The World Series is over, which means the offseason is officially upon us. With the expiration of the current CBA on December 1st looming over the winter’s proceedings, the already obscure objectives for New York are thrown into further uncertainty. What isn’t uncertain, however, is the Yankees’ large class of arbitration-eligible players — some of whom are due substantial raises.
The coming months will see the Yankees decide to whom they will or will not tender a contract out of the whopping 19 players eligible for arbitration. In no particular order, that class consists of: Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Gary Sánchez, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Clint Frazier, Miguel Andújar, Tyler Wade, Kyle Higashioka, Tim Locastro, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, Domingo Germán, Chad Green, Jonathan Loáisiga, Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, and Lucas Luetge.
Per FanGraphs’ RosterResource, that group is projected to earn around $80 million in 2022, which combined with the $139 million in guaranteed salaries, brings the Opening Day payroll north of the $210 million CBT threshold in the soon-to-expire CBA. That’s without making a single addition to the roster. If the Yankees are determined to avoid paying the luxury tax next season, should it exist akin to its current form, they will have to shed some money off the books, and one avenue for achieving that is via non-tender. With that in mind, let’s review the Yankees’ most likely non-tender candidates.
Last week, Lindsey Adler of The Athletic speculated that it would not be out of the question for the Yankees to cut ties with Luke Voit. They reportedly shopped him around the previous trade deadline and could gauge other teams’ interest again this winter. Voit is projected to earn somewhere around $5.4 million in 2022, his second year of arbitration eligibility, and the Yankees may decide that’s too much to pay their oft-injured first baseman.
After taking the MLB home run crown in the shortened 2020 season, Luke Voit had an injury-ravaged 2021 campaign, appearing in only 68 games. Also complicating matters were his highly-publicized comments stating his case for playing time after the Yankees brought in Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline. It may be just coincidence that Voit was summarily benched after that episode of candidness, but it sure felt like things had soured between player and organization.
With all that being said, Voit still put up above-average offensive production — 11 home runs, 111 wRC+ in 241 plate appearances — when healthy, and is only entering his age-31 season. The combination of that offensive potential with his still relatively affordable price in 2022 may convince the Yankees to just hold onto him should a trade offer fail to materialize. Alternatively, if they feel confident that other teams are not interested, they could non-tender Voit and attempt to sign him at an AAV lower that his arbitration number, potentially saving a couple million.
One of the well-worn traditions of the last few years sees Yankees fans speculate whether this is the year that New York non-tenders Gary Sánchez. His inclusion in this list is as much because no offseason discourse would be complete without the obligatory calls from a subset of the fanbase that the Yankees finally cut bait with their mercurial catcher.
Elsewhere in the Athletic piece, Adler expresses skepticism that the Yankees would non-tender Sánchez based on the paucity of starting catcher options on the market — a market that grew even more thin with Tucker Barnhart’s trade from the Reds to the Tigers. The fact of the matter is that you’re not gonna do much better than Sánchez on the free agent or trade markets. Among all AL catchers with at least 300 plate appearances in 2021, his 99 wRC+ ranks ninth and 23 home runs tied for third.
As with Voit, if Sánchez is non-tendered, it would likely be because the Yankees feel confident that they could turn around and re-sign him to an AAV below his projected $7.9 million salary in 2022. I find myself agreeing with Adler on this one. There is still enough promise from Sánchez’s 2016, 2017, and 2019 performances to tempt the Yankees into tendering their catcher a contract in his final year of arbitration eligibility.
2021 was a miserable season for Clint Frazier. He was handed the starting left field role out of spring training, but was quickly benched for Brett Gardner after slumping in the first months of the season. He played sporadically through the end of June before having his season ended with neck and vision problems. In the end, he only played 66 games, sporting an unsightly .186/.317/.317 triple slash line with a 82 wRC+.
One can’t help but feel a little sorry for Frazier. This wasn’t the first instance of vision issues for the Yankees outfielder, as he battled lingering symptoms of a concussion in 2018 and 2019. It also seems like he was given a much shorter leash than some of his other struggling teammates at the beginning of the season.
However you feel about Frazier, it’s hard to see how he fits into the Yankees’ plans in 2022. Judge and Gallo have the corner outfield spots locked up, and it’s the safest bet of the offseason to pencil Brett Gardner into one more year in pinstripes. Given the mysterious nature of his current malady, they have still not identified the cause nor provided a timetable for his return. Therefore, the Yankees could very well non-tender the former top prospect rather than carry his projected $2.4 million salary for another potentially injury-limited season.
Andújar is yet another formerly promising young Yankee to have his career derailed by injury. He appeared in only 45 games in 2021, batting .253/.284/.383 with an 81 wRC+ and spent most of the season on the IL with wrist issues. He showed some of his former promise in a short Triple-A stint at the end of the year, but has his path back to the majors blocked. He won’t win back the starting third base job from the defensively-superior Urshela, looked quite raw in left field, and has played only 37 innings at first between the majors and Triple-A. At this point, he’s nothing more than a backup DH and bench bat, and it’s hard to see the Yankees paying him his projected $1.7 million for that role. That said, $1.7 million is cheap enough that they could keep him around in the minors, hoping he rediscovers his 2018 form.
After years of hoping Tyler Wade would take the next step, it’s safe to say he is who he is at this point: a Quad-A hitter with great speed but poor baserunning instinct who is serviceable at fielding multiple positions around the infield and outfield. That certainly is still valuable to a franchise that professes its desire to become “more athletic” heading into next season. And at only $700,000 projected for his first year of arbitration eligibility, it’s a pretty sure bet the Yankees keep Wade around for his versatility.
The Yankees traded for Tim Locastro at the beginning of July, sending Keegan Curtis to Arizona. At the time of his trade, Locastro was clocked having the fastest sprint speed in MLB. Though certainly not a flashy trade, the Yankees did well to strengthen their outfield depth bringing in a player with multiple years of team control remaining. Unfortunately for Locastro, he tore his ACL while fielding a ball after playing only nine games for New York. While he could heal in time to play some games next season, the Yankee would likely be paying for a year lost to recovery should they tender him a contract. That said, his projected first-year arbitration estimate of $700,000 is a drop in the bucket for a Yankees organization obsessed with cost-controlled players.