The New York Yankees under George Steinbrenner commonly resorted to using their ample financial resources whenever an area of need arose, but under his son Hal the Bronx Bombers have been more fiscally restrained and aware of the costs incurred by Major League Baseball’s luxury tax. That has not prevented the Yankees from making big splash moves like trading for Giancarlo Stanton or signing Gerrit Cole in free agency, but it may hinder GM Brian Cashman from restocking the shelves for 2021.
After losing in the American League Division Series to Tampa Bay last month, New York has a number of roster decisions to make, but only has $41 million to work with to stay under MLB’s luxury tax amount of $210 million.
Cashman did not exercise the club option on outfielder Brett Gardner (in hopes of getting the lifetime Yankee at a lower price) and passed on the $17 million option for pitcher J.A. Happ, but faces the prospect of replacing a sizable chunk of his starting rotation with both Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton eligible for free agency.
Tanaka has been with New York for seven seasons and is a dependable innings-eater in spite of pitching with a torn muscle in his elbow, but if the Yankees want to bring him back, it would be for much less than his 2019 salary of $23 million. Paxton signed a one-year, $12.5 million deal in January, but underwent spinal surgery in February and made only five starts in August before suffering a season-ending arm injury.
With former ace Luis Severino not expected back until the All-Star break recovering from Tommy John surgery, New York will likely lean on the inexpensive Jordan Montgomery and young pitchers Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Clarke Schmidt, but will still need to add at least one or perhaps two experienced starters to get through next season.
The primary focus of the Yankees offseason is undoubtedly getting infielder D.J. LeMahieu re-signed. The 32-year-old was the club’s best player in his two years in pinstripes and finished third in AL MVP voting after hitting .364 last season. With the ability to play first, second and third at a Gold-Glove level, LeMahieu could be the most sought after free agent on the market. New York wants him back, but the question is whether they are willing to give him four or five years on a new contract.
One area where the Bombers may be willing to make changes and cut payroll is at catcher, where Gary Sanchez hit under the Mendoza line for the second time in three years. The 27-year-old made $5.75 million last season, but hit .147 and lost his starting job to backup Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs.
Another possible move that Cashman may consider is acquiring a shortstop after Gleyber Torres struggled in 2020. Torres hit 38 home runs splitting time between short and second in 2019 with Didi Gregorius recovering from Tommy John surgery, but had issues at the plate and on defense last season.