Interesting 2023 Contract Decisions
By Chris O’Connor
August 18, 2022
It’s never too early to start looking to 2023. While Aaron Judge’s impending free agency soaks up all of the attention, the Yankees have a few interesting contract situations to monitor heading into next year.
At the moment, the Yankees have six players under contract for next season: Gerrit Cole ($36 million), Giancarlo Stanton ($32 million), Josh Donaldson ($21.75 million), D.J. LeMahieu ($15 million), Aaron Hicks ($10.75 million), and Harrison Bader ($5.2 million). The luxury tax threshold is set to be about $233 million and the Yankees have about $122.4 million committed, though that figure does not include players under team control through either arbitration or pre-arb. Let’s take a look at some decisions that will be under the microscope this winter. Since everyone is familiar with Aaron Judge’s situation, I left him off the list.
After the 2018 season, the Yankees inked their 24 year-old ace to a four year, $40 million contract extension that covered the 2019-2022 seasons. The deal also included a 2023 team option for $15 million. Sevy threw 18.0 innings in the regular season over the first three seasons of that deal before reaching 86.0 in 2022, but with a right shoulder/lat injury that has him on the 60-day IL, it does not appear that that number will rise much more. The 28 year-old is undeniably talented, but it is hard to believe that the Yankees will pick up that club option given his spotty health record. Still, Sevy has looked good this season with a 3.45 ERA, 3.40 SIERA, and a 27.2% strikeout rate. I could envision a scenario where it makes sense for both sides to settle on a one-year deal that could allow Sevy to re-establish his value ahead of possible free agency after 2023.
Rizzo has a player option for $16 million in 2023. He has been great for the Yankees in 2022 with 27 home runs and a 142 WRC+ in 98 games, providing solid defense at first as well. Rizzo recently turned 33, however, and the market for mid-30’s first baseman is not particularly strong in the modern MLB. So while the Yankees might hope for Rizzo to opt in for 2023, Rizzo could leverage that by getting more guaranteed money at a lesser rate in a two or three year contract. The tricky thing is that there are not a lot of comps for Rizzo. He is not as good as Freedie Freeman or Paul Goldschmidt at this stage in his career and four years older than Matt Olson. He has been such a great fit in New York that one would think that there is mutual interest in a reunion. Could he opt out and return on a three year, $33 million extension that takes him through his age-35 season? Something in that ballpark may get it done.
Taillon is a very interesting case. He will be a free agent after the season and will turn 31 in November. He has been prone to bouts of inconsistency in his time with the Yankees, but has largely been solid in 2022 (10-2, 3.96 ERA, 3.85 SIERA). The biggest thing, however, for a player with two Tommy John surgeries is that he has stayed healthy in his two years with the team. Because of how valuable starting pitching is, if Taillon can stay healthy and productive for the rest of the season, he can be looking at a nice payday this offseason. Yusuei Kukuchi got three years and $36 million from the Blue Jays last offseason; Steven Matz got four years and $44 million from the Cardinals. Would the Yankees go in that range? Difficult to say. On the one hand, the Yankees just traded away Jordan Montgomery and a decent chunk of their upper-minors pitching depth. Taillon has also shown the ability to perform in New York, no small thing given the Joey Gallo disaster. On the other hand, they did trade for Frankie Montas and have become adept at developing pitching in their system. Perhaps more than anyone on this list, the rest of the season will play a big role in Taillon’s status for next season.
Britton, who will turn 35 in December, had Tommy John surgery last September and is finishing up a three year, $39 million contract. While he hopes to make it back by the end of the regular season, it is difficult to know what to expect considering he has not pitched since last August. On the positive side, Britton does not rely on velocity to get outs; his devastating sinker allows him to get ground balls at an ~80% rate. That should allow him to age better. On the other hand, pitchers often need time to re-establish their command after Tommy John surgery, and Britton’s control has long been a weakness of his. Like Severino, I could see him settling for a one year prove-it deal, betting on his ability to stay healthy and perform. If his price gets too high, however, I think the Yankees would let him walk and give the young guys (Clarke Schmidt, Albert Abreu, etc.) a shot at bigger roles.