Traditionally, the Yankees have been reluctant to sign their own players to extensions, but last season that went out the window, as the Yankees inked star pitcher Luis Severino and center fielder Aaron Hicks to extensions. Could the Yankees look to ink more of their young, arbitration-eligible players to extensions this winter? Let’s take a look at who might be up for them.
The most obvious candidate for an extension would be the Yankees’ star right fielder, projected to earn $6.4M in arbitration according to MLB Trade Rumors. When healthy, Judge has not only been the best player on the Yankees, but one of the best players in all of baseball. Playing an elite right field to go alongside his prolific bat, he has been worth 7.28 fWAR per 162 games throughout his career — and if you remove his 27 games in 2016, in which he accrued -0.2 fWAR, that goes up to 7.9 fWAR.
The future Yankee captain is one of the best in the league, and it makes sense that the Yankees look to lock him up before this turns into a “Mookie Betts” situation.
A very polarizing figure, Sanchez has been one of the best, albeit streakiest, hitters when healthy, accruing 4.96 fWAR per 162 games over his career. While not as easy an extension candidate as Judge — he’s consistently had groin issues, which is not a good sign for a catcher — locking him up nonetheless would ensure that the Yankees have above-average production from the catcher position for the next few years.
Depending on who you ask, Paxton is either the Yankees #2 or #3 pitcher. In either case, he will serve as one of the three biggest arms on what is turning into a stacked Yankees pitching staff.
Unfortunately, the Big Maple, who is projected to earn $12.9M in projection, will be a free agent after the season (along with Masahiro Tanaka). If the Yankees want to keep their top-flight rotation together, it might be wise to discuss an extension with Paxton before the start of the season.
Despite a major hiccup at the beginning of the season that inflated his stats over the course of the year, Chad Green has become one of the most consistent and versatile relief pitchers since the beginning of the 2017 season. As the Yankees have clearly valued having a strong bullpen, they may look to extend the 28-year-old.
Compared to everybody else on this list, however, his case is the most uncertain. His track record, while very solid, has been trending in the wrong direction, and with the fungible nature of relievers below the top tier combined with the Yankees’ ability to regularly churn out relievers, the Yankees may want to develop the “next” Chad Green instead of paying the actual one.
When he was first signed, Yankees fans criticized the move; by the end of the year, Le Machine became a fan-favorite. Back in September, he began dropping hints that he would be open to an extension, and we discussed the merits for such a move.
Entering his age-32 season, LeMahieu will likely not receive a long extension, nor would he get a long contract if he were to hit the open market. With Didi Gregorius heading to Philadelphia and Gleyber Torres expected to become the everyday shortstop, however, there is an opening at second base for the next few years. If LeMahieu fills that half as well as he did in 2019, the Yankees would be more than set at the position.
In my opinion, when we look back at the early 2020s Yankees, we will be talking about Gleyber Torres as the best player on the team, and possibly in the division. With a sky-high potential driven by an ability to competently man both middle infield positions (and, although he has not practiced at it in a while, third base as well) and a surprisingly-powerful bat, Torres looks to have many more All-Star nods ahead of him.
In truth, the Yankees would probably love to extend the 23-year-old this season, as pre-arbitration extensions often result in many savings for a team. For this reason, expect Torres to be the one to turn down the opportunity, although it would be nice to guarantee his presence in pinstripes for several years.