As the Yankees season winds down, it’s never too early to start thinking about off-season decisions. While most of the Yankees roster will remain intact for 2020, one area that could see some turnover is the bullpen. Dellin Betances and Tommy Kahnle will be free agents, and Aroldis Chapman can also opt out of his contract and join them if he desires.
How will Brian Cashman handle his bullpen this winter?
A year ago, this decision would have seemed obvious. The Yankees would offer Betances a nice contract to continue pitching in the only ballpark he’s ever known (and his hometown.) However, the decision has become murkier this year. Betances has yet to throw a pitch, and we won’t see him on a major league mound until at least Sept. 1. Even when he does come back, how will he preform? If he’s his dominant self from 2018, great! If he looks like 2017 Dellin things could get dicey for him.
Despite being one of the top 10 best relievers in baseball since 2014, the Yankees haven’t exactly treated him warmly. They’ve insulted him in arbitration, and they’ve never given him a true opportunity to close despite having pretty much the best strikeout numbers of any reliever in the game over the past five years. They’ve also run him out for a ton of innings, so it’s no coincidence that the injury bug finally hit him.
If Dellin has a great September and October, I could see the Yankees offering him $40 million over 3-4 years. If he falters, they may get conservative and offer him a one year type prove it deal at eight or nine million dollars.
This decision should be the easiest of the three. Chapman is dominating again this season, with 32 saves and a 2.56 ERA. Despite “only” topping out at 102 MPH, he has made it up for it with a filthy slider that he has commanded with ease. If Chapman opts out of the remaining two years and $34.4 million on this deal, the Yankees should be able to just tack another year or two at the same rate. They did something very similar with CC Sabathia after the 2011 season.
Chapman loves New York and loves being a Yankee. The Yankees love Chapman, having traded for him in 2016 and then signing him as a free agent again in 2017. Based on his performance and their mutual affection, something should get done. I’d bet on Chapman remaining in pinstripes in 2020.
Like Betances, the Kahnle decision is a bit unclear. He had a great 2017, fell of the map in 2018 and has rebounded nicely this season. He’s currently sporting a 2.98 ERA and has been particular dominant against left handed hitters. Kahnle will be 30 next season and has never been a free agent before. It’s tough to project what his asking price will be. Also, how do the Yankees value him? Do they view him as the dominant reliever from 2017 and 2019, or the guy who inexplicably lost his velocity in 2018 and couldn’t even make the big league roster?
My guess is somewhere in between. I honestly have no idea what will happen with Kahnle.
The Yankees have money, but they are not going to blow past the luxury tax threshold. The chance of keeping all three of these relievers is slim. They should be able to keep Chapman and at least one of the other two, which I think would be a win. They could also just keep Chapman and try and use the money saved to pursue Gerrit Cole. Remember, Didi Gregorius will be a free agent next year as well.
The Yankees have to finish this season strong. However, whenever it ends, Brian Cashman will have some tough decisions to make.