The VF314 Official 2020-2021 Offseason Plan

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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.

Option decisions

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.

Free Agency

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.

Trades

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 Calhoun

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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.

Non-Tender/DFA

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)

TOTAL: $207.75M

*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.

Transaction Summary

In:

  • Francisco Lindor
  • Lance Lynn
  • Willie Calhoun
  • Trevor Rosenthal
  • Kiké Hernández
  • Drew Smyly/Anthony Desclafani
  • MiLB FAs

Out:

  • 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

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26 Comments

  1. Awful, just awful.

    DJM needs to be resigned, he is the best all around player on the team.

    Why spend $5M for Rosenthal when teams like the Rays find guys making near the minimum who would pitch as well or better?

  2. Dani

    Not gonna lie, I’d be very disappointed if the Yanks offseason turns out like that.

  3. DanGer

    Not a fan of dumping low on Andujar.

    130 wRC+ as a 23 year old rookie (coincidentally Lindor’s career high) and had similar XBH totals to Machado, Goldschmidt, and Arenado. Not at all suggesting he’s in that tier, just saying he’s not the hot garbage everyone thinks he is now.

    • Mungo

      The same people dumping on Andujar this year were dumping on Frazier last year. Next year they’ll be in love with Andujar and, yes, Sanchez. These are very short-sighted fans. I guess that’s the nature of most, or at least some, fans.

      • I think the big thing with Andujar is where do you play him? If he needs regular ABs to be successful then do you really give him Stanton’s DH spots? Or put him at third over Urshela, or LF over Frazier? I know, I know, injuries are almost guaranteed to give him ample playing time but still.

  4. Alex

    Wade and Ford should also be non-tendered. Perhaps Jonathan Holder as well.

    I would rather bring back DJ on the likely short-term deal he will get than hand out what will be a mammoth contract to Lindor. We honestly need DJ back in that leadoff spot. I think you’re setting yourself up to fail if you are relying on a .230 career hitter like Hicks to bat leadoff.

    I’ve said this several times recently but I think exploring a Aaron Judge trade should be part of the offseason plan. Considering his age, team control, and contract, I find it hard to believe that Judge is going to have any more trade value moving forward than he currently does. Considering all the injuries and the fact that he is going to want a massive contract, I think its better to be a year too early when it comes to moving on from Judge than a year too late. We’ve seen how poor the market is for players with just 1 year remaining of team control. Trade Judge now while he has 2 years left before free agency. This team badly needs quality starting pitching and if Cashman isn’t willing to spend to bolster the rotation, then he needs to think about trading for non-expensive quality starting pitching. Trading Judge is one of the few ways to get that.

  5. Mike Pellegrini

    I don’t think this team would be an improvement over the 2020 Yankees IMO.

  6. Too much to give up for one year of Lindor. Other than the Mets I don’t know of other clubs that can afford him. Maybe the Dodgers if they let Turner go and move Seager to 3rd. I like Lindor but the Yanks would have to sign him and are they ready for another big money contract with Judge coming up a year later? But love the thought but….

    • Dan

      You only do it if you’re committed to a long term deal.

      • Sal

        That idea never made sense to me.

        So trade a bunch of prospect AND commit to a long term deal? Yeesh.

        Do one or the other…. Not both.

        Thats how you end up in luxury tax hell and a crappy farm system.

    • Alex

      At this point, Judge shouldn’t be a big money contract anymore. I honestly don’t see the Yankees offering him a new contract (and nor should they) unless he’s willing to take a significant team discount.

      • Mungo

        There’s no reason for him to take a significant team discount, although we’d have to know what type of “discounted” numbers you’re talking about. Even missing games, he was a 5.9 WAR and a 5.5 WAR player in 2018 and 2019. Would you rather have 105 games and a 5.5 WAR player in RF, or a 3.0 WAR player who plays 150 games? He’s also the face of the organization. I’m not saying they should extend him, but there is also a price a baseball and business price where he’s still a good value.

        • Alex

          The reason for him to take a team discount is because there is not going to be a super robust market for a gigantic 30+ year old player two years from now if he continues being constantly injured. If Judge believes he might never be able to stay healthy then he might want to cash in now, even at a largely discounted contract. When it comes to “discounted numbers,” maybe use whatever contract George Springer lands this offseason as a benchmark but since Judge still has 2 years of team control left and plays in the corner OF instead of CF, he would be offered less. MLB Trade Rumors predicts Springer will land a 5 year/$125 million contract while fangraphs predicts a 5 year contract in the $105-$115 million range so take with that what you will.

          I’d also argue that he’s no longer the face of the organization. That title should belong to Gerrit Cole now.

  7. CentralScrutinizer

    I guess my first objection would be why work within the artificial budget limitations that you think Hal will set? If it’s your plan then why not establish your own budget?

    I think that package for Lindor could be easily topped by another organization. Whether the organizations that could top that package would choose to do so is another story but unless the Yankees are the only bidder I don’t see that trade happening.

    Hernandez would be a good upgrade over Thairo and Wade. I don’t care about the money (it’s not mine) so I won’t comment on the price. I’m not interested in Smyly or DeScalfani but Rosenthal is not a bad idea. I have a better one. Take all that money you would give those guys and put it towards a package for Liam Hendricks. I don’t know if he would consider the Yankees but I’m not going to bottom fish for guys like Smyly, Descalfani and Rosenthal before I touch base with Hendricks.

    As far as the rotation I would bring Tanaka back at a discount if he would go for it (he won’t – the Mets will pay him what he wants). I don’t have a better idea for a SP trade but I’m not sold on Lynn, He wasn’t that bad as a Yankee but he wasn’t that good either. He’s a fastball/flyball pitcher and Yankee Stadium plays a lot smaller than Globe Life Park.

  8. Nah, too much to give up for ONE YEAR of Lindor. I would rather have LeMahieu anyway. Lindor seems like a bit of a fool.

  9. Eddie J

    The one negative is we don’t have a true backup CF. But we still have some decent depth in the minors to cover injuries, covid & for future trades

  10. No more Gardy party? Even at 4-5M?

  11. Yanks317

    I don’t watch Lindor often enough, and I get that you choose players based on what you expect vs what they’ve done, and DJ is considerably older than Lindor. But, just after watching DJ the past 2 years and seeing him play everyday… it’s so hard for me to choose anyone else for that payroll slot but DJ. Then again after watching him the last 2 years I feel like his Colorado numbers are impossible, how could THIS player possibly have been an average hitter in 2017 and 2018. I’d bet a forward zips projection favors Lindor in a landslide for the next 5 years, but we are only guaranteed one year with a trade.

    Impossibly difficult decision, both options are great, I’ll be hoping the Yanks come away with at least one and do not get shut out. More likely to come down to the market for each player IMO. Like maybe a team is willing to trade and extend Lindor right now, like the dodgers did with Betts, I think that could take the Yanks out, making DJ the easy option.

  12. The Original Drew

    So the lineup would look like:

    CF Hicks S
    RF Judge R
    SS Lindor S
    DH Stanton R
    1B Voit R
    2B Torres R
    LF Frazier R
    C Sanchez R
    3B Urshela R

    Bench;
    Kiki Hernandez R
    Higgy R
    Calhoun L
    Wade R

    Still very right handed towards the bottom of the lineup. Unless you want to put Torres leadoff and put Hicks 6th or 7th which I am not opposed to. I get that Calhoun is there as lefty bat but when you’re putting these guys in the lineup for platoon advantage that are worse than your regulars. It’s a hard pull to swallow.

    Rotation:
    Cole
    Lynn
    Montgomery
    Smly
    1 of Garcia/German/King

    Bullpen
    Chapman
    Britton
    Green
    Rosenthal
    Holder
    Cessa
    2 of Garcia/German/King

    I don’t hate it, but I also don’t love it either. Giving Rosenthal 13 million dollars when he can turn back into a pumpkin is risky IMO.

    • Randy

      The 2020 bench had Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, amongst other struggling pieces. This bench is a huge upgrade. How is that a hard pill to swallow with very little wiggle room to get under the tax threshold?

      • Mungo

        The lack of useful depth on the 2020 team was a significant problem. A lot of ABs went to bad players.

        • Alex

          Exactly… Ford and Wade aren’t major league caliber players. Those guys aren’t depth, they’re DFA material. It is malpractice that Cashman relied on them to play such significant roles on the team last season. The Yankees need to do better than that.

          • Mungo

            I don’t disagree with that at all. Hopefully they’ll realize the experiment didn’t work. The Dodgers and Rays have weapons they could deploy at all times.

    • Yanks317

      Maybe Lindor could bat lower to split it up. I think Hicks lead off would be a lock with DJ gone. Put the .380ish obp guy up there, they had visions of Torres hitting 3rd, Luke voit would be my choice but you get into the similar hitters back to back to back stuff.

      • Alex

        I think Hicks leading off wouldn’t be a good idea. I like him as a 9th hitter who can get on base for the top of the lineup but I hate the idea of putting a .230 career hitter in the leadoff spot. DJ has basically been the perfect leadoff hitter for us.

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