While the season still isn’t over just yet, it’s never too soon to take a look at the Yankees’ potential free agents for this upcoming offseason.
Adrenaline is running high among Yankees fans this month as the Bronx prepares for the Yankees to kick off their playoff run at home in two weeks. It’s no secret that fans in New York always want their team’s players performing to their best of their abilities, and one good or bad postseason can dictate a player’s status among the fanbase for the following offseason, if not longer. For players about to hit the free-agent market, a strong postseason performance can make a significant difference in the type of contract they get inked to that winter.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some key current Yankees who will hit the free-agent market this offseason and whether the Yankees should bring them back or not.
Chapman isn’t a guarantee to hit the free-agent market, as he has the option to opt-out of the last two years and $30 million of his contract remaining after this season. If the 31-year-old Chapman does end up opting out, the Yankees should make every effort to resign him, even if they have to give him a deal lasting more than two seasons. Since the Yankees signed him to a five year $86 million contract following the 2016 season, Chapman has continued to affirm his status as one of the top closers in baseball, as he has recorded 91 saves and struck out 264 batters in 164 appearances as of September 14th.
He’s been known to have one stretch a year of a few weeks in which he is rather ineffective, but beyond that, Chapman is as reliable as they come. His postseason numbers for the Yankees have been just as impressive, as he’s allowed only one earned run in 11 innings pitched across nine appearances in 2017 and 2018, good for a 0.82 ERA. Chapman has shown no signs of slowing down soon and has given the Yankees every reason to feel comfortable giving him the ball in a save situation. Though he may demand a high price tag on the free-agent market, there seems to be mutual interest in keeping him in the Bronx, and the Yankees should get a deal done with him as quick as possible.
Betances’ free agency is going to be quite an interesting one and his playoff performance this October will likely play a big role in what kind of contract he gets. The four-time All-Star Betances is undoubtedly one of the most talented and durable relievers in baseball, as his 373.1 innings pitched from 2014-2018 rank 1st in MLB. In that same time window, among relievers with at least 250 innings pitched, Betances recorded the 3rd highest K%, 2nd lowest SLG, 4th lowest BAA and 5th lowest ERA. Simply put, he’s one of the most dominant relievers out there when he’s on.
Unfortunately, Betances has struggled with command issues in the past, most notably in 2017 when he walked 44 batters in his 59.2 innings of work. Betances’ 2nd half of the 2017 season was so abysmal that the team was barely able to turn to him in the playoffs, quite a fall from grace for such an exceptional reliever. He rebounded with a very strong 2018, only to fall victim to numerous injuries and setbacks in 2019. The team finally activated him from the IL on September 15th and he will make a handful of appearances before the playoffs when he will be thrust into the spotlight despite only having appeared in meaningful games for two weeks or so.
If Betances puts together a respectable postseason, he could be in line for a major payday this winter, and he could very well get a hefty contract elsewhere on a team where he would close, rather than being a set-up man for the Yankees. There is no doubt Betances makes the Yankees’ bullpen better and they will certainly have interest in bringing him back, but it might not make sense to overpay for Betances if another team is willing to throw closer-type money at him when he simply wouldn’t be in that role for the Yankees.
Didi missed the first two months of this season and has put together a down season thus far relative to his first few years as a Yankee. The power has been there, as Gregorius’ 16 homers in 72 games would put him on pace for 36 homers in a full 162 game season. That being said, his batting average has dropped considerably, as he managed to hit at least .265 in each of his first four seasons as a Yankee but as of September 14th is only hitting .249 this season.
As one of the longer-tenured Yankees, the 29-year-old Gregorius has established himself as a leader in the clubhouse and there’s no question that the organization greatly values his role off the field. He has also proved that he has a flair for the dramatic, like his two most iconic moments as a Yankee came in the team’s magical 2017 playoff run. His game-tying three-run home run in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Wild Card game that year propelled the team to an 8-4 win over the Twins, and a week later his two home runs in ALDS Game 5 against the Indians sealed Cleveland’s fate after the Yankees came back to win the series despite being down 2-0 after the first two games. The Yankees’ infield next year will be incredibly crowded regardless of whether they bring Didi back, as Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar will all fight for starting spots, and the team could bring back Edwin Encarnacion as well.
It would be a bit of a shock to see the team move on from the fan-favorite Gregorius this offseason, but if they place their focus on reeling in a big-name starting pitcher like Gerrit Cole, they may not be able to give Gregorius a long-term deal with the AAV that other teams can offer.