We’re a couple of weeks later than last year, but better late than never. It’s time for us to unveil our Official Offseason Plan for the Yankees. Everyone on staff has discussed and debated various decisions the Yankees have ahead of them this winter and are ready to share our consensus today.
As a preface, this plan is a bit conservative and would get the Yankees under the $210 million luxury tax threshold. It’s not clear whether or not the Yankees will exhibit austerity this winter, though there have been hints in the media. That led to some difficult decisions that you’ll see unfold below. That said, we are planning to share another less-stringent plan soon. It’ll be more fun, we promise.
With that, let’s dive right in.
We wouldn’t do anything differently than what the Yankees actually did. On the option front, Zack Britton stays while Brett Gardner and JA Happ depart.
Team Free Agents & Qualifying Offers
DJ LeMahieu: It’s tough to say goodbye, but something coming later will explain why.
Masahiro Tanaka: Another really tough goodbye here. Tanaka was terrific for seven years in pinstripes, but in trying to fit under the $210 million tax threshold, it just couldn’t be done.
James Paxton: Best of luck, Big Maple. Didn’t quite work out in New York and his health this year was the big reason. The Yankees need more certainty in the rotation and Paxton just can’t offer that.
Brett Gardner: We fully expect Gardner to return in real life, but for the purposes of our plan, it’s time to move on. Better to get out a year too soon than a year to late with the 37 year old outfielder.
JA Happ: No surprise here. Happ’s not a part of this team’s future.
We’re adding three players via free agency. The contract numbers we’re using are from FanGraphs crowdsourcing project. You can see the median contracts estimated on the site’s free agent tracker.
Sign Trevor Rosenthal to a 2 year deal for $13.0 million. The Yanks had Rosenthal in Triple-A for a short while last year, but control was a huge issue for the former Cardinals closer. He struggled in the big leagues with Washington and Detroit last summer, but this year, he rebounded with Kansas City and San Diego. In total, the hard-throwing righty had a 1.90 ERA and 2.23 FIP in 23 2/3 innings this season. He also amassed a ridiculous 41.8 percent strikeout rate.
Sign Kiké Hernández to a 2 year deal for $12 million. We love that he can play literally every infield and outfield position and isn’t a bad hitter to boot. He’s got a lifetime .240/.313/.425 (99 wRC+) batting line, which doesn’t sound great from a quick glance, but that’s quite solid for a depth player. This is a big upgrade over Mike Tauchman and Tyler Wade/Thairo Estrada on the bench.
Sign Drew Smyly or Anthony DeSclafani to a 1 year deal for $5 million. Look, we know that using “or” makes this is a little bit of a cop out. But we’re looking for rotation depth at a price that fits under our budget, and one of these two will have to do.
Smyly was very good in San Francisco in 2020 and possesses good stuff, but he also only pitched more than 5 innings twice in 7 games. Still, he struck out 37.8 percent of batters faced and posted a 3.42 ERA and 2.01 FIP.
DeSclafani was downright bad for Cincinnati this summer, but he’s just one year removed from a strong campaign in the back of the Reds’ rotation. In 2019, the righty made 31 starts, pitched 166 2/3 innings, and posted a 3.89 ERA. Entering 2020, he’d had the definition of a league average career (100 ERA- and 99 FIP-) and appears to be a decent choice for the back of the rotation. He also throws pretty hard (94.8 MPH fastball average) and generates a lot of whiffs against his slider (35.6 percent).
Minor league free agents: If the market is as bad as it sounds like it will be, the Yankees could add a bunch of notable names on minor league deals with invites to spring training. As you’ll see later, we’re leaving a 40-man spot open for one to potentially make the team out of camp. Could Cameron Maybin come back on such a deal? How about a reunion with David Robertson, who’s just getting back from Tommy John surgery? Eric Thames, who we wanted in last year’s plan, had a down 2020 and might not get a big league deal. Point is, there will be better than usual players signing MiLB deals.
1. Your trade proposal sucks.— River Ave. Blues (@RiverAveBlues) July 31, 2017
We know, we know, but we can’t help ourselves. To aid in reasonableness, we used Baseball Trade Values to evaluate our ideas. Off we go:
Trade Miguel Andújar, Mike Tauchman, Jonathan Loaisiga, Estevan Florial, and Oswald Peraza for Francisco Lindor
Derek profiled Lindor as a target yesterday, and here he is in our plan. He becomes the everyday shortstop and Gleyber Torres moves back to second base. This trade also means the end of LeMahieu’s tenure in the Bronx, as hinted at earlier.
Does the trade package sound light for one year of Lindor? Sure, but keep in mind what the trade target profile noted yesterday. Cleveland’s recent trade history, a few good shortstops available in free agency, and the team’s apparent desperation to shed salary has cost the team leverage. Still, they get a few current big leaguers and a couple of high risk high reward prospects.
Trade Adam Ottavino, Albert Abreu, Roansy Contreras, Ezequiel Duran, and Anthony Volpe to Texas for Lance Lynn and Willie CalhounEmbed from Getty Images
Welcome back. Lynn has a 3.57 ERA and 3.43 FIP in just under 300 innings since joining the Rangers in 2019. He’s durable, added velocity, and has performed well since the Yankees last had him. By the way, he wasn’t half bad for the Bombers as a rental in 2018. He had a 4.14 ERA and 2.17 FIP in 54 1/3 innings post-acquisition. Probably should have kept him over Happ! Then again, who knows if the Yankees do whatever the Rangers did to help Lynn improve. That doesn’t matter now and is why we’re acquiring him.
But that’s not all — we’re also picking up former top prospect Willie Calhoun. He can hit but doesn’t have a position, though he has outfield experience. Kinda sounds like Andújar, who we dealt earlier. But a left-handed version of Miggy, which helps provide some depth and balance.
In return, we’re dumping Adam Ottavino whose $9 million average annual value is just shy of Lynn’s $10 million in return. Not exactly enticing for Texas, but a million dollars in savings isn’t awful, I suppose. Plus, a slew of prospects head their way. If the trade machine says yes, we say yes.
Tommy Kahnle: Like the Yankees already did, we’re letting go of Kahnle, whose expected $2.7 million arbitration salary is too costly for someone who won’t pitch in 2021 due to Tommy John surgery.
Ben Heller: Often hurt and is out of minor league options. His $700,000 forecasted salary isn’t expensive or anything, but he’s simply no longer worth taking up a 40-man spot.
Rule 5 Protection
We have five 40-man spots available, although once the injured list is available again in Spring Training, Luis Severino will go on the 60-day IL and open up a sixth spot. That could go to a non-roster invitee or minor league free agent, but that’s neither here nor there.
Alexander Vizcaino: The 23 year-old righty is the Yankees’ 8th-best prospect per MLB Pipeline. He reached High-A in 2019 and spent 2020 at the Alternate Site.
Addison Russ: Acquired from the Phillies for David Hale this summer, Russ has middle relief to late inning relief potential. He’s pitched in Double-A in Philadelphia’s system and was at the Yankees’ Alternate Site post-acquisition.
Yoendrys Gomez: He’s ranked one spot behind Vizcaino on MLB Pipeline’s list. Gomez is a couple of years younger and has only thrown 26 2/3 innings above rookie-ball (all in Charleston), but with the expectation of aggression in this year’s Rule 5 draft, we’re protecting him.
Kyle Holder: We wanted to protect the defensive whiz last year, but the Yankees didn’t and he went undrafted. He spent the summer in Scranton in the Yankees’ player pool this year and has topped out in Double-A beforehand. We don’t want to risk losing a plus-defender up the middle, especially with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada only having one more minor league option remaining.
Trevor Stephan: The team’s third round pick in 2017 ranks 24th on MLB Pipeline’s Yankees list and has nasty stuff. The problem is that he can be a bit wild. In 2019, the Yanks demoted him from Double-A to High-A, but he did return to Trenton and pitch well to close out the season. He’s almost exclusively been used as a starter, but better profiles in late relief.
40-Man Roster & Luxury Tax Payroll
- Guaranteed Contracts (10, $139.0M): Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino, Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal, Kiké Hernández, and Drew Smyly/Anthony DeSclafani.
- Arbitration Eligible (11, $50.0M*): Francisco Lindor, Aaron Judge, Gary Sánchez, Gio Urshela, Chad Green, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Holder, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, Clint Frazier
- Pre-Arbitration (19, $6.25M*): Willie Calhoun, Domingo German, Tyler Wade, Mike Ford, Kyle Higashioka, Thairo Estrada, Michael King, Deivi García, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson, Clarke Schmidt, Miguel Yajure, Alexander Vizcaino, Addison Russ, Yoendrys Gomez, Trevor Stephan, Kyle Holder
- Other ($12.5M)
- Player Benefits: $15.5M
- Cash from Miami (Giancarlo Stanton trade): ($3.0M)
*We’ve allocated $4 million for pre-arbitration players on the Major League roster and $2.25M for pay to 40-man players while in the minor leagues. Note that some of the arbitration eligible players could spend some time in the minors next season, which would be on a lower salary than their final arbitration figure (a split-contract). The arbitration salaries are from MLB Trade Rumors projections.
So, we have a full 40-man roster, but that’ll go down to 39 come Spring Training when Severino can go on the 60-day IL.
The total Competitive Balance Tax payroll shown is under the initial $210 million threshold. This would reset the Yankees tax status and leave them a couple million dollars of wiggle room during the regular season. Admittedly, it doesn’t leave much space for a midseason trade, but it is what it is.
- Francisco Lindor
- Lance Lynn
- Willie Calhoun
- Trevor Rosenthal
- Kiké Hernández
- Drew Smyly/Anthony Desclafani
- MiLB FAs
- DJ LeMahieu
- Masahiro Tanaka
- James Paxton
- JA Happ
- Brett Gardner
- Adam Ottavino
- Miguel Andújar
- Mike Tauchman
- Jonathan Loaisiga
- Estevavn Florial
- Oswald Peraza
- Albert Abreu
- Roansy Contreras
- Ezequiel Duran
- Anthony Volpe