Extending These Three Yankees Should Be a Priority This Winter
There are certainly convincing arguments to be made that the Yankees should just wait and see what happens with Gregorius. The team is certainly not hurting for shortstop prospects in the minor leagues, with both Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo looking like future stars. He’s also coming off easily the best season of his young career, and if you think his recent power spike is a fluke, then you probably don’t want to pay him as if that is the new normal.
On the other hand, Gregorius has seen his offensive numbers trending upward each of the last three seasons. He’s worked hard to address his issues against left-handed pitching, which is a big reason for his success in 2016. He hit .320/.357/.469 (124 OPS+) against them this year, which is markedly higher than his career .248/.306/.336 (84 OPS+) slash line against southpaws.
Gregorius is the closest thing the Yankees have to an established young star on the position player side of things. He was their most reliable hitter all year and was finally promoted out of the bottom of the lineup in the second half. The major defensive metrics didn’t love his fielding work as much as in 2015, but he remains an above-average defender at short who is extremely athletic and has a cannon for an arm.
There is not as much pressure to sign Gregorius long-term as there is for Pineda. He has three years of control remaining and several potential replacements nearing the majors. That said, the Yankees have very few position players in their prime years at the moment. Gregorius is very valuable both on the field and as a trade chip. Even if he’s eventually replaced, we’ve seen with Gardner that a reasonable extension can provide a boost in value.
So what kind of extension would make sense for both sides. Gaining some certainty on his three remaining arbitration-eligible seasons would be a start. MLB Trade Rumors projects him for $5.1 million after making $2.425 million in 2016 (Gregorius was a super-two).