Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner says team's payroll, 3rd in MLB, 'not sustainable for us financially'

The New York Yankees are riding high right now, with the emergent Juan Soto, the resurgent Aaron Judge and a 33-17 record, tied for the best in the American League. Their owner would like you to know that success isn't coming cheaply.

Speaking with the New York Post, Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner claimed the team can't maintain its record-high payroll this season:

“I’m gonna be honest, payrolls at the levels we’re at right now are simply not sustainable for us financially,’’ Steinbrenner said. “It wouldn’t be sustainable for the vast majority of ownership [groups], given the luxury tax we have to pay.’’

Steinbrenner also reportedly said, "I don’t believe I should have a $300 million payroll to win a championship."

The Yankees opened the season with a $296.6 million payroll for its 26-man roster, per Cot's Contracts, a $19 million increase from last season and the largest in Yankees history. It ranks only third in MLB, however, behind the New York Mets ($328.7 million) and Los Angeles Dodgers ($308.4 million).

Forbes currently values the Yankees at $7.55 billion, with an estimated revenue of $679 million and an operating income of $2.1 million.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 18: Juan Soto #22 of the New York Yankees reacts after hitting a home run in the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium on May 18, 2024 in New York City. New York Yankees defeated the Chicago White Sox 6-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Yankees or not, Juan Soto is going to receive a lot of money in free agency. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

It's an atypical look for the owner of the Yankees to complain about the sport's affordability, especially when the Dodgers gave out more than $1 billion in contracts last season. It's also not what Yankee fans want to hear when Soto remains a pending free agent, and is playing himself into what will likely be one of the largest contracts in MLB history.

It's hard to imagine Soto breaking Shohei Ohtani's $700 million record for the largest contract in sports without similarly outrageous deferrals, but exceeding the real, inflation-adjusted value of the contract (somewhere in the neighborhood of $450 million) seems very possible.

The good news is that Steinbrenner said the Yankees will have some more financial freedom next season:

“We’ve got a considerable amount of money coming off [next offseason],’’ Steinbrenner said. “We didn’t have a considerable amount of money coming off last offseason, which is why we’re at where we’re at.”

The list of New York's pending free agents and their 2024 salaries (via Cot's) includes Soto ($31 million), Gleyber Torres ($14.2 million), Alex Verdugo ($8.7 million), Clay Holmes ($6 million), Tommy Kahnle ($5.75 million), Jonathan Loáisiga ($2.5 million) and Caleb Ferguson ($2.4 million). Those non-Soto players would leave some holes to fill, but they total up to $40 million of potential slack.

In the meantime, the Yankees can enjoy a team that has looked even better than expectations in 2024, buoyed by Soto, Judge and a rotation that has been one of the best in MLB despite reigning Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole being sidelined.