This past week brought the first good news in a while from MLB, as it was reported that MLBPA executive director Tony Clark and commissioner Rob Manfred met to draw up a framework for the 2020 season. The major components of this conversation included a 60-game regular season, full pro-rated salaries for players, an expanded 16-team postseason in 2020 and 2021, and the union waiving the right to file a grievance against the owners for bad-faith negotiations in the preceding months.
The union countered with a 70-game proposal, which was flatly reject by the owners. The player representatives are set to vote on the 60-game proposal in the coming days, and should they reject the offer, the commissioner can still unilaterally impose or cancel the season outright. Despite the hurdles that still need to be cleared, this is the closest we have gotten to an agreement between both sides and gives hope that there may be baseball yet in 2020.
The prospect of a season, no matter how short, is good news for quite a few Yankees. The Yankees employ two of the highest earning players in the league, and a partial season of pro-rated pay is the difference between over $10 million and under $1 million. Other Yankees are in contract years or in arbitration, and need baseball to showcase their abilities to maximize future earnings.
Then there are the players who are fighting to ensure their place on the Yankees for years to come, and need a strong showing this season to guarantee that spot. Finally, there are the up-and-comers who can parlay success in an opportunity this year into a more permanent role in the majors in the future.
The big earners
Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton own two of the top four largest contracts in MLB. At full pro-rata, Cole stands to earn over $13 million in a 60-game season while Stanton would approach $10 million. They are hoping a season, and their salaries, are ratified, instead of receiving their piece of the $170 million season-postponement fund.
Pending free agents
James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, DJ LeMahieu, and J.A. Happ are all in contract years, and need to show potential suitors what they are worth. Paxton is the gem of the upcoming free-agent class, and as a Scott Boras client, he has the potential to translate a strong, healthy 2020 campaign into a lucrative multi-year deal. Looking at the contract given to Zack Wheeler, given both his and Paxton’s injury history, it is not exaggeration to suggest Paxton could exceed those dollars.
LeMahieu has expressed interest in a return to the Yankees, however a second consecutive MVP-candidate season would certainly earn him a raise over his current deal. Tanaka has been a model Yankee since coming over from Japan, and his postseason prowess as well as a successful 2020 would earn him another handsome contract. Happ is entering his golden years as a player, however was looking promising in spring training. Should that carry over into the regular season, he still has earning potential in the twilight of his career, as every team could use an effective veteran arm.
Players in arbitration
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez stand to gain the most in arbitration, and in future contracts, should they put together the performances we know they are capable of in 2020. Both have seen their stock fall slightly due to injury and inconsistency, and need a 2020 season to reestablish their value. How they perform is the difference between millions of dollars in arbitration and tens of million of dollars over their careers.
Players who have not cemented their status
There are a handful of players on the major league roster whose are in varying stages of limbo as it pertains to their permanence on the team. Guys like Luke Voit and Gio Urshela are the presumptive starters, but need to follow up prior success with sustained ability. For others, like Miguel Andujar and Mike Tauchman, they have shown potential that the Yankees love, but face competition to crack the starting roster. On the other hand, for the likes of Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade, time is running out on their chance to cement themselves on the Yankees.
A (lost) year of development
The final group of Yankees who need baseball in 2020 are the prospects closest to the majors. With the aforementioned looming free agencies of two pitchers in the starting rotation, 2020 was the perfect opportunity to develop two in-house replacements in Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt. Given the prospect of the outright cancellation of the minor league season, Garcia and Schmidt are hoping to be included on the expanded roster for 2020.
All of this speculation must be qualified by acknowledging the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a resurgence of new cases in recent weeks, with come states setting new records after prematurely easing shutdown measures. Members of several MLB organizations have tested positive, forcing the closure of all spring camps. What’s most important is that we continue efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. However, should the league be able to guarantee the safety of players and all those involved, these Yankees are the ones most hoping to get back on the field in 2020.