With the 2020 MLB season in jeopardy, the New York Yankees have to begin considering what 2021 might look like for their roster and how injuries have played a part in its demise. In 2019, injuries plagued the team, restraining them from featuring their full lineup and pitching staff for a majority of the campaign.
A reliance on reserve players ultimately carried the Yankees to a postseason berth and o the ALCS, where they were knocked out by the Houston Astros under interesting circumstances. This season was meant to be a World Series-Caliber one, but due to the coronavirus and Spring Training injuries, the reality of a season is in flux.
Next year, though, GM Brian Cashman will have to make decisions on three influential players who are currently in the final year of their deals.
Here are three New York Yankees players who could leave in 2021:
1.) JA Happ
Happ played well in his first season with New York, despite pitching in just 11 games. He went 7-0, proving to be a reliable option and potential top rotational pitcher in 2019. However, the expectations were too much for Happ to handle, as he posted a bloated 4.91 ERA, leading him to take a backseat in the postseason.
With Luis Severino going down, Happ was thrust into a significant role, and the final year on his contract could prove to be vital for him and his future. His 2021 season is an option year, vesting if he pitches 165 innings or 27 total games played.
2.) James Paxton
Paxton has been injury-prone throughout his entire career, and going into the final year of a two year deal with the Yankees allows him a final opportunity to prove his worth and earn an extension with New York or elsewhere. The lefty arm recently underwent a procedure to extract a cyst from his lower back, but reports indicate that he’s progressing well and should be ready for the start of the regulars season. He will slot in as the 2nd pitcher behind Gerrit Cole, and the Yanks desperately need him to remain healthy.
1.) DJ LeMahieu
LeMahieu is also in the final year of his contract, and he’s the one player the Yankees shouldn’t let go by any means. “The Machine” posted ungodly numbers in 2019 en route to an All-Star appearance — .327 BA, 26 HRs, 102 RBIs. Extending DJ should be a priority for Cashman next offseason, if not well before. He’s an integral part of the team and can act as a quality utility player if need be.
However, ensuring he follows up his stellar 2019 with a second consecutive great outing would be the icing on the cake for an extension.