4 Yankees in contract year whose motivations could lift 2024 roster

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox - Game One
New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox - Game One / Winslow Townson/GettyImages
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It's no secret the New York Yankees have put pressure on themselves to capitalize in 2024. They traded for one guaranteed year of Juan Soto and have an additional nine players hitting free agency come November.

Some might call that a risky strategy -- and it undoubtedly is. On the flip side, however, it could serve as a motivator for guys to maximize their values in a contract year, or play to expectations in order to have their option picked up.

It offers a do-or-die element that only the best competitors will respond to, which only improves a team's chances to make an October run. The Yankees have lacked that sense of urgency for quite some time -- just look at Aaron Judge's historic 2022 season when the Yankees were smashed by the Astros and swept in the ALCS (after nearly being eliminated by the Guardians in the ALDS).

But after a few chemistry-altering moves this offseason, the Yankees acquired gamers. Some with a chip on their shoulder. Others with something to prove. And then they have some in-house names still looking to rebound or prove their consistency.

And those who are in a contract year? They could change the dynamic.

4 Yankees in contract year whose motivations could lift 2024 roster

Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo signed a two-year contract with a team option for the 2025 season at the conclusion of 2022. He's set to make $40 million guaranteed (his option is for $17 million but carries a $6 million buyout). He's not a true free agent, but with the way teams have treated these options in recent years, he might as well be.

Rizzo's 2022 was pretty much as good as it gets for a lumbering first baseman in his age-32 season. The lefty slugger cranked 32 homers and 75 RBI with an .817 OPS and 130 OPS+ across 130 games. There were holes in his game, but that offensive output is enough to justify his salary.

But then came 2023. Rizzo got off to a blistering start in April and May but then suffered a head injury in a collision with Fernando Tatis Jr. He was misdiagnosed, played another two months with what was determined to be "cognitive impairment," and put forth some of the worst baseball you'll ever see (but to no fault of his own, outside of not saying to the Yankees "I literally cannot play").

The former World Series champion has a lot to gain from a productive 2024, and the Yankees will greatly benefit if his bat and on-base skills can at least remain consistent to his career averages.