We’ve written extensively about the Steinbrenner Cap, and repeatedly warned that it would have significant impact on how Cashman & Co. construct the team. We even suggested that the 2014 Yankees will be worse team than the current version, considering the worst contracts will still be on the books (Arod, Teixeira) and the best values will cease being values (Cano, Granderson, Gardner, Hughes).

Yet, it looks like Hal’s Quest for More Profit is already rearing its ugly head this offseason:

NY Post:

The Yankees are so serious about dropping under that $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2014 that, according to a source briefed on their plans, they would not even do a two-year contract in the $20 million range with Torii Hunter, The Post has learned.

Though Arizona’s Justin Upton has become available at the GM Meetings, a person involved in discussions said, “The Yankees are not on him.”

Yankees officials are insisting that you either commit to a philosophy or not, and they remain galvanized on gaining the financial benefits that are available via the collective bargaining agreement if they slip below $189 million.

For now, though, general manager Brian Cashman could not have been more definitive: “We are not going to be over the $189 million.

Upton, a talented, but enigmatic player, has three years at $38.5 million left on his contract and would count as just $8.54 million (the average annual value of his deal) toward the luxury tax payroll. Nevertheless, even committing those kind of dollars plus the cost-effective prospects necessary to land a player of Upton’s ilk currently is against the Yankees strategy.

The Yankees want to solve right field by committing as few (maybe zero) dollars to 2014 as possible. In fact, if they need to go to two years to keep Kuroda (which they might not agree to do either), it would all but assure not one cent of 2014 money is put toward right field.

Unless you live in la-la land, it’s obvious that the “Streinbrenners will do whatever it takes to win!” mantra we’ve heard over the years is pure fallacy, at least now that the kids are in charge.

However, all this budget posturing has got us thinking…what if all this maneuvering is more than Hal just trying to grease his pockets on an annual basis? What if the ultimate goal is to clean up the Yankees’ balance sheet so the team is more appealing to a buyer? Immediately forking out a big luxury tax check isn’t something a buyer would find ideal.

Hal has denied he’s looking to sell the team, but we’re getting the sense that this payroll directive is more than meets the eye.