The 2019 season is over for the New York Yankees. It has been for about a week now. The World Series will wrap up one way or another this week, and all of baseball will be in full offseason mode. We’re already there a little bit. We see the discussions on Gerrit Cole already taking place (what is there to discuss? Don’t we all agree he is good?), but there is a lot to decide before we actually get to talking about additions to the team. Let’s discuss some of the early decisions that will have to be made.
There are eight players that were members of the 2019 Yanks that are about to be free agents. The Yankees will have to decide on who comes back altogether along with who they will extend the qualifying offer.
Dellin Betances is a free agent. He is eligible for the qualifying offer and in spring training I’d have said it was a no-brainer to offer it to him. He was hurt all year and has the torn Achilles now, though, so it isn’t happening. It’s still a no-brainer to bring him back, but he is not going to receive the 1-year QO worth almost $18M. They should absolutely get him a one-year deal in the $10ish million range… or a contract with some creative option stuff in there, perhaps? Betances wants to be here and the Yankees love him. His contract for 2020 will be cheaper than anyone imagined a year or two ago, so just get it done, fellas.
Edwin Encarnacion is a free agent. He had a $20M team option that was never ever getting picked up, but reports indicate that the Yankees officially aren’t going to pick it up. He will be given the $5M buyout and become a free agent. I may have advocated for a one-year contract worth $8-$10M for Edwin if not for the absolute dud of an ALCS he had. The Yankees will likely have Luke Voit and either (both?) Greg Bird or Mike Ford on the roster next season, and that is at least one more 1B/DH only guy than most teams would carry in today’s game. Injuries happen- we learned that this year- and there’s no such thing as too much depth, but my god I really just don’t see a way Edwin’s back. I won’t throw a fit if he is, but I’ll understand if people do.
Brett Gardner is a free agent. Aaron Hicks is going to have offseason Tommy John surgery and will be out until about the All-Star break, so bringing Gardy back is as big a no-brainer as ever. It was a no-brainer anyway, but now it would be a whole new level of shocking if they let him walk. He won’t get the QO, but he’ll get another one-year deal in the $7-$9M range, I reckon.
Didi Gregorius will be a free agent. I want him back and I could see a scenario in which they give him the QO, but it feels unlikely. I think he either walks in free agency or they get him something like one-year and $12-$15M and let him build his free-agent value back up another year removed from his Tommy John procedure.
Austin Romine is a backup catcher, so he won’t get the QO. I don’t think I expect him back. Kyle HIgashioka has a lot of fans in the organization, he’ll be much cheaper, and I’m reasonably confident Higgy is out of options and ineligible to be in AAA next year. I would love to have Romine back, though.
CC Sabathia retired. Non-issue.
Cory Gearrin and Cameron Maybin are free agents, but did not spend the whole season on the roster so they are ineligible for the QO.
The one guy that could get it is not on the list of free agents… yet. Aroldis Chapman has an opt-out clause in his contract this winter (and next!) and may want to tack on to the two years and $30M left on his deal. If he opts out, the Yankees obviously give him the QO.
Some think this is unlikely, but I actually do believe there’s a chance Chapman and his agent try to big-brain this and accept the QO this winter. If he accepts that, He’ll receive almost $3M more for the 2020 season and then become a free agent next winter without draft pick compensation attached. He’d only have to beat one year and $15M next winter to make the whole thing worth the effort. He is getting up in age and his velocity is dropping off each season, but he’s so good despite that that he’ll beat that offer rather handily. He also may think he can beat two for $30M in free agency now. He likely can! In the current free-agent-unfriendly market, it is not guaranteed, though. He said in July that he wants to stay in New York, so maybe this will help add on another year to the current deal.
If I’m the Yankees, I’m fine letting Chapman walk if he hits full free agency. He’s 31 now (and will be 33 at the end of his current deal) and very well could have a steep decline. The salary situation for this team gets complicated now that Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will hit arbitration. Shedding Chapman’s contract may be worthwhile for salary purposes. There are cheaper options out there (Will Smith!) as well as dominant relievers within the organization. I want Chapman back, but won’t be mad if the Yankees let him walk. I also think there’s a good chance he takes the QO. A better chance than most.