As the Yankees try to improve their bullpen with an eye on the World Series in the 2021 season, they’ve secured the services of veteran right-handed reliever Darren O’Day on a one-year deal with a dual option for 2022. O’Day will receive $1.75 million in 2021. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, there is a $1.4 million player option for 2022 or a $700,000 buyout. If the pitcher declines the option, the Yankees have a $3.15M club option.
For luxury tax purposes, O’Day’s number will be $2.45 million, which is an extremely affordable figure for a guy with a 2.51 ERA and a 3.43 FIP in his career, according to FanGraphs.
So, where does the Yankees’ payroll stand now? Per James Wagner of the New York Times, after the Adam Ottavino trade ($9 million) and the addition of Jameson Taillon ($2.25 million,) plus the arrival of Darren O’Day, the Bombers’ 2021 payroll for luxury tax purposes is at $201.5M, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
That means the Yanks still have about $8.5 million to spend on the 2021 payroll before hitting the soft cap that’s being treated like a hard cap. While there hasn’t been an official announcement that they will stay under that number, it’s clearer than ever that’s what the Yankees plan on doing after the acquisition of a cheap starter (Taillon), a trade to remove a large salary (Ottavino) and the signing of a cheap, veteran reliever with several top-tier bullpen arms still available.
Wagner speculates that the Yankees may use part of the money to bring back fan favorite - and left-handed bat - Brett Gardner. And it can still happen, indeed. The Yankees had a $10 million club option that they decided to decline, letting Gardner test the free agent waters instead and paying him a $2.5 million buyout. However, the possibility of bringing him back at a lesser salary was always there, and Jack Curry of YES Network recently reported that the Bombers “rekindled conversations” with their longtime outfielder.
If the team doesn’t re-sign Gardner, they can use part of the money to bring in a different left-handed bat. This hypothetical player probably wouldn’t play everyday, as the Yankees’ lineup is currently stacked, but he could make a couple of starts per week and take advantage of the short porch. The ideal candidate would be a pull, fly-ball hitter.
Another cheap reliever could also be in the agenda. Guys like Brandon Workman or Chaz Roe could make sense, as could higher-profile targets like Trevor Rosenthal or Alex Colome, if strong markets to materialize for the latter pair. There are plenty of available arms and a potential spot on the roster even after signing O’Day.
Of course, the Yankees could call it an offseason and enter the 2021 campaign with the roster as it currently stands, without making additional signings and saving the potential room for a possible deadline addition, if they decide to make a run at someone. It’s also important to note that the Yankees’ roster currently sits at 41 players, which means that they would have to clear another spot on the 40-man
For now, though, the team is getting a very reliable right-handed specialist who has spent his career tormenting right-handed batters. After shortening their own bullpen by dumping Ottavino, the Yankees have deepened their relief corps once again.