Yankees: 3 player options that could change free agency

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J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The free agent pool is likely to get even deeper in a few weeks after some high-profile players decide to decline their options and add another payday to their resumés. While the New York Yankees might not directly pursue these big names, their plans will certainly change once the dust settles a bit — as will their 2022 fate.

Now, the only question that remains: when, exactly, is this going to happen again? When will this whole CBA thing get resolved? Because we’re … already tired of waiting.

It’s easy to feel as if the Yankees’ window is closing because of an overall strange 92-win season with a depressing ending — that might’ve been less depressing if the Wild Card Game had been played in the Bronx, which would’ve happened if we’d won 93 games.

However, the second half wasn’t too far off a contending pace. 37-20 in August and September is nothing to sneeze at; the darling Braves went 34-18, and the Yankees had a hobbled Gerrit Cole leading the way. Love them or not, you can’t deny the post-ASB Yanks were much closer to a contender with a few holes rather than an outright disaster.

So, with the Red Sox arriving ahead of schedule, the Blue Jays very much ready to bust down the doors, and the playoff-choking Rays still a strong regular season team, it’s time for the Yanks to buckle down and spend/trade to reinforce rather than shy away from the center of the ring. A shortstop is a necessity. A center fielder? Maybe. Outfield depth. Lefty bats. Rotation reinforcements. Bring it all to the Bronx.

When the free agent class expands thanks to some well-timed opt-outs, the Yankees’ future will get a little cloudier, though. These somewhat unexpected moves will both change the way their rivals spend and, in some cases, open up additional avenues for the Yanks to explore.

These 3 opt-outs could change Yankees free agency in 2021-22.

3. JD Martinez

Didn’t necessarily see this one coming, did we?

It would appear that, after we predicted he might last offseason, Red Sox star JD Martinez, 34, plans to opt out of his Boston deal and pursue one more multi-year contract in free agency. The universal DH seems to be coming down the pike, and Martinez would rather shed the $19 million he’s owed in 2022 than return to the Sox.

Martinez wasn’t quite at his offensive peak last season, but made big strides after he regained access to the video room, leading the league in doubles and posting a 126 OPS+ (down significantly from his ungodly 173 mark in 2018, but still). He’s a middle-of-the-order game-changer who will no longer be in Boston, most likely, when the offseason really gets going.

So, what does this mean? Will Boston take a step back in 2022? Most likely not. If you don’t know by now, you should know that Chaim Bloom is no chump just because he traded Mookie Betts. He uses money wisely. He’ll probably use Martinez’s money to make a Xander Bogaerts/Rafael Devers extension a little bit easier to swallow; Devers is a future DH, so the chain makes perfect sense.

He also might use the leftover cash to spend “big” on a Kyle Schwarber deal; the DH/first baseman/outfielder will be hitting free agency, but the “Waltham native” seems ready to return to Beantown at the right price. He could be a one-for-one Martinez replacement, as Bloom steps on Brian Cashman’s toes again and nabs the player he’s long-coveted.

Martinez will not be a Yankee unless Giancarlo Stanton wants to play 140 games of outfield or is traded, but his imminent departure could make the Red Sox more of a threat to spend at the margins than we anticipated.