The Yankees weren’t the busiest team this winter, opting for a handful of big moves instead of many small ones. That included signing one of the top starting pitcher free agents and retaining the consensus top overall free agent, the face of the franchise and now-captain Aaron Judge.
Major League Signings
- OF Aaron Judge: nine years, $360MM
- LHP Carlos Rodón: six years, $162MM
- 1B Anthony Rizzo: two years, $40MM, including buyout of 2025 club option
- RHP Tommy Kahnle: two years, $11.5MM
2023 spending: $89.75MM
Total spending: $573.5MM
- Club exercised $15MM option on RHP Luis Severino
- 1B Anthony Rizzo declined $16MM player option, later re-signed
Trades And Claims
- Claimed RHP Junior Fernández off waivers from Pirates, later lost off waivers to Blue Jays
- Acquired RHP Indigo Diaz and IF Caleb Durbin from Braves for LHP Lucas Luetge
Notable Minor League Signings
- Demarcus Evans, James Norwood, Jake Bauers, Nick Ramirez, Ryan Weber, Tanner Tully, Michael Hermosillo, Billy McKinney, Wilmer Difo, Tyler Danish, Willie Calhoun, Rafael Ortega, Matt Bowman, Ian Hamilton
- Chad Green, Andrew Benintendi, Miguel Castro, Jameson Taillon, Matt Carpenter, Aroldis Chapman, Marwin Gonzalez, Zack Britton (still a free agent), Tim Locastro, Stephen Ridings, Lucas Luetge
There was little debate about who the top free agent was this offseason. Though there were four excellent shortstops and three aces, Aaron Judge was #1 on just about any list you could find. His 2022 season was one of the greatest in recent memory, even beyond setting the American League single-season home run record with 62. He also posted a .311 batting average, walked in 15.9% of his plate appearances, stole 16 bases and played excellent defense. His 11.4 wins above replacement from FanGraphs was the highest by a position player other than Barry Bonds since Mickey Mantle in the ’50s.
It was widely expected that Judge would secure himself a huge contract, most likely to return to the Yanks. Here at MLBTR, we predicted eight years and $332MM, with all four contributors pegging Judge for a return to the Bronx.
That’s not to say that it was a fait accompli. The Yankees seemed to have a legitimate contender in the Giants. Not only did they have a fairly wide open long-term payroll, they were looking for a big free agent strike after a disappointing season. Since Judge was born and raised not too far from San Francisco and still has family in the area, the fit also made sense on a personal level. There was even a terrifying moment for Yankee fans when it seemed as if Judge was indeed going to the Giants, and the Padres almost swooped in and stole the day, but the Yankees eventually got the deal done.
The final contract came in at $360MM over nine years, the largest guarantee ever secured by a free agent. The average annual value of $40MM is the largest ever secured by a position player. The only pitchers who surpassed that were older aces on short-term deals, as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander each secured AAVs of $43.3MM in their late 30s.
Judge was actually the second Yankee to be brought back after a trip into free agency, as the same had already played out with Anthony Rizzo. In early November, Rizzo opted out of the one year and $16MM remaining on his contract, which was quickly followed by the Yankees giving him a $19.65MM qualifying offer. As the qualifying offer deadline drew close, Rizzo was among those listed as rejecting it. However, just minutes later, it was reported that he and the club had reunited, keeping him as the first baseman in the Bronx.
With Rizzo and Judge both coming back, there will be much continuity with the Yankee roster relative to last year. However, there will be one significant change in the rotation, which the club needed to bolster after they traded Jordan Montgomery and saw Jameson Taillon become a free agent. The top of the starting pitching market featured three guys that stood out above the rest in Carlos Rodón, Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander, though each hurler had unique characteristics as a free agent.
Verlander missed most of 2020 and all of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery but then returned to post a 1.75 ERA in 2022 and win the AL Cy Young. Going into his age-40 season, he was sure to get a short-term contract with a huge AAV. deGrom is a bit younger, going into his age-35 season, but he had missed significant time in each of the past two seasons. When combined with the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he hasn’t made more than 15 starts in any individual campaign since 2019. But given his excellent results whenever healthy, he was sure to get a big payout one way or another. Rodón, meanwhile, had plenty of injury concerns preceding an excellent 2021 season. He still missed a bit of time and was limited to 24 starts that year, which held him to short-term offers in his first trip to free agency. But he stayed healthy enough in 2022 to make 31 starts with a 2.88 ERA, making the easy decision to opt out of his contract and return to the open market.
MLBTR predicted Rodón would be able to secure the largest guarantee of the three. We pegged deGrom for a larger AAV, but figured his injury concerns would cap him at three years to Rodón’s five. In the end, deGrom was able to get five years and $185MM from the Rangers, $37MM per year on average. As mentioned earlier, Verlander got his high-AAV contract, signing a two-year, $86.6MM pact with the Mets. Rodón had plenty of interest, with clubs like the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rangers, Twins, Giants, Mets, Orioles and Dodgers connected to him in various ways. That led his camp to reportedly look for a seven-year deal or a $200MM guarantee or both. The Yankees reportedly wanted to stick to four or five years, but the sides eventually met in the middle. The final deal of $162MM over six years came up short of deGrom both in terms of guarantee and AAV, but Rodón still handily topped the prediction of five years and $140MM.
Swapping an ace like Rodón in for a solid mid-rotation guy like Taillon is certainly an upgrade, though it’s one that comes with risk. As mentioned, Rodón had an “injury-prone” label before the last two seasons. In the four years from 2017-20, he went on the injured list in each of them. He never topped 20 starts in any of those individual campaigns and started only 41 times in total in that stretch. That included injuries to his shoulder, bicep and elbow. Even in his return to form in 2021, he eventually hit the IL with shoulder fatigue and had diminished velocity down the stretch.
Rodón’s health could be a topic of conversation around the club for the next six years and is in the spotlight already, as he’s going to miss the start of the upcoming season due to a forearm strain. By all accounts, it’s a minor issue and he shouldn’t miss too much time, but it’s not an auspicious start to that commitment. The plan was for Rodón to slot into a powerful rotation next to Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas. However, Montas will miss at least a few months due to shoulder surgery and Severino is dealing with a lat strain. With Rodón also out of action for a bit, the club will have to rely on depth options like Domingo Germán, Clarke Schmidt and Jhony Brito.
After Rodón, the club’s most notable investment in a new addition was for Tommy Kahnle, and the story there is fairly similar. The 33-year-old righty has often had excellent strikeout stuff, including a previous stint in the Bronx. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery wiped out most of his 2020 and all of his 2021. He returned last year as a Dodger, but went back on the IL in May after just four appearances. After a four-month layoff, he returned in September and pitched well enough to get a two-year, $11.5MM deal from the Yanks. But like Rodón, he’s also set to begin the year on the IL, as Kahnle is dealing with a biceps issue.
The club made a few other moves, including signing a bunch of minor league deals like all teams. But those are the headlines. Some deadline acquisitions from last year like Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter have moved on, but Judge and Rizzo were brought back. The rotation lost Montgomery and Taillon but will have Rodón and Montas, though not to begin the year. The bullpen has lost some familiar faces like Chad Green, Aroldis Chapman and Lucas Luetge, but Kahnle should give them a boost whenever he’s ready. The primary relief weapons now figure to be guys who have taken steps forward in recent years, such as Clay Holmes, Michael King and Wandy Peralta.
All told, the roster turnover is fairly low, relatively speaking. Perhaps the most significant change Yankee fans will see in 2023 will be from within. For many years, the club has turned away from marquee free agent shortstops like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trea Turner and others, seemingly confident that their future shortstop was currently being cultivated on the farm somewhere. Late in 2022, both Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera got to make their debuts, even factoring into the club’s playoff roster. Not far behind them was Anthony Volpe, who finished in Triple-A. Here in Spring Training, it seems that the process is even further along. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, last year’s primary shortstop, has already been moved into a utility role. The club also seems to like Cabrera in that kind of a role, which leaves the shortstop job open for one of Peraza or Volpe. It was recently announced that Volpe will get the job out of spring, though it’s possible the battle continues beyond the start of the season. Whether it’s on Opening Day or down the line, it’s possible that the two of them take over the middle infield together, eventually pushing Gleyber Torres onto the trade block, but that remains to be seen.
Given the young kids pushing for time, the Yanks apparently pursued trades of some their players that started to seem superfluous. Kiner-Falefa, Torres, Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson were all reportedly floated in talks at various times, though nothing came to fruition, which also contributes to the continuity on the roster. Unless a late spring deal comes together, that group should all be back in action in some form, alongside other holdovers like Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka.
Though the total volume of moves was on the low side, the moves they did make were all significant and have ramifications on the financial side of things. Roster Resource currently pegs the club’s payroll at $272MM, with a competitive balance tax figure of $292.5MM. That latter number is just a hair under the fourth tier of the luxury tax, which is $293MM. It was reported in January that the club is reluctant to cross the line, and they have indeed been fairly quiet since then. It’s a bit of a strange place to draw a line in the sand, as going over would lead to a slight increase in their tax rate on further spending, though no other penalties. But every team has a budget and this is apparently where the Yankees stop, at least for now.
It’s possible this could make things a bit tricky for the club throughout the year. If they want to make upgrades at the deadline and still want to avoid that last line, they would be limited to revenue-neutral moves. However, it’s possible that they may be able to clear some space in that time. If the younger players continue to develop as hoped, perhaps the Yanks could then feel better about lining up a trade of Hicks, Donaldson, Torres or Kiner-Falefa, even if it’s mostly about dumping salary and less about getting a return. Donaldson has a CBT hit of $25MM, Hicks is $10MM, Torres is $9.95MM and Kiner-Falefa is $6MM. Those players will have varying levels of interest that could be impacted by the upcoming season, but moving any one of them could give the Yanks a bit more wiggle room under that top CBT threshold.
The American League East figures to be a tough battle yet again, as the division supplied three playoff teams last year, with the Yanks finishing on top and the Blue Jays and Rays securing Wild Card spots. The O’s just missed the postseason last year and are on the rise with an organization stuffed with prospects. The Red Sox were fairly snakebit and ended up in the cellar last year but could get right back in it with better health. The Yankees can’t reasonably expect Judge to have the season of a lifetime every year, so they’ll need others to step up and help him out if they are to repeat as division champs and/or make the postseason for a seventh straight season.
How would you grade the Yankees’ offseason? (Link to poll)
In conjunction with the Yankees’ offseason review, we hosted a Yankees-focused chat on March 29. You can click here to read the transcript.
The Yankees found themselves in a position where they felt they HAD to do certain things. That’s always bad.
Not going to disagree. What if they didn’t sign Judge? Any Yankees fans here going to stop being a fan? Become Mets fan? I get most would be irate, but would you not get season tickets next year or jump to the Mets?
if they lost Judge and didn’t replace him – I’d still be a fan of the team but would cancel my season tickets for 2023
Saving the best for last!
Is that the Blue Jays one that just dropped or the Mariners one from after this, too? I’m usually unbaffable but you got me stumped! For what it’s worth, I just hope my Padres make the Series, but it’d be extra special to beat your Yanks in the process! There’s a tangible thirst to revenge ’96. Cheers Dream
It just felt like something a Yankee’s fan would say.
Ahhhh got ya! =)
Love the Rodon signing. Judge signing an overpay based on likely performance towards the back half of the deal but a great signing based on being the face of the franchise and will more than pay for itself. Honestly I’m fine with no addition in the outfield and letting Oswald and Oswaldo getting some more looks as they can add via trade closer to the deadline. All in all I’d give them a B. Maybe we go 5 games in the ALCS this year.
C. A for bringing Rizzo back. After that just meh. The 2 huge contracts have a lot of risk. Are they certain Volpe is going to win ROY? Most their fans are it seems.
Can you name a big long-term contract which doesn’t have risk associated? I don’t care if Volpe doesn’t win ROY or even if he struggles out of the gate. I’m looking forward to seeing him establish himself as a ML starting SS on a contending team.
With all that said don’t be surprised to see Peraza playing shortstop later in the season, and Volpe being moved to 2nd base, and Gleyber eventually bring traded for a young left fielder by the trading deadline or earlier. We’ll see what happens.
Not disagreeing with you as that would be ideal but I don’t know why everyone is in a hurry to trade Gleyber. With his salary, age, production, and good health, he’s a positive asset to the team as a second baseman and SS fill-in. The same would apply after another arb raise next year.
@YBC- Its funny my preference is to keep Gleyber truly. I wouldn’t mind the Yankees extending him to a deal for 9 or 10 years to a Derek Jeter type contract, and then trading Peraza in a package for Bryan Reynolds. How would you feel about that? Lmk and thnx.
This article is more focused on offseason adds and losses as the title states. Johnny Lasagna is a holdover from last season. I feel Darragh did a pretty good job in that respect.
I’ll let you know after we see how the Cabrera/Hicks tandem works out!
I’d trade Peraza and a secondary prospect (Pereira or Wells) to Baltimore for Cedric Mullins… or trade Peraza to the Dodgers for a pitching prospect and then trade that pitching prospect with Dominguez for Bryan Reynolds
Not happening. Dominguez will not be traded. If Volpe can hold his own at shortstop, it’s definitely possible Peraza can be moved with a minor league pitcher like a Gil or a Beeter for Reynolds but not more then that, or Torres can be moved for prospects to get Reynolds. I can see that occurring. Hicks needs to be DFA’d as soon as possible, especially when Bader comes back.
Pittsburgh wants MLB ready prospects… not a guy a few years away like Beeter or an injured player like Gil. they also have ZERO need for Gleyber as he’s a free agent sooner than Reynolds will be.
I wanted Reynolds a few yrs ago, but to be honest I’d pass and unless Pirates lower there ask, that’s the signal Cashman gave by trading Monty for Bader. I only see trading prospects for pitching, of which, I only think the Marlins have a surplus. I also don’t mind keeping Gleyber, but if you can package him with a prospect for a solid SP then so be it. I hope Cash had blacklisted Oakland on future SPs, burned twice already
Schmidt Garcia and 2 non top 10 prospects who had awful stats. If they include Bednar and Cruz Yankees could add Torres since Pirates need a 2b.
more than twice… Montas, Sonny Gray, Jeff Weaver… I wouldn’t trade for ANY Oakland pitchers until they get a new stadium and prove they can pitch without getting free outs from all that foul territory
The writer discusses the bullpen and fails to even mention Jonathan Loáisiga, one of the best arms in the League. Throws shade on his whole article.
He was pretty terrible last year! At least for the first half of the season
he had a shoulder injury, was lights out (1.89 ERA) once he came back
@YBC-Let’s see if Volpe is alright at playing shortstop lst, before we trade Peraza that’s how I feel. I wouldn’t mind DFA-ing Hicks and having a Florial/Cabrera platoon out there in left fielder for now. Bader can play CF when he gets healthy.
I think that this is Florial’s last shot… he needs to outplay / outperform Hicks and Cabrera while Bader is out… if he’s the worst of the 3 – and no other trades are made and Stanton isn’t injured again, he’ll be cut
Definitely a weird off season where we sign a high profile free agent pitcher to a long term mega contract and we extend our biggest star on a record breaking deal, extend another star on a higher AAV deal and it feels like a relatively quiet off season.
I think the performances of underwhelming middle salary guys like Hicks and Donaldson and IKF and their trade value along with the hopeful emergences of Volpe and Cabrera as viable high calibre long term starting position players are going to really define the off season, more so than the external additions or re-signed free agents.
Solid 95 win team
The Saber-toothed Superfife
Willie Calhoun! Loves the BIG STAGE
At Scranton I hope?
I have no confidence in Florial. Has not shown an ability to hit MLB pitching.
he’ll either be this year’s Locastro (if IKF is traded) or will be DFA when Bader returns
I’m not a fan of the Rizzo resigning. $20 million is an overpay for dimensional power hitting. Bell and Abreu both signed elsewhere for lower AAVs and the Yankees didn’t even kick the tires.
Cashman has been blundering through transaction after transaction since the 2021 offseason. He should be on the hot seat.
they wanted his defense and also believe he will benefit from the ban on the over-shift
Rizzo is a subpar defender at this stage of his career. He had the third worst Defensive Runs Saved of all 1b with at least 1,000 innings in 2022
Not an intelligent allocation of $20 million
we’re comparing him to Abreu and Bell – he’s better than either one of them and was MUCH better than Jay Bruce and Luke Voit were… you also go with the devil you know. Rizzo has World Championship experience and has a perfect lefty swing for Yankee stadium and you need a lefty between the two big righties of Judge and Stanton… another right-handed bat like Abreu and we’re in the same boat we were in the first half of 2021.
I’d take Rizzo over Bell and Abreu any day. As far as Rizzo’s defense goes, he passes the eyeball test and that’s every bit as good as DRS. When DRS, UZR and all the other defensive metrics can agree with each other then I will revisit my thoughts on the matter.
Suffice it to say that going by WAR baseball reference had Bell and Abreu as more valuable than Rizzo. Rizzo was also worse going by defensive runs Saved. You want to hide behind conflicting defensive statistics? Fine. Now furnish the numbers and prove a conflict exists in this instance.
when you sign players to multi-year deals you don’t only look at ONE season. going by WAR, Rizzo is -2.0 career over 1536 games, Bell is -8.1 over 852 games, Abreu is -8.4 over 1270 games.
the managers and coaches know more than we do and have awarded Rizzo with 4 gold gloves… zero for the other two players you’re so in love with. you hate the Yankees and the moves they make that much, go root for Abreu and the Astros or Bell and the Guardians.
It’s well known different defensive metrics usually disagree with each other. I’m sure you’re aware of this fact. If you understand baseball more than you understand a spreadsheet, you can see he’s good.
By all means, cite a single one of these defensive metrics that conflict with last season’s defensive runs saved tally. I’ve produced mine.
What any overall look at Rizzo’s production will tell you is that he declined considerably after 2019. Don’t evaluate based on the player be once was, evaluate based on what he is now
Yanks will have a successful season and probably win their division. Could see Judge & Cole leading the team towards major award categories. The biggest thing will be facing off against Houston in the ALCS again.
Retaining your star player should not be looked at as successful because it should have never gotten to the point where you could have lost him. That was Cashmans doing. He almost passed judge off to San Fran by leaking crap to the media.
Instead of promoting your triple A pitchers to the backend of the rotation he traded everything away for another horrible Oakland pitcher. Never learned his lesson. Billy knows how to fleece GMs with his Oakland players. That’s the real money ball story. Cashman constantly gets had. Moron.
Cashman not even nibbling on Ethan Salas as the future backstop but preferring to go with the crap he has now is another absurdity.
Just watch, almost a billion dollars on Stanton, judge, rodon, and Cole will net at most a single world series, if that. And I’m being overly optimistic.
Nothing changes on this team until Cashman is gone and Hal sells it. Both of these idiots are ruining the legacy of this team.