After playing a shortened season in 2020, the Yankees will have some decisions to make when it comes to picking which players to extend contracts to.
Having the 60 game season in play could be a blessing and a curse for the players. Let’s think about it this way: with the sample size provided this year, you won’t really know who has an outstanding year. There are always players who fade after the all-star break and sometimes sooner. So when organizations finally sit down with staff, decisions will come with just great difficulty. The misses are going to sting this offseason, but I think the Yankees are in fairly good shape.
Obvious extension candidates DJ LeMahieu, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka will be the most talked-about players throughout the season. Playing well is so pivotal because their next contracts could certainly be their last. Personally speaking, James Paxton seems like the best option to land an extension because he’d be a reliable southpaw behind Cole and Severino, and the asking price will not be too absurd because of the injury history. If Paxton has another solid year in pinstripes this is a no brainer. At one point during the season, he was easily the best pitcher on the staff and really elevated the staff’s performance after the trade deadline. Could he be in contention for a $100 million extension? If he’s lights out this year, Zach Wheeler’s money might not be out of the question. For the Yankees’ sake, they’re hoping they won’t have to pay him that.
Tanaka has been the most consistent pitcher in the organization since his rookie year in 2014. Historically being one of the better pitchers in postseason play, it’s hard to think he could pitch somewhere else. The elbow issues do not scare me as they once did and the pure enjoyment Yankee fans have when he excels in his craft is euphoric. While I do see the Yankees looking to extend Tanaka, my gut tells me he walks. There will be more money elsewhere and I don’t know if he could pass that up. For some reason, the Angels seem like the destination after missing out on the prized pitching free agents from the Winter. A Madison Bumgarner deal sounds all too perfect. Hopefully, the Yankees are willing to pay one of their best pitchers of the decade.
Can LeMahieu replicate last year’s performance? That is an extension worthy question as he was the best all-around player for the 2019 ball club. The soon to be 32-year-old could be in the market for a big payday and I’m not sure the Yankees are in the market to be loading off the brinks trucks for a second straight offseason. With his age, MLB GMs have become hesitant on signing borderline stars into their 30s. He is a candidate to be one of the last people signed if he makes it to the open market. While I believe he is worth signing to another two-year deal, I can only imagine he is looking for more security in his next contract. A Nick Castellanos type contract seems to be his best bet and I would not blink twice if the Yankees let him walk.
These three players are vital to the team’s 2020 success. While all of them warrant contract extensions, someone will walk. Who knows, maybe the Yankees are feeling generous and extend all three just to make the fans happy. I’m not being greedy but please don’t let us down, Hal.