According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Yankees are interested in free agent righty Yu Darvish, but Rosenthal added that the Yankees would need to get creative to do it — in other words — trade Jacoby Ellsbury.
The problem is that the Yankees are trying to keep their payroll under $197 million for the season to avoid paying the luxury tax and reset their penalty from 50 percent to 20 percent if they exceed it in the future.
Joel Sherman of the NY Post estimates their payroll at approximately $182 million, but that doesn’t include the contracts of players that they will inevitably add midseason. So they do have some flexibility still, to say trade for a pitcher on a team-friendly contract like Gerrit Cole, but if they could off load even some of the $68.5 million they owe to Ellsbury, they could suddenly jump into the free agent market.
The Yankees could probably offload at least some of Ellsbury’s contract if they were motivated to do so, it just depends on how much of that $68.5 million they wanted to eat. Rumors are they were willing to swallow about half, but teams are obviously still hesitant. There is also the factor of his no trade clause and the fact that he’s stated multiple times that he does not want to be traded.