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Yankees arbitration projections and what they mean for the 2017 payroll

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Several Yankees stand to make some extra money in 2017

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

For the teams not currently in the playoffs, it’s time to look ahead towards 2017. MLB Trade Rumors has released the projected arbitration salaries for next season, and several Yankees look to get a raise in the near future. The Yankees have recently brought back the idea of getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, so salaries are worth keeping in mind as the team finalizes their payroll this winter.

Arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason, Dellin Betances is an easy tender for the Yankees. After making $507,500 in 2016, the closer is projected to earn $3.4 million in arbitration this year, a number New York should find more than agreeable. Keep in mind that Dellin’s arbitration case depends entirely on whether or not they intend to use him as their closer moving forward.

It also might not be the easiest process, since the two side have been at odds before. After previously trying and failing to sign Betances to an below market extension, the Yankees ultimately decided not to give him a raise this year. Instead, they have paid Betances $507,500 for two years straight. Team aren’t required to give their players more money, but most do as a sign of good faith in order to keep their players happy. Apparently the Yankees didn’t care in this case, and maybe Dellin should hold out for everything he can get.

Another easy tender decision is Didi Gregorius, who had a career year and managed to be one of the team’s most consistent hitters. He agreed to a $2,425,000 contract last year, his first time through arbitration, and is projected to make $5.1 million in 2017. As a Super Two, he remains arbitration eligible for another three seasons before hitting the open market in 2020. Accumulating 20 home runs is great for the arbitration hearing. If he can put together a few more seasons like this one, he will be a worthy investment.

Aaron Hicks might be extremely unpopular among Yankees fans right now, but there is no way the team will let him go after just one season. It was encouraging to see him play better in August before he suffered a hamstring injury. His performance likely earned him a shot to compete with Aaron Judge for the starting right fielder job. Hicks made $574,000 last year, and is projected to get $1.4 million in his first time through arbitration. That’s an easy number for the Yankees to agree to.

Michael Pineda is a tough sell at this point, but the 27-year-old right-hander is still a necessary staple in the Yankees rotation. He is arbitration eligible one final time, and after making $4,300,000 last season, Pineda is due for a raise up to $7.8 million this year. Despite his inability to prevent runs, his high strikeouts and innings pitched will help him look good at an arbitration hearing.

Gone for just a few months, Adam Warren returned this summer to help stabilize the Yankees bullpen. Given his current status as a relief pitcher, his arbitration dollars will be limited. After earning $1,700,000 in 2016, Warren is projected to make $2.3 million this season, which should be well worth it if he can get back to his 2015 numbers.

Since backup catchers are mostly interchangeable, Austin Romine is a player who could go either way. There’s at least a chance that this could be the end of his Yankees career. Brian Cashman plans to keep Brian McCann on the team, and he just mentioned adding Kyle Higashioka to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. Higashioka will have options and could make Romine expendable. Whatever the Yankees decide to do, it probably won’t come down to money, since he is projected to earn $900,000 after making just $556,000 this season.

On the list of players eligible for arbitration, the Yankees have two who they should probably cut ties with. Dustin Ackley had a purpose at one point, but now that Hicks, Ronald Torreyes, Rob Refsnyder, and Tyler Austin all exist, there doesn’t seem to be much room for him. The Yankees already wasted $3,200,000 for 28 games last year, so I doubt they will want to do that again.

Then there is Nathan Eovaldi. He was expected to stick around before he hit free agency, but after a serious arm injury that will hold him out of 2017 too, it looks like his Yankees career is over. If this is the case, there would be no reason to keep him on payroll at a projected $7.5 million after making $5,600,000 in 2016. Perhaps there’s a chance the two sides could agree to an extension, but it’s probably best to part ways at this juncture.

If we add together the figures for Dellin, Didi, Hicks, Pineda, Warren, and Romine, the Yankees are projected to pay $20.9 million in arbitration this year. That’s about $2 million less than last year’s figure. The Yankees could revisit Plan 189 in a year devoid of free agent talent. Given that last year’s payroll was $225,997,792, subtracting Mark Teixeira ($23.1 million), Carlos Beltran ($15,000), Ivan Nova ($4.1 million), and Aroldis Chapman ($11.3 million) will go a long way towards lowering that final number.

We all know that the Yankees like to avoid arbitration hearings, often agreeing to a number lower than projected. If they can save some additional dollars this winter, they will stand a good chance of finally hitting that long elusive mark. Not that we, the fans, should be rooting for such a thing.