The Yankees will clear at least $36 million in salary to spend in free agency

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Although Yankees management remains convinced of the roster’s potential to make the playoffs and vie for a World Series, many observers see through the illusion. The team is burdened by aging contracts and underperforming veterans. Unless the front office has a strategy to rejuvenate the team for the 2024 season, the squad may resemble a retirement home more than a baseball diamond.

In response to these challenges, the team is preparing to offload several large salaries, freeing up funds for acquiring fresh talent via free agency.

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Josh Donaldson: Heading to Free Agency and Away From the Yankees

The first major contract on the chopping block is veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is headed for the free-agent market. Following a calf injury a few weeks ago, Donaldson was ruled out for the remainder of the season and placed on the 60-day injured list.

The 37-year-old had a batting average of .222 with a .308 OBP last season, including 15 home runs and 62 RBIs. This year, across 34 games, he hit .142 with a .225 OBP and a career-low 75 wRC+. It’s clear that Donaldson’s golden days are in the past, and the Yankees would be better served moving on rather than giving him another chance.

Despite this, the Yankees will still need to fulfill a $6 million vesting option for Donaldson next season. Although this implies some financial commitment, it’s seen as worthwhile to facilitate a transition to younger, more promising talent.

Luis Severino: Contract Expiring After Rocky Performance

Luis Severino’s contract is also set to expire after the Yankees picked up his $15 million option for the 2023 season. The 29-year-old had an outstanding 2022 campaign, rebounding impressively from Tommy John surgery. He boasted a 3.18 ERA and averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings, sparking significant optimism for the current season.

However, Severino’s performance has taken a drastic turn for the worse. Over 57.2 innings, he’s posted a 7.49 ERA, along with an increased number of walks and home runs and a notable decrease in left-on-base and ground ball rates. In July alone, Severino recorded an 11.22 ERA, surrendering 27 earned runs and seven home runs over 21.2 innings.

Given these struggles and a history of injuries, Severino’s time with the Yankees seems likely to end. His departure, along with Donaldson’s, could add roughly $36 million to the Yankees’ free agency pool.

The Future: Targeting New Talent

With these funds, the Yankees could target players like Cody Bellinger, Jeimer Candelario, and even aim high for talents like Shohei Ohtani. As the 2024 season approaches, it’s clear that a strategic roster overhaul could be a game-changer for the team’s future success.