Right after being eliminated in the ALDS, questions stirred regarding the slew of free agents that are on the Yankees' roster. Who should stay and who should go?
The Yankees took a chance on Britton despite the fact that he was not 100 percent when the trade was completed. Britton came along slowly but by September he began to resemble the dominant pitcher he was in 2016. However, there was very little consistency even when he was at his best this season. Britton's command was off and while he generated plenty of ground balls, he was prone to untimely deep flies, including a home run in the Wild Card Game and a difference-making homer in Game 4 of the ALDS.
There should be some concern for the Yankees about Britton's time clock -- he'll be 31 next season -- working in the wrong direction and the fact that he might be able to secure a closer type contract from a club willing to gamble on the southpaw.
Prediction: The Yankees will pass as Britton will eye and likely receive offers to be a closer elsewhere
The Yankees' eldest position player is not a free agent, but the club will need to make a decision with him since his contract has a one-year, $12.5 million option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout.
Gardner (86 OPS+ in 2018) was unable to maintain the success he generated in 2017 (104 OPS+), to the point that the club went out and traded for an outfielder (Andrew McCutchen) in an effort to bolster the roster. While that started out as a platoon role for Gardner, it turned into a bench spot for most of the season's final month.
The Yankees could sign Bryce Harper or place Giancarlo Stanton in left field to free up the designated hitter spot, meaning the remaining role for Gardner would be as a fourth outfielder -- and as such, the cost would be prohibitive. Considering Gardner's age (he'll play most of 2019 at 36 years old), he may suffer from the trend of clubs ignoring such players until their market drops well out of the expensive zone. This could mean a reunion with the Yankees, but at a much less costly price tag.
Prediction: Yankees will decline option, stay in touch in the spring
Happ did just about everything the Yankees hoped for after arriving in New York via trade. His 7-0 record with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts (63 2/3 innings) for the Yankees aided the club's run toward the postseason. He was by far their most consistent rotation arm from the trade deadline to the end of the regular season.
However, a bulk of the interest in Happ was for one role and that was to stymie the Red Sox when it mattered. Happ received that opportunity in Game 1 of the ALDS and it can be argued that his inability to prosper was the beginning of the end for the Yankees' chances to upend the Red Sox.
Happ will be a strong commodity on the open market for clubs looking for a middle of the rotation pitcher who possesses the upside of a No. 2 starter for the next couple of seasons. The Yankees would surely like to have a left-handed starter in the rotation, but may have their eyes set on a younger and more productive southpaw in Patrick Corbin.
Prediction: Yankees will monitor Happ's market for potential bargain or fallback option if they cannot land Corbin
Robertson was not nearly as strong in 2018 (3.23 ERA, 11.8 K/9 in 69 2/3 innings) as he was in his reunion half-season after returning to the Yankees from the White Sox at last season's trade deadline. He has always walked the tightrope, earning the nickname "Houdini" along the way, but there was a lot less escaping in 2018.
That said, when Robertson is on his game, his stuff is still above-average and should be a solid late-inning reliever for the next couple of seasons. Robertson's age (he'll be 34 next season) will be a sticking point -- especially for an organization teeming with young hard-throwing relievers.
The Yankees will want to save cash for starting pitching and a potential splash with either Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper, making a reliever at Robertson's potential cost restrictive.
Prediction: Yankees will allow the reliever market to form before committing to Robertson
We've already noted that the Yankees will be in heavy pursuit of Corbin to team up with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. They will have Jordan Montgomery back at some point (Tommy John surgery) and have other young options in Domingo German, Michael King and Justus Sheffield waiting in the wings. Plus, the team has a decision to make with Sonny Gray and his space on the roster.
If the Yanks land Corbin, there is little chance that they'll hand over a job to more than one of the youngsters (including Montgomery), but rather allow the "losers" of a spring competition to gain more experience and be ready to slide into the rotation on a need basis.
That strategy would allow the club to look at Sabathia as their fifth starter on a one-year deal at a similar cost to the $10 million he secured in 2018. Sabathia's season line -- 3.65 ERA in 153 innings -- was more than sufficient for the role and he could be a meaningful mentor, namely for Sheffield, along the way.
Prediction: Yankees will re-sign to one year deal for rotation depth, mentoring role
The Yankees have others from the postseason roster -- Adeiny Hechavarria, Lance Lynn, McCutchen and Neil Walker -- entering the free agent market. Only McCutchen would seem like a player they may engage in an actual pursuit. But as with Gardner, the salary it would take -- not to mention the commitment in years -- would seem too much for a bench role.
The reality is with big names like Corbin, Harper and Machado available and the Yankees having reset their luxury tax penalty by staying under this year's threshold, expect the high-ticket moves to take precedence over any of their own players ready to become free agents with the chance of seeing one or two holdovers creep onto the 2019 roster.