Before the Yankees begin to think about additions to the team, they must first decide who gets subtracted. Hopefully, they see it this way.
Assuming the Yankees realize, and that’s a big assumption at this point because that’s what they did last year, that they cannot enter the 2022 season with the team they have now, their first round of decisions must be who stays and who goes from their current roster.
For purposes here today, only the Yankees’ active roster will be considered. However, their entire roster contains 40 players. Each will eventually have their names attached to one of these categories on a whiteboard in Brian Cashman’s office that will serve as Plan A for the Yankees 2022 Season.
- Players who are already under contract for 2022 and already included in the Yankees projected payroll. (most likely keepers by default)
- Yankees who are free agents (pursue or let them go)
- Players who are eligible for arbitration
Group A: Yankees Under Contract
Like most teams, the Yankees have several players who are under contract for the 2022 season. According to Spotrac, these players consume $117,500,000 toward the team’s 2022 payroll.
I am using last year’s luxury tax threshold of $210 million, leaving the Yankees with $92,500,000 to spend on arbitration players, free-agent signings, and players acquired through trades.
Players in this group include:
Short of finding a team willing to take on one or more of these salaries, and unless the Yankees are ready to add cash to a deal in a trade, all of these players will end up consuming eight of the twenty-eight spots on the Yankees roster next year.
Group B – Yankees Free Agents
The following Yankees’ players are free agents. Since there is no consequence to signing or not signing a player, this is where the team’s think tank must begin evaluating each player individually, intending to put them on the subtraction side of the whiteboard.
Corey Kluber is noteworthy but still subject to injury, and he’s a five-inning pitcher at this stage of his career.
Reportedly, Anthony Rizzo has Chicago in his heart, but if he returns there (and the Cubs would welcome him with grateful arms), Rizzo faces the prospect of a team in the infancy of a rebuilding stage.
For the Yankees, Rizzo represents a significant hit on their payroll, but he offsets that with excellent defense at first base and a winning pedigree.
Group C: Yankees Eligible For Arbitration
Here’s where things get juicy. The Yankees have 15 players eligible for arbitration this offseason. High impact decisions here offer the Yankees a chance to “discourage” a player by providing a minuscule raise or even up to a 20% pay cut from his previous salary.
A player can reject the Yankees’ offer, leading to an arbitration hearing in which the referee would decide on the figure offered by the team or the one demanded by the player. There is no in-between at the hearing juncture.
For a select few on the Yankees arbitration list, the monetary decisions will be no-brainers.
For example, there’s team MVP Aaron Judge, who will quickly deserve a healthy raise from his 2021 salary of $10,175,000. Jordan Montgomery ($2.130,000) and Gio Urshela ($4,565,000) also fall the same way.
Moving to the middle sector of arbitration-eligible players, decisions become murkier because the Yankees can easily decide to part with them via trade.
The Yankees are a better team, with DJ LeMahieu playing second base every day. With the glut of exceptional free agent shortstops out there for the team to sign, Gleyber Torres is no longer the “untouchable” when the Yankees first acquired him from the Cubs. The Yankees need to move quickly while Torres’s value is still relatively high.
Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, Kyle Higashioka, and Tyler Wade, whose future is tied to his greatest admirer, Aaron Boone, are all players who made contributions to the team in 2021.
However, the Yankees have failed to win with them, and they can surely do the same without them. If the Yankees decide to retain them, only modest raises are in order.
The final group of arbitration-eligible players is the most intriguing, as well as an area where the front office can send a message loud and clear to each that the team no longer sees them in their plans.
The string has run out between the Yankees and Sanchez, and if the team thinks otherwise, they should be ashamed of themselves.
Offering a pay cut to Sanchez, even if it’s less than the allowable 20%, sends a message to other players that we don’t hand out money to those who fail to produce, and especially someone who was paid $276,000 for each home run he hit in 2021.
Trading Sanchez ASAP avoids the disruption the Yankees would cause if they go the pay cut route, but hopefully, Cashman finally agrees to throw in the towel on Sanchez, one way or another.
Luke Voit, Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar should be placed in the same group as Sanchez, each for the same reason – they can’t stay on the field. Take what the Yankees can get for them and run.
And The Scoreboard Says…
Retracing my tally and list of players, the front office needs to put on the subtraction side of Cashman’s whiteboard totals as many as ten players who will not be on the Yankees roster on Opening Day, 2022.
One player not mentioned is Joey Gallo, whom the Yankees should seriously consider trading if they can find a partner. While all the ballyhoo about Gallo’s fit to the short porch at Yankee Stadium did not pan out, all those strikeouts certainly made their mark on the team’s lineup.
Yankees: After Subtraction Comes Addition
Once the Yankees have pared their active roster down, the next step is to find replacement players who serve as an upgrade from their departed counterparts.
Replacing departed souls from the bullpen should be at the bottom of the Yankees’ priorities, as relief pitchers who throw strikes at 97 are a dime a dozen these days.
Instead, the hope is the team focuses their attention, whether by trade or free-agent signings, to find players with established fundamental skills and a proven knack for situational hitting, power be damned.
Aaron Boone hit the nail on the head when he recently observed that “teams have passed us,” and the Yankees can no longer compete at the same level as Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto.
My trust and belief in Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner have faded, but they’re all we have.
Here’s hoping they see some of the light I’ve tried to shed (above)…