Beginning in 2014, baseball's luxury-tax threshold will be set at $189 million as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and Steinbrenner said the Yankees are aiming to be below that figure.
"I'm looking at it as a goal, but my goals are normally considered requirements," Steinbrenner said. "Is it a requirement with baseball that we be at 189? No, it's not a requirement. But that is going to be the luxury-tax threshold, and that's where I want to be.
"I don't think it's a big surprise that one of my goals has always been to try to lower the payroll. Plenty of teams win without the kind of payrolls we have. I'm excited about the young kids we have. That definitely helps. We're going to shoot for that.
"We do it, we go into it knowing exactly what we're doing," Steinbrenner said. "But yes, being the only team that does it, I'm just not convinced we need to be as high as we've been in the past to field a championship-caliber team."
Steinbrenner believes that it's a realistic goal and said the Yankees are not "too far off" that number, projecting this year's payroll to be around $210 million. To get there, he said, the young talent, particularly the organization's prized pitchers currently working their way through the high Minor Leagues, will have to become Major League-ready.
The Yankees are already committed to paying four players -- Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter -- at least $73 million in 2014, and potentially more assuming Jeter's $8 million player option kicks in, giving them a little more than $100 million to work with.
"We've got some room to do things, but I am going to need some of these young pitchers to step up, no doubt," Steinbrenner said. "We're not far off.
"We'll see how these young pitchers -- [Dellin] Betances, [Manny] Banuelos, those guys -- perform toward the end of this year and next year. They're going to play a big part in that. The young kids are going to play a big part in lowering this payroll."
Steinbrenner has seen other clubs win without baseball's largest budget, and he has watched his club's farm system produce plenty of capable players. He believes the Yankees can field just as good of a team without breaking the bank on big-name veteran free agents.
"I'm a finance geek. I guess I always have been. That's my background," he said. "Budgets matter, and balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player development side and you have a good farm system, you don't need a $220 million payroll. You don't. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent."
While the 2012 payroll is roughly similar to what it was in 2011, Steinbrenner couldn't hide his excitement over his club's pitching staff and he said the '12 Yankees are better than they were a year ago. He thought the Yankees were actually fortunate in many respects last season, with several starters exceeding expectations and, aside from Rodriguez, most key position players avoiding serious injuries.
The Yankees did sign Hideki Kuroda to a $10 million deal this offseason, but it was only a one-year contract, and that salary will be off their books next year, when someone like Betances or Banuelos should be better prepared for a full-time spot in the rotation.
"All of us want to field the best team we can field," Steinbrenner said. "We're in a tough division, and most of them got tougher from last year to this year. We made the decisions we had to make. There's no doubt I would like to lower payroll. I think we can have, as good as our farm system is now, every bit as good a team. And we always will field a championship-caliber team."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.