Even after reaching agreements with DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, the Yankees are still hoping to round out the roster. New York is looking for pitching depth, hears Buster Olney of ESPN, with a “third-tier starter” or relief help most likely. Olney also adds that the Yankees would still like to bring back outfielder Brett Gardner, who has spent his entire career to date in pinstripes.
The Yankees have a few high-upside pitchers who could earn regular rotation jobs behind Gerrit Cole and Kluber, at least until Luis Severino recovers from his February 2020 Tommy John surgery. Jordan Montgomery didn’t do a great job keeping runs off the board last year, but his peripherals were strong and likely earned him another rotation spot. Prospects Clarke Schmidt and Deivi García are at or near the majors, while Domingo Germán is returning from a season-long domestic violence suspension. Given the wide ranges of potential outcomes for most of those players (and Kluber, for that matter), it’s arguable the Yankees should add a stable back-of-the-rotation veteran to the mix. That’s all the more true in a 2021 campaign where pitchers’ workloads are expected to see a massive spike after last year’s shortened season.
In the outfield, the Yankees maintained they had interest in bringing Gardner back immediately after buying out his club option last October. Apparently, that remains the case. The 37-year-old is an organizational favorite whose left-handed bat continues to fit a Yankee lineup that skews right-handed. Gardner had a fairly productive .223/.354/.392 slash line last season but is certainly looking at a contract for less than the $12.5MM guarantee he commanded last offseason.
At the moment, the Yankees’ 2021 payroll sits at a projected $201MM, per Roster Resource. The organization’s luxury tax ledger is estimated at just over $207MM. That leaves essentially no wiggle room for further additions if the organization is committed to staying below the first tax threshold of $210MM. With that in mind, Olney suggests the Yankees could look to move reliever Adam Ottavino, who has a matching $9MM salary and luxury hit in the final season of his contract. The Yankees may have to pay down some of that money and accept a rather minimal return to do so, though, with Ottavino coming off something of a down year.