The arbitration process in MLB can be divisive and unsettling if carried to completion. This season, the Yankees have avoided that scenario opening up new doors.
As detailed by ESNY’s Christian Kouroupakis, nothing rattled the Yankees more than the strain put on the team when team President, Randy Levine, responded by gloating about the team’s arbitration victory over Dellin Betances at this time last year. For the most part, Betances seemed to recover from the public bashing, but the overall impact on the Yankee’s image remains lasting.
This season, the Yankees sought to avoid any and all conflicts with their arbitration-eligible players by swiftly reaching agreement on one-year contracts even before figures were exchanged on Friday.
According to the Associated Press as published by ESPN.com:
“The Yankees reached one-year contracts with their remaining six players eligible for arbitration on Friday, leaving their projected luxury-tax payroll at $177 million — $20 million below the threshold.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius agreed at $8.25 million, pitcher Sonny Gray at $6.5 million and setup man Dellin Betances at $5.1 million. Also reaching deals were relievers Adam Warren ($3,315,000) and Chasen Shreve ($825,000), and backup catcher Austin Romine ($1.1 million).”
The reason for the Yankees deciding to get these players signed quickly is two-fold. One, the team needed to know (now) what the hit was going to be when these players were ultimately signed, and precisely where the team would rest regarding the luxury tax threshold. More on that in a minute.
But secondly, the Yankees are on the verge of doing something extraordinary this season. And whether consciously or sub-consciously, the team wants to keep the ship moving forward with no hiccup interruptions and distractions a heated arbitration battle or two would bring to the surface. This accomplishes that goal allowing each player to have peace of mind for the final four weeks of the offseason knowing where he stands with the club.
But the most intriguing aspect of Friday’s developments is that $20 million hanging out there and all of its ramifications. Do the Yankees ramp up their discussions with Yu Darvish by offering him a back-loaded deal that begins with $20 million for a year or two, but ends more in the range of $25 million per season?
Do they finally call it quits in trying to force a deal with the Pirates for Gerrit Cole? And what about the player the Yankees most want, Manny Machado? Interestingly, Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports that the Orioles and Machado reached agreement on a one-year for $16 million. How convenient?
And I know all the stuff about how the Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, would sooner die than send Machado to the Yankees. But at some point, reason needs to play over emotion. And if the Orioles intend to use Machado as a prop for rebuilding their team by getting a sizable return of prospects, whether now or at the trade deadline, the fact is the Yankees have the most of what they are looking for.
Take your pick, Peter. Do you want Clint Frazier to add to your outfield? Or maybe you want what you need which is starting pitching. How does Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield sound to you? Or maybe both if you want to talk about a multi-player deal involving Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop for all three of those players, plus Miguel Andujar to plug the hole you’ll have at third base?
It should be a foregone conclusion in Baltimore that Machado is destined to wear the pinstripes. So what should it matter if it’s this year or next year when he signs with the Yankees as a free agent?
Apparently, with Machado in, Darvish is out. And that might be a heady decision for Brian Cashman to make. But the Yankees do have five proven major league starters to begin the season, and in a sense, Darvish is gravy and insurance against injuries.
One thing is crystal-clear, though. The Yankees, by settling these arbitration cases early, have forged a wide-open path for themselves with plenty of room to maneuver in both the trade and free-agent markets. Who said the Hot Stove league this offseason is dull and boring?