*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 rotation comes with some great players and contracts, and some not-so-great contracts. The elephant in the room is C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia’s contract is unlikely to end in 2016, with the vesting option focused on a shoulder injury that hasn’t cropped up yet, so he’ll be a serious drag on the payroll for the next two seasons. Making it worse is the fact that Sabathia may not even make the starting rotation, so he could be worthless to the team while being paid $50M. He could end up costing the Yankees a big time free agent this offseason, such as David Price or Zach Greinke, forcing the team to look at cheaper options on the market.
Although Sabathia’s contract is a mess, the Yankees’ payroll is alleviated some by three team-friendly deals. The cheapest rotation member in 2016 will be Luis Severino, who won’t even be arbitration eligible for another two seasons and then has three years until he hits free agency. While Severino’s arbitration years won’t be cheap if he can repeat his 2015 ERA, the salary will look minuscule in comparison to what a pitcher of Severino’s value would get in free agency.
The next two youngest pitchers in the rotation, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, are also coming at a reasonable price. The two pitchers won’t be steals, with Eovaldi due for about $5.7M in arbitration, and Pineda expecting $4.6M, but the Yankees could do a whole lot worse than Eovaldi and Pineda. Both pitchers have huge upsides, and a successful and healthy 2016 could make these salaries look very good.
The ace of the Yankees rotation, Masahiro Tanaka, is under a more controversial contract. Analysts such as Ken Rosenthal have been critical of the deal, considering Tanaka’s injury history. It’s not an ideal scenario, but the 27-year old’s contract isn’t egregious. At this point, Tanaka’s injury risk isn’t that far off from other pitchers, and his performance level should approach that of a staff ace. He’ll certainly be paid like a top of the rotation starter, and this contract is a reasonable one. Should Tanaka stay healthy, the team may come to regret the 2017 opt-out clause, though—Tanaka may hit free agency if he thinks he deserves a bigger contract.
Ivan Nova is likely to be overpaid in arbitration, but luckily he won’t be a huge dent to the Yankees’ payroll. Judging by last year’s post-Tommy John performance, Nova is a fifth starter at best, and may even end up as a middle reliever, so $4.4M is a bit steep. Nova is unlikely to have much positive value for the team next year before hitting free agency, so getting the potential $4.4M off the payroll through a trade may not be a bad idea. The Yankees have explored options on the trade market, though it remains to be seen if they have any suitors for Nova.
The Yankees are looking good salary-wise in the bullpen. The team has been successful in developing bullpen talents, so they will only be paying three relievers more than the MLB minimum. The highest reliever is Andrew Miller, who will be getting $9M. The latter part of his contract (through 2018) may not be pretty if he has health issues, but the price of relievers is so high right now that $9M a year looks to be very fair.
Dellin Betances is still a year away from arbitration, and won’t hit free agency for another three years after that. Chasen Shreve is two years out from arbitration, and while his late-season collapse in 2015 makes him a question mark in the bullpen, at least he won’t be an expensive question mark.
The two Yankee relievers in arbitration right now (both in their first year) are Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, due for $1.5M and $1.3M, respectively. Warren could be a starter next season, and a cheap one at that, but either way he is an inexpensive asset for New York. The same can be said for Justin Wilson. The two pitchers have another two years of arbitration before hitting free agency. There is quite a bit of minor league talent waiting in the wings that could contribute to the Yankees as soon as next year (Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, to name a few), and the Yankees bullpen figures to be a cheap and effective one next year and in the future.
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