The Yankees wonâ€™t have as much flexibility with their finances this offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so they will likely have to make several difficult decisions.
Of course, the signing that everyone wants to hear is DJ LeMahieu, who finished a two-year, $24 million deal this season. LeMahieu has been fantastic for the Yankees since making his way to the Bronx, and letting him go would be devastating for a team that has relied on him at multiple infield spots and as their primary lead-off hitter.
Ownership invested millions more than any other team to finally reach a World Series appearance, but clearly, their money did not equal success. Taking a more analytical approach like the Tampa Bay Rays might be in the Yankeesâ€™ future, as they have simply invested too much in players that miss chunks of time every season and simply arenâ€™t reliable.
However, one player was so important the Yankees couldn’t wait to pick up his 2021 option. Zack Britton signed a three-year, $39 million deal in 2019 and had a player option for the 2021 season at $13 million if the Yankees declined their club option. Thankfully, they didn’t.
The New York Yankees couldn’t afford to lose Britton:
Britton has been one of the Yankeesâ€™ more reliable bullpen arms, finishing the 2019 campaign with a 1.91 ERA, including 53 strikeouts over 61.1 innings. This past season, he was even better with a 1.89 ERA, despite a smaller sample size of just 19 innings. Heâ€™s also a stellar closer, having filled in for Aroldis Chapman while he was dealing with Covid himself.
Finding an alternative for Zack would have been a tricky situation, as he is the ground-ball king and rarely allows home runs. If he decided to opt-out of his deal, the Yankees could have theoretically sign him on a different contract, as his worth might have increased after the past two years. Locking him in at $14 million was an easy move for GM Brian Cashman.
Supplementing him would likely have been a rotational approach, as the Yankees have several young arms they could fill his spot. However, talented relief options like Britton donâ€™t come around very often, and utilizing a pitch by committee approach wouldn’t have been efficient.
The major issue is money moving forward, as the Yankees will likely have to find another starting pitcher (3 starters hitting FA) and retain LeMahieu. Things are about to get interesting during the hot stove months, so buckle up and get ready.