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Breaking Down the Yankees Payroll: Outfield

(Click here for part one of this series, breaking down the Yankees infield payroll)

*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


The Yankees financial situation in the outfield is not good. The Yankees are locked up with two long term deals with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, but on the bright side, Carlos Beltran is only under contract for one more season. That being said, he will be getting $15 million in 2016, and could end up being a bench player. Beltran’s bat is pretty solid—in fact, it was one of the best for the Yankees in the second half of 2015—but his defense his horrendous. Put simply, Beltran is a huge liability in the outfield. That’s the last thing the Yankees want in right field, but their options are limited. There’s no room for Beltran at DH, and Aaron Judge won’t be ready until at least midseason. Next year, this contract will look ugly, but it could be worse…

…Enter Brett Gardner.  Gardner was supposed to be the Yankees most consistent outfielder for 2015 and the future. This expectation played a big part in him receiving what, at the time, looked like a team-friendly extension. Gardner broke his trend of consistency, completely collapsing in the second half of an All-Star season. He was a disaster in the second half, hitting just .206 with six home runs, five stolen bases, and a meager 66 wRC+, which was second worst in the AL to…Jacoby Ellsbury. While Gardner’s offense could rebound in 2016, his declining defense is unlikely to. Gardner used to be an elite defender, which is what made him such a valuable player. Out of nowhere, though, Gardner’s defense took a dive in 2012. His defensive runs saved dropped from 23 in 2011 to one in 2012, never again going higher than six. It is now back at one. His ultimate zone rating declined as well in 2012, and has steadily gotten worse from then on. He is never going to be an elite defender again, and his days of above average defense are likely gone as well. Gardner will need his offense to approach 1st half of 2015 levels to justify his contract, and it’s hard to expect that in the future.

The Yankees situation in centerfield isn’t encouraging either. There certainly were some naysayers when the Yankees signed Ellsbury to a $153 million contract over seven years prior to the 2014 season. A long term deal for an injury prone player that relies on his speed isn’t the greatest idea. But, things got worse and the doubters grew louder in 2015. Ellsbury stole a career low 21 stolen bases and posted a career worst .257 batting average and .345 slugging percentage. His 0.9 WAR was also the lowest total in his career. An ankle injury certainly may be responsible for some of his struggles, as his splits from before the injury and afterwards are significantly different, but the harsh reality is that Ellsbury is unlikely to steal 30 bases ever again, and 4 WAR seasons may be gone as well. Ellsbury’s fielding hasn’t been stellar for a couple of years now, but his -3.2 UZR is a drain on the team’s defense. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Ellsbury rebound some in 2016, but his contract isn’t going to be pretty in a couple of years.  In fact, it could be a liability already.

Designated Hitter

Alex Rodriguez had an incredible first half in 2015, even beginning to justify his $21 million contract. Things took a turn for the worse in the second half, though, leaving us with many questions about his future. Hopefully, A-Rod’s decline last season was due to fatigue and decreased bat speed, which would ideally be corrected for the start of this season. There had to be some other factors going on, though, and that makes this situation a scary one. Rodriguez could end up as a $21 million bench player for the next two seasons if he doesn’t have a strong Spring Training. He did hit 33 home runs last season, so things aren’t all bad news, but 2016 and 2017 will certainly be interesting when it comes to A-Rod and his contract.

(Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

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1 comment on “Breaking Down the Yankees Payroll: Outfield”


when you sign players to looong deals you have to have a reasonable suspicion that they are not going to be worth the their annual salaries in the last years …and you have to be willing to eat the money and replace the players if you want to contend.

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