The Runner Sports

Looking Ahead To The Yankees’ 2017-18 Free Agent Options

With Spring Training right around the corner, the 2017 New York Yankees roster is essentially set for the upcoming season.  Other than minor moves here and there, the roster is likely what it is until mid-season trades.  While writing about the current roster, it is fun to look ahead to the next offseason and ponder who the Yankees might go after in the 2017-18 free agency class.

It is well known that the Yankees (as well as other teams) are waiting for the monster free agent class of the 2018-19 offseason.  In that offseason, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, and Japanese star Shohei Otanti headline the free agency class.  Even though the Yankees might be saving their money for that free agency class, there will still be needs addresses after this season.  However, no one should expect the Yankees to make too many big splashes next offseason.  With all of this in mind, what signings could the New York Yankees be making next offseason?

Yankee Free Agents

Before discussing who the Yankees might look to add through free agency next offseason, let’s address the Yankees who will be free agents at the end of the season.  Below are the current roster members who will be free agents after 2017:

  • Matt Holliday
  • Tyler Clippard
  • C.C. Sabathia
  • Michael Pineda
  • Masahiro Tanaka (player option)

Only four players are guaranteed to be free agents after the 2017 season.  Tanaka could be the fifth if he decides to opt out of his current contract that has three years left on the deal.  Assuming Tanaka has another solid season, it is likely that he will opt out of his contract.  If that happens, the Yankees would lose three starters of their Opening Day rotation.  Not only that, but these are the three starters who do not have to compete for their spots in the rotation.  Unless the Yankees acquire an MLB starter during the season, the Yankees could have a rotation that is left wide open heading into the offseason.

Bullpen Arm

Four of the five free agents after this season will be pitchers.  Only one of those pitchers is someone out of the bullpen.  Tyler Clippard will serve as the 7th inning pitcher for the Yankees this season.  After the season, Clippard will be a free agent.  Depending on his performance this year, the Yankees might decide to retain his services for the following year.  However, the odds are that the Yankees will let him leave.

Remaining with the team will be the two workhorses: Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  The Yankees will not necessarily need another bullpen arm since the rest of the bullpen will be under contract.  However, GM Brian Cashman has established his preference to have a dominate bullpen.  While the No Runs DMC of 2016 will most likely not happen (Wade Davis will not become a Yankee), expect the Yankees to sign one above average reliever.

Depending on the performances of Chasen Shreve and Tommy Layne, the Yankees may decide that they need to add a lefty to replace Clippard. However, I believe that the Yankees would prefer to go with a bullpen arm who was once a closer.  Luke Gregerson is in the final year of his contract with the Astros.  After a great 2014 with the A’s, the Astros signed him to a 3-year/$18.5 million deal to make him the closer of the team.  Though Gregerson has been good for the Astros, he has been replaced as closer by Ken Giles.  Gregerson, who will be 34 for the 2018 season, will be an affordable option for the Yankees to have a third good reliever.

Veteran DH

Matt Holliday is the only position player who will be a free agent this season.  The aging DH will likely be a one-and-done deal for the Yankees.  While it is easy to assume that the Yankees would fill the DH spot with another veteran player, it is entirely possible that this spot will be filled with one of the younger players.  Perhaps Greg Bird or Tyler Austin will fill that spot when the other is playing first.  Maybe Aaron Judge will become a DH depending on whether Clint Frazier is called up and forces himself into an OF spot.

In my last article, I discussed how Aaron Hicks could see his time with the Yankees end after this season if he does not turn his offense around.  It would be difficult to believe that all four of Austin, Bird, Frazier, and Judge will prove to be great MLB players.  Not to mention that Brett Gardner could be traded in the offseason, which would open the outfield up for Frazier and Judge to both play.  Assuming that one of the four young players do not turn out to be MLB caliber, that leaves the Yankees with an open spot for DH and fourth outfielder.

Depending on how this season goes for the free agents to be, the Yankees could look to bring back a familiar face to replace Holliday as DH.  Curtis Granderson could be that veteran who could come into the organization for the 2018 and 2019 season to help the young players adjust to the MLB level.  Granderson will be 37 in 2018, which means his days playing in the OF will be numbered.  He could still fill in when the starting trio needed rest, but his main place would be DH.

If Gardner is traded, bringing Granderson in on a 2-year deal would make sense.  Since leaving the Yankees, Granderson has still put up respectable power numbers in pitcher-friendly Citi Field.  His average has remained drastically low since 2012 (other than 2015), but his role would be to supply power.  His swing was made for Yankee Stadium, evident by his two 40 home run seasons in pinstripes.  If the Yankees could sign him for around $10 million per year, then it would make sense to have him as the veteran guiding the young players.

At Least Two Starting Pitchers

If the worst case scenario happens and Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his deal, then the Yankees desperately need to sign two free agent starters.  The problem is that the free agency class in 2017-18 is not quite stacked.  Tanaka would be at the top of the class if he opted out.  However, there are two other star pitchers who could hit free agency.  Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta could headline next offseason’s free agency.  Darvish is more likely to make it there than Arrieta, but currently both are slated to hit the market as of right now.

Though Arrieta and Darvish are the premiere of the class, I do not believe the Yankees should sign either of them.  Darvish has been injury plagued over the past few seasons while Arrieta will be too expensive to sign.  Arrieta will have a bidding war over his services, which could lead to a contract that could approach $30 million per year.

Rather than go after one of them, the Yankees should decide to sign two other pitchers in next offseason’s class.  One would be to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka.  If he decides to opt out, the Yankees should jump on the opportunity to re-sign him.  This is especially true if Tanaka has a strong 2017 season.  Tanaka will be cheaper than Arrieta and he is younger than both Arrieta and Darvish. Though Tanaka has injury concerns with his elbow, Tanaka pitched well last season while Darvish missed a large part of the season.  He could have a similar contract to Darvish (in terms of salary), but he has pitched in New York already with great success.

The other pitcher that the Yankees might/should look into signing is Jeremy Hellickson.  Hellickson pitched well for the Philadelphia Phillies last season.  It was a change in trend from the previous three seasons between his time with Arizona and Tampa Bay.  However, Hellickson has pitched well in the AL East before.  If he continues this solid form in 2017, he could be a signing that could help the Yankees over the next few seasons.  Hellickson will be playing under the qualifying contract that the Phillies offered him this offseason.

This offseason, Hellickson was projected to sign a 4-year/$60 million deal had he not signed the qualifying offer.  Another solid season would yield a similar (if not slightly more expensive) contract in the next offseason.  Hellickson will only be 31 in 3018, so a 4-year deal will not be a bad move.

Still Wait On 2018

For the most part, the Yankees will still be waiting on the class of 2018-19.  Necessity will bring the Yankees to opening up the check books for at least one starting pitcher by the end of the year, though.  Ideally, Masahiro Tanaka will not opt out of his deal.  That would save the Yankees money toward the luxury tax to have the most room for 2018.  A bullpen arm and DH will be common signings for the Yankees next season.  But Cashman will have to make a move to add starting pitching.  The four starters competing for the last two spots this year will not be enough to round out the 2018 rotation, even if Tanaka remains under contract.  One thing to remember, the Yankees need a solid team to draw those big free agents to New York.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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