Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
TAMPA, Fla. -- It was a day of transition for the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field on Saturday, with glimpses of both the past and future -- and questions about whether the Yankees can hold their new core together.
The marquee event was an afternoon news conference in which CC Sabathia announced his plans to retire at the end of the season. Sabathia was a key member of the Yankees' most recent championship team, and a link between the Derek Jeter/Andy Pettitte/Jorge Posada era and the Aaron Judge/Gary Sanchez/Luis Severino group.
In a convenient narrative bookend, Severino held his own news conference in the morning to announce a four-year, $40 million contract that pays for his arbitration seasons and contains a club option that would control his first year of free agency.
Severino's deal offered a reminder that the team's young core, which bursts with potential but has yet to even reach a World Series, will not be inexpensive for long. Severino, entering his first arbitration season, was first up for a payday, and the Yanks got lucky. The 24-year-old was willing to forgo what would almost certainly have been larger raises in order to attain immediate financial security.
Watching Severino's news conference, it was clear that a team-friendly deal can sometimes feel good for the player, too. He smiled, he laughed, and he recalled telling his mother he had $40 million.
But what are the odds that Judge and Sanchez, not to mention free-agents-to-be Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks, will all take a similar approach? All are key pieces to the team that won 100 games last year and hopes to win multiple championships in the future, and they are about to get much more expensive.
Gregorius and Hicks present the most immediate decisions. The Yankees love the former as a clubhouse leader and key part of their culture. Hicks is one of the most productive center fielders in the game. Both are pushing 30, an age that has become precarious for free agents. Would they consider extensions before hitting the open market?
And would Judge and Sanchez be willing by next spring to lock in their arb-year salaries, or will they prefer to go year-to-year? Remember, Nolan Arenado just pulled in $26 million in his final arbitration year, and Mookie Betts made $20 million. Players willing to gamble on themselves before free agency can become major strains on a payroll.
On Saturday, GM Brian Cashman would not discuss specific players, but acknowledged that he is already deep into planning for future budgets.
"We've had conversations with some, not all, if they lead to multi-years, great. This one did. Other attempts so far have failed," Cashman said. "I've got guys who are a season away from free agency. I got guys who are obviously in this arbitration arena, some of which we settled out of the hearing. In Sevy's case we did the multi-year deal. ... We've had discussions with other agents about multi-years but nothing to show for those."
The Yankees are already over the luxury tax threshold, and have their limits. Their current payroll includes the Jacoby Ellsbury and Giancarlo Stanton megadeals; those contracts, along with the future commitments mentioned above, are major reasons why they haven't pursued Bryce Harper, and have refused to bid aggressively for Manny Machado.
Before thinking about acquiring other team's superstars, the Yankees must first determine if they can keep together the core they have already assembled. And there are no guarantees the Baby Bombers will remain intact long enough to accomplish what Sabathia once experienced in the waning days of the Core Four.