Yankees: Here’s why NYY might be stuck with this exact same roster in 2021

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 03: Manager Aaron Boone
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 03: Manager Aaron Boone /

The Yankees may not be able to make big additions fans were expecting this offseason.

Let’s start off by saying that this current edition of the New York Yankees roster — when completely healthy — is very much a championship-contending group. Fans will be happy to see guys like JA Happ leave in free agency, but the team doesn’t have much room to spend before hitting the luxury tax threshold — about ~$35 million to be exact.

And when you factor in the potential returns of DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka, you’re probably talking about only $5 million when all is said and done. So the only realistic way for the Yankees to gain more flexibility is to unload some undesirable contracts — Aroldis Chapman and Adam Ottavino come to mind — but that’ll be extremely difficult as well.

Why? Because teams, according to executives and industry chatter, likely won’t be looking to spend or inherit more money on their books via trade.

Here’s a very lengthy explanation from Bill Madden of the New York Daily News:

"“Every team in baseball has lost a minimum of $100 million — the larger market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and Phillies, between $175-$200 million. Last week, the Phillies’ Team Marketing Report reported they lost $186.1 million, while the Yankees were probably closer to $200 million or more. The lower-payroll teams like the Rays and Marlins, accustomed to playing to three-quarters empty ballparks anyway, lost considerably less. But they will get hit with an additional whammy of losing out on their customary $50 million (in Tampa Bay’s case) to $70M (in Miami’s case) revenue sharing payments. Or as one MLB exec noted to me: ‘You can’t be paid revenue sharing from the other teams if there is no revenue.’“As for the notion that baseball got partially bailed out this year by the massive national TV contracts, that is a misconception. The national TV, radio and licensing monies all go into the MLB Central fund from which approximately $65-70 million per club is doled out at the end of the year. But this year that number is estimated to be about $50 million per club. The fact is, local revenues — attendance, TV and radio, concessions, merchandising — account for 80% of the clubs’ revenues, and they were essentially non-existent this year.“’Those revenues we will never recover,” said one team exec, ‘but what’s most concerning to all of us is the unknown about 2021. We don’t know when, if or how many fans we’re going to be allowed in the seats, so how do you go about determining revenues and payrolls?'”"

If that’s the case, who is going to take on Aroldis Chapman’s remaining two years and $32 million? Or Ottavino’s $9 million for 2021? Even if the Yankees pick up Zack Britton’s option and look to trade him (an unlikely scenario) it’s doubtful many teams would want to add $27 million for a reliever for the next two seasons.

Even if they wanted to trade Aaron Hicks, it’d be hard to imagine another GM willingly scooping up the remaining $53 million on his deal for the next five years — even as team friendly as it is.

This is a reality fans have to deal with. Until there’s a vaccine, we can’t bank on the fact fans will be back in 2021. And as long as that uncertainly exists, executives won’t hesitate to keep their checkbooks slammed shut. Just look what they’ve done over the past few years. We saw so many skilled players remain unsigned through spring training and even into May or June. And that was with no global pandemic or even contrived financial constraints. They just didn’t want to spend and flipped the market on its head in a cruel way.

Don’t expect that to change over the next few months, and if that’s the case, we’ll likely be seeing this same exact Yankees roster in 2021 minus JA Happ, James Paxton and potentially Brett Gardner.