*Brian McCann, $15M vesting option if he totals 1,000 PAs from 2017-18, catches 90 games in 2018 and is not on the disabled list at the end of the 2018 season
*Brendan Ryan, $1M player option
*Alex Rodriguez, $6M bonus at 763 HR and 764 HR
*Brett Gardner, $12.5M Team Option, $2M Buyout
*Jacoby Ellsbury, $21M Team Option, $5M Buyout
*C.C. Sabathia, $25M Vesting Option if he 1) does not end 2016 on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury, 2) does not spend more than 45 days in 2016 on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury or 3) does not make more than six relief appearances in 2016 because of a left shoulder injury. $5M Buyout.
*Masahiro Tanaka, can opt-out in 2017
Although Brian McCann’s contract is far from perfect, it is still a very solid deal. Worth about 3.0 WAR in 2015, McCann will hope to put up similar numbers through 2017, his age 33 season. It’s hard to look so far into the future, but there’s a decent chance that McCann is a DH by 2018. The Yankees expected this when designing the contract, so they included a vesting option for 2019 that is only activated if McCann continues catching over 90 games. Basically, it insures that the team will only pay McCann as a designated hitter for one season, not two.
The Yankees’ future behind the plate looks to be in safe, albeit unspectacular, hands. The Yankees have three potential options on the 40-man roster in John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine, and Gary Sanchez. None of them are overly exciting, but there’s still a chance that Sanchez turns into an above average regular, and Murphy appears to be one of the better backup catchers in the league.
Mark Teixeira had a big season in 2015, even ranking third in WAR among AL players in the first half. That said, it’s hard to imagine him living up to the over $23 million he’s owed in 2016. On the bright side, 2016 is the last year of his contract. Once Teixeira is off the payroll (he is unlikely to be re-signed), the Yankees will be in great shape financially at first base.
Greg Bird is looking like the Yankees’ first baseman of the future, and he is under team control for a long time. With less than half a season of major league service time, Bird won’t be eligible for free agency until 2021 at the earliest. He should be cheap for a while as well—not even hitting arbitration for another two to three years. Assuming nothing weird happens, first base should be locked down at a low cost long term.
With Stephen Drew off the payroll after a dismal 2015, the Yankees are without a trustworthy option at second base. Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley should both be very cheap, but the Yankees don’t seem to be comfortable starting either at second for a full season. The team doesn’t want another Stephen Drew situation in 2016—the team’s second baseman ranked last in MLB in WAR—so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them sign a player in free agency. Some potential options are Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, and Astrubal Cabrera.
Chase Headley is getting $13 million through 2018, which looked like a perfectly reasonable contract prior to the 2015 season, but now may be a bit too high. A 4.2 WAR season in 2014 gave way to just 1.5 in 2015, mostly due to a sharp decline in his defense. Not only did he commit 15 more errors in 2015 (8 to 23), but Headley’s DRA (defensive runs allowed) plummeted to -6 from 13, and his ultimate zone rating went from 20.9 to -3. Headley’s not going to be an offensive force at the plate, so if his defense doesn’t bounce back, the next three years may be ugly.
The Yankees don’t have a surplus of third baseman in the farm, and their best two prospects, Eric Jagielo and Miguel Andujar, come with flaws. Jagielo may end up moving to first base, and Andujar is years away from the big leagues and a risky player. Third base on the Yankees roster and payroll could quickly become a liability if Headley doesn’t rebound.
Over the past year, the Yankees’ shortstop position has been all over the place, ending 2014 with the retirement of a legend, who was then replaced with Didi Gregorious. Gregorious had an up and down season, starting very slowly, but eventually blossoming into an above average player. Gregorious is currently very cheap for a 3.0+ WAR shortstop, and will be with the team through 2020 at the very least.
The Yankees also have plenty of shortstop candidates on the farm, with Jorge Mateo and Tyler Wade coming closer to the big leagues. Wade could be up in 2017, and Mateo in late 2017 or 2018. Whether or not Gregorious is still with the team by 2021, the fact remains that the Yankees are in good shape at shortstop.
(Photo: Brad Penner-USA Today Sports)