by James Vlietstra
December 17, 2022
From the end of the 2022 World Series to the opening of 2023 Spring Training there are approximately 100 days. We are approaching the midpoint. So I wanted to spend a moment to evaluate how the Yankees have done and see what else needs to be done.
The 2022 version of the Yankees won 99 regular season games and progressed as far as the ALCS before being eliminated by the eventual World Series winning Astros. Overall it was a pretty successful season, except for the offense being completely shut down in the ALCS to extend their championship drought to 13 years.
There are nine members from that roster that are currently no longer under contract with the Yankees. These players are: Andrew Benintendi, Zack Britton, Matt Carpenter, Miguel Castro, Aroldis Chapman, Marwin Gonzalez, Tim Locastro, Stephen Ridings, and Jameson Taillon (who inexplicably was not offered the Qualifying Offer and has since signed with the Cubs for 4 years/ $68M).
Also of note: Jhony Brito, Matt Krook, and Jimmy Cordero all were placed on the 40 man roster prior to them electing minor league free agency. Junior Fernandez was claimed and added to the roster. Randy Vasquez was put on the 40 man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
Anthony Rizzo opted out of his contract, but quickly re-signed with the club. His new contract is for two years and an option which guarantees him $40M for two years or is $51M for three. Rizzo provided Aaron Judge the most protection of anyone last year.
At the winter meetings, the Yankees lost two players in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft: Zach Greene (Mets) and Wilking Rodriguez (Cardinals). These players have to remain on the active roster for their new teams all year or must be returned to the Yankees.
In the minor league part of the draft, the Yankees lost Alfred Vega, Yon Castro, Denny Larrondo, Ryan Miller, Nelson Alvarez, and Oliver Dunn. These players are gone forever. LHP Pablo Mujica was the lone player added to the organization.
The next move the Yankees made was bringing back Tommy Kahnle to the fold. He signed a two year deal worth $11.5M. Kahnle spent parts of four seasons with the Yankees before needing Tommy John Surgery.
The biggest move was when the team brought back Aaron Judge on a nine year contract. This was the only move that made sense for both club and player. He is the face of baseball and is vital to YES marketing. Having only spent six years in the organization, had he left he would not be an inductee into Monument Park. Now his legacy will be assured along with a likely Captaincy.
The Judge contract will cover seasons from age 31-39 as his birthday is in April. Perhaps a couple of years at the tail end will be viewed as an albatross, however this is how baseball does it. He was drafted in 2013 and he earned about $40M in 10 years. He was offered seven years on top of his final arbitration year for a total of 8 years and $230M, bet on himself, had a season for the ages, and used the Giants as leverage, and turned it into 10 years and $379M.
(As a side note, in the future, they Yankees should use the Braves blueprint. In their first three years a player makes the league minimum. Then three years of arbitration, say $5M, $10M, $15M then free agent. That’s six years at $30-40M then free agency 28-30 years old. Offer 8 for $60M and let them walk at 32, after prime. Let someone else pay for the downside that we’ll experience with Cole and Stanton in the near future.)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the four year extension that General Manager Brian Cashman received. At the end of this contract, he will have been with the organization for 41 years. At some point I expect him to take on a more corporate role as President of Baseball Operations and one of his lieutenants will likely resume his role.
The most recent of the Yankees Free Agent signings was coveted lefty Carlos Rodon. He signed a six year deal for $162M. This puts him right near the top of perhaps the greatest rotation in the majors. Pitching, which was a strength last year, has just gotten better.
As of this writing, the contracts of Kahnle, Judge, and Rodon are yet to be officially announced. Prior to the announcements, their 40 man roster sits at 39. So two players will need to be traded or released. So let’s take a quick look at some possibilities.
Frankie Montas. They traded for him at the trade deadline. He’s now their number five starter. Pending free agent.
Luis Severino. Their number three starter. With a good year could be in line for a Rodon type extension.
Josh Donaldson. If anyone is willing to pay half his salary, happily pay the other half.
Isiah Kiner Falefa. Is versatile on a team with several better versatile players.
Aaron Hicks. Probably has some value left as his contract is only $10M a year for three years.
Gleyber Torres. Regained his trade value as he enters his prime. Likely to be in line for a hefty raise as a free agent.
Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt. The numbers 6&7 starters when teams routinely need 8+ to get through a season.
Albert Abreu. Was moved off three different teams last year. Has potential but doesn’t have options. Time to prove it.
Deivi Garcia. Might have one more option left. Needs to regain past glory.
Luis Gil. Possibly can offer him a two year minor league contract as he recovers from TJS.
Kyle Higashioka. Offense is not good. But his pitching staff likes him.
Estevan Florial. Candidate to fight for a spot in spring training, especially if Hicks is traded. May also be out of options.
Left field now needs to be addressed. That is unless they intend to keep Hicks and all his flaws. There is an influx of young middle infielders trying to make the team including Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and eventually Anthony Volpe. However there is a logjam in the way. LeMahieu is a gold glove utility player. Donaldson a gold glove third baseman - as is Kiner Falefa. And Torres is probably the best of the bunch. So at some point, they need to open up some spots.
There’s still plenty of time to get things done. The start of spring training is not a deadline. There’s roughly six more weeks of spring training to examine the roster and make moves as needed.
The Yankees have done most of their heavy lifting already. They have improved on an already very good team. The other teams in their division are going backwards if anything. They will make the signings official, along with the corresponding roster moves. Then don’t expect much activity until we’ll after the New Year.