Yankees leaving Orioles, others in AL East far behind in spending spree

For years I’ve heard the bellyaching about how the Orioles can’t compete financially with the big boys in the American League East, specifically the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Well, now it looks like everyone, including the Red Sox, can join hands and sing in protest to those mighty, free-spending Yankees.

Not really, of course. Teams are free to spend however they want in the free market that is Major League Baseball. (And there sure is a sense the Orioles could do a lot more with their payroll; see Peter Schmuck’s column today).

But the Yankees certainly have taken it to an eye-popping level this winter.

With the signing of Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract -- first reported by Fox Sports -- the Yankees likely will have a $200 million-plus payroll (or close to it) in 2014.

More stunning, the Yankees, with the addition of Tanaka’s reported $22 million salary in 2014, will have eight players who will make at least $15 million this upcoming season. That figure would be nine, but Alex Rodriguez (and his $25 million salary) is currently suspended for 2014.

Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting shortstop Derek Jeter, is actually ninth(or 10th, if you count A-Rod) on the Yankees’ 2014 payroll at $12 million.

In comparison, the rest of the American League East has just five players who are scheduled to get $15 million or more in 2014. So the Yankees are winning that race, eight (or nine) to five. The Orioles have one, right fielder Nick Markakis; the Red Sox have two, first baseman Mike Napoli and right-handed pitcher John Lackey; the Toronto Blue Jays have two, shortstop Jose Reyes and left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle; the Tampa Bay Rays have none.

To be fair, the Red Sox would have three more players in the $15 million-plus range in 2014 (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett) if it weren’t for the great Los Angeles Dodgers’ bailout of 2012.

Buehrle, whom the Miami Marlins initially signed to his huge deal before trading him to Toronto, is the only non-Yankee in the AL East who will make $17 million or more in 2014. He’ll get $18 million. The Yankees have six (seven with A-Rod) of those guys. And the Yankees own the only four (or five) players in the division who will make $20 million or more this upcoming season.

One last financial statistic on the Yankees splurge this winter: they bought five players (Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Beltran) who will make a combined $91 million in 2014 alone. The Orioles’ current 2014 payroll, barring any big purchases and estimating a few contract adjustments, sits at about $82-$83 million right now.