Yankees Spring Training News & Notes: February 23, 2021

The gang’s all here.

The gang is all here now, including Brett Gardner. It’s a full camp and we made it a full day without an injury. I’m considering that a win. I bet you are too. Every day without an injury is a good day for the Yankees, especially after the last few years.

Today was a pretty quiet day in camp, all things considered. So that means that this is a pretty quick roundup. Funny how that works. But before we get into it…here is today’s requisite Tampa Video:

Some batting practice. You love to see it. On to the news.

The Big Story: The Roster Fills Out

The outstanding roster moves went down today: the Yanks officially signed left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and brought back Brett Gardner. The corresponding moves were designating Greg Allen for assignment and putting Luis Severino on the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster. We have known this coming for a while, but now it’s official. Here are the details on both signings:

  • Justin Wilson: one-year guaranteed at $2.85 million, with a $2.3 million player option for 2022. If declined, things get really interesting. Here are the full details, per Jon Heyman. Total is two-years, $5.15 million guaranteed.
  • Brett Gardner: one-year guaranteed at $1.85 million in 2021 with a $1 million signing bonus. He also has a $2.3 million player option in 2022, with more weird incentives for the Yankees. Total is two-years, $5.15 million guaranteed.

These are very weird contract structures! But they are also very smart contract structures, under the very specific format of the Competitive Balance Tax. The total “cap” hit for each player is $2.575 million, or $5.15 for the both of them. This is why the deals are structured as they are, and a part of me wonders if the league will do something about this sort of structure in the next CBA. It is borderline manipulation. But hey, it works!

Per Spotrac, the Yanks salary considerations is somewhere around $205 million. That’s probably exactly where the team wants to be. It leaves them enough room for midseason call-ups and any trades they may make without going over the almighty $210 million luxury tax threshold. Say what you will about that goal or the structures, but one thing is clear: Brian Cashman is outrageously good at his job. You just gotta hand it to him.

As is probably obvious, I like both of these moves. The Wilson signing makes a lot of sense to me, and I’m thrilled to have Gardner back. I think we can start having a real conversation about the roster and bench now – especially now that the team designated Greg Allen for assignment. That means one of Derek Dietrich or Jay Bruce will occupy the final slot on the roster. My money is on Dietrich, who I think is the more versatile and valuable player at this point.

We’ll see though. Point is that this is the last real roster update for a while. What we see is what we get now.

Leftovers

Again, pretty quiet day in camp. There are still some leftovers, though. Here’s what we’ve got today:

  • Gerrit Cole Rules: Friends, Gerrit Cole is the best. We’ve known this forever, of course, but I can’t get over it. Today, he continued to show that he is a Real One by sounding off on the Kevin Mather situation, analytics, and the current labor situation in the league. As usual, Cole was thoughtful with his responses. He also thanked Marvin Miller, something he did in his introductory press conference with the Yankees, along with Curt Flood. Keep it up, Gerrit.
  • Aaron Boone Weighs In: Speaking of Kevin Mather, Aaron Boone also offered his opinion. He said that service time manipulation “shouldn’t have a place in our game.” I agree, and it’s good to hear Boone say it, but it also rings a little hollow given that the Yankees are a team that has done this and will do it again. Still, nice to hear. It’s better than nothing, I guess.
  • Giancarlo Stanton, Outfielder: Boone also said that Giancarlo Stanton, who has primarily been relegated to DH status in the Bronx, may play in the outfield this season. I think it’s a good idea. Stanton is a career National Leaguer prior to the Yankees stint, and he is, contrary to popular belief, not made out of glass. He can play the outfield, and it should not be off-limits to him. Even if he’s primarily a DH, it’s fine. He’ll live.
  • Aaron Judge Speaks, with New Teeth: Aaron Judge, who saw a dentist in the last few weeks, says the Yanks are a “special group” that is poised to have a “special year” in 2021. I sure hope so. They have the talent and can get it done, but we hear this every year now. Would be nice to see the team deliver on the promise this season. Just one guy’s opinion!
  • Domingo Germán Speaks to the Team: Domingo Germán addressed the team twice today, first addressing pitchers and catchers and then the rest of the team. (They are divided for COVID-related reasons, I presume.) Aaron Boone says that he feels like “he has his teammates’ support.”
  • Luis Medina, in the Bronx: Aaron Boone didn’t rule out that 21-year-old Luis Medina might make his MLB debut this season, though he also didn’t really say he would, either. He basically said that he’s someone you’re hearing about more and more. “He’s somebody we’re very excited about … you never know what can happen. He’s somebody that we feel has a bright future and a Major League future”, Boone told Max Goodman. Fine with me. I love following Medina and hope he can take the next step.

And that’s that for another day in Yankees camp. If you missed it, please check out Randy’s vital writing on Kevin Mather, Ana’s great Views debut on DJ LeMahieu, and Derek’s positional preview on the catching depth chart. We’ll keep you posted if anything happens, but if not, we’ll see you tomorrow. Have a great night, everyone.

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4 Comments

  1. JJ Dools

    The contract structure used in the Gardy and Wilson deals is pretty brilliant. It is basically a $4m one year contract that counts as a $2.575m against the taxable payroll. Yes, it comes out as $5.15m in guaranteed dollars, but Gardy can decline, the team declines, and they can do this again (depending on possible rule changes) and he gets another $4m next season (instead of the lower player or higher player option amount). I suspect this was part of the logic for the buyout from the team he already pocketed this year.

    • Bobby

      Agreed on all accounts. It’s unexpectedly clever and good stuff from Cashman.

  2. Troy

    Given the cap hit, I like both moves even more. I wanted a lefty not tied to a special inning in the pen and I like seeing Gardner back. I hope it does not mean the end of Tauchman as I think there is potential to at least have a useful player.

    On Stanton playing the field. Yes. He is a good defender. He tends to get hurt on offense. Maybe playing some defense could actually keep him warm and prevent injuries.

  3. MikeD

    I figured Greg Allen’s chances of surviving on the Yankees was based strictly on Gardner returning or not. Cashman was thinking a couple steps ahead, and realized that if he ran up against the luxury tax line and couldn’t bring back Gardner, then they’d need someone who was cheap and could play center to back up Hicks. Enter Allen. Once Gardy returned, exit Allen.
    Certainly could argue that maybe Allen should stay over Tauchman, but they likely believe Tauchman has a little more upside with the bat and he’s also a lefty. Still not convinced Tauchman will survive to Opening Day, but he might with injuries.

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