The New York Yankees are gearing up for a busy off-season, especially with several of their own hitting the free-agent market this winter. On Thursday, the Yankees announced that outfielder Brett Gardner declined his player option, and the Yankees rejected the $7.15 million club option after. This likely spells the end for the veteran leader, opening up another question for the Yankees in the outfield, despite the return of Aaron Hicks and hopefully Clint Frazier.
Letâ€™s take a look at the players the Yankees are losing and how they may supplement them next season.
Four players the Yankees need to replace this off-season:
OF Brett Gardner:
With Gardy declining his player option, the Yankees will likely retire him and thank him for his many years of service. After spending 14 years in pinstripes, winning a World Series in 2009 at 25-years-old, heâ€™s now preparing to enjoy life after baseball. This past season, Gardner hit .222 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs, and while he offered a solid reserve option, the Yankees were forced to play him in 140 games due to injury.
After another losing season, Gardner will surely call it quits, as the Yankees are no longer the giant in the room. The return of Hicks will fill the starting center field job, leaving Gardner on the bench once again. Expect to see them bring in another reserve option as they wait for several quality prospects to reach the MLB.
RP Darren O’Day:
The Yankees signed Darren Oâ€™Day last off-season to help supplement the loss of Adam Ottavino. Oâ€™Day pitched in just 10.2 innings before suffering an injury, logging a 3.38 ERA. He was mostly absent for the entire year, leaving the Yankees thin in the bullpen at times.
It is possible the Bombers bring back O’Day on a cheap contract, but there are solid relief options on the market the Yankees will consider.
1B Anthony Rizzo:
There is still a belief that the Bombers may offer Anthony Rizzo an extension after hitting .249 with 8 homers and 21 RBIs in 49 games.
Rizzo has an expected AAV of about $21.7 million, a number the Yanks likely donâ€™t want to execute at. Alternatively, they can shift DJ LeMahieu to first base and sign a big-name shortstop, killing two birds with one stone and allocating money toward the most important infield position.
However, it is believed that Rizzo wants to stay in pinstripes, so they may try to find a sufficient deal for the two parties. I wouldnâ€™t bank on his return, though.
SP: Corey Kluber
Veteran starting pitcher Corey Kluber will hit the market and likely find a new team after spending one season with the Yankees. He pitched in 16 games and 80 innings, recording a 3.83 ERA with a 9.23 strikeout rate. Kluber had a few adequate performances, but at 35-years-old and missing the majority of the season due to injury, Cashman will likely allocate the money toward a healthier option who can feature more consistently.
The Yankees desperately need to be focusing on health history at this point, has the best ability is availability. There are a few mid-tier starting pitchers available on the market, including Alex Cobb and even Yusei Kikuchi, who posted a 4.41 ERA last season but has untapped potential at 30-years-old and three years of MLB experience. Playing for the Seattle Mariners doesnâ€™t exactly motivate players, so finding his way to the Yankees on an affordable contract could help him elevate his game to the next level.