longest starts of the second half and/or a late relief appearance on a throw day to get there. That said, we won't ever bet against CC, so… Verdict: $1.5m saved, $500K will be earned

POSTSEASON DEPENDENT BONUSES
-Andrew McCutchen
: $25,000 for World Series MVP
-David Robertson: $75,000 for ALCS MVP
-Giancarlo Stanton: $25,000 for ALCS MVP; $50,000 for World Series MVP

We'll lump these together, because the Yankees won't know the fates of these bonuses until those particular rounds are over (or, if they're eliminated prior to the ALCS and/or World Series). The good thing here, though, is that even though there are technically $175K worth of monies available, that number is more realistically about $125K; sure, it's possible that Robertson and Stanton win co-MVP honors in the ALCS and/or McCutchen and Stanton are co-World Series MVPs, but it's rather unlikely, especially given that Robertson is ideally a sixth or seventh-inning guy heading into the postseason, and no DH in NL parks means that at least one of Stanton or McCutchen would be out of the starting lineup for a chunk of the World Series. Still, because these are round-specific, and a lot can happen between now and then, we have to give this one an incomplete of sorts. Verdict: $125-$175K TBD
 

UNLIKELY PERFORMANCE BONUSES
-Andrew McCutchen:
$125,000 for MVP, $75,000 for MVP second place, or $50,000 for MVP third place; $25,000 for Gold Glove
-David Robertson: $100,000 each for MVP and Cy Young, bonus decreases in $10K increments for finishes down to fifth place ($60K); $50,000 for Sporting News All-Star; $25,000 for Gold Glove
-Giancarlo Stanton: $100,000 for MVP; $50,000 for Gold Glove

We'll lump these together again because, well, it's easy to see already that these are all but out of reach. McCutchen's been a solid Yankee, but he's not likely to even receive MVP votes, nor will he win a Gold Glove, in either league, and Robertson's bonuses are for awards that middle relievers really don't usually approach. Stanton, meanwhile, was the NL MVP and was a Gold Glove finalist last year, but he's spent more time in the DH spot than the outfield this year, and might get MVP votes but doesn't necessarily even project as a finalist. Verdict: Up to $575K saved

THE WILD CARD: Giancarlo Stanton, $50,000 for Silver Slugger
Where Stanton could get himself some extra cash, though, is in this category, depending on which positions he and a few other players are categorized in. J.D. Martinez and Nelson Cruz would likely beat out Stanton as a DH, and among true outfielders, you can add Betts (AL batting leader), Khris Davis (AL home run leader), and Trout (second in AL in WAR despite missing most of August) for sure. Stanton winning a Silver Slugger is unlikely, but less so than anything else above, so we'll factor it into the pie. Verdict: $50K earned

The long-winded conclusion? The Yankees have up to $5.3 million in bonus money potentially to dole out, but they're looking at saving at least 85 percent of that at the bare minimum. Even if Stanton wins a Silver Slugger, Sabathia gets to 155 innings, and all of the postseason-based incentives are earned, that's only $725K of the possible monies earned.

The Yankees are currently projected to be under the luxury tax threshold, and $725K shouldn't affect that - so breathe easy, economists, because it appears Operation 197 will be a success.