Previously we reviewed the Yankees’ infield plan over the next two seasons and beyond. Brian Cashman essentially traded for three of the infield positions and has prospects ready to cover the final two spots. The infield will likely have four players under the age of 30 by 2018 and all with multiple years of team control remaining.
Where most of the action the rest of this winter and next winter can be seen will be in the outfield, where the front office has multiple approaches it can take towards sustainable options now and in the future.
OF- Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and a Free Agent signings – Here’s what we know.
Jacoby Ellsbury- The Yankees are very likely sticking with Ellsbury until his contract expires after 2020 (there is a team option for 2021 which would be an unrealistic decision to be picked up.) Ellsbury’s contract hasn’t been a disaster, but the Yankees certainly didn’t sign up for a 32-year-old center fielder with little power, trouble staying on the field and long streaks of failing to get on base. Ellsbury will very likely be the oldest player on the team by 2018 and a move to left field wouldn’t be shocking if his speed starts to dwindle as he heads into his mid 30’s.
Brett Gardner- Has a very similar skillset to Ellsbury, but at a fraction of the price. At 32-years of age, he would be on par with Chase Headley over the next few years in terms of age, but a hand injury likely diminished his value in the second half of the 2015 season. There’s a few ways to go with Gardner, who never seemed to get the full respect of the Yankees’ front-office, but the most realistic option involves trading him as soon as he boosts his value, likely for a young starting pitcher. The Yankees will likely use the money saved on expiring contracts in: CC Sabathia, Mark Teixiera, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran to get payroll under the 200 million mark the front office has desired for a few years now and to invest in a front-end pitcher or power-hitting outfielder. If Gardner does stay, he is at a modest contract through 2018.
Aaron Hicks– Was acquired for catcher JR. Murphy earlier this winter. At 26 years of age, Hicks will be under 30 for the next three seasons and is under team control through 2019. He will try to demonstrate he’s more than a fourth outfielder in 2016, just in time to see what New York has in Aaron Judge, Gardner’s trade value and after Beltran’s expiring contract.
Carlos Beltran – Nothing more than a retirement tour. He can barely play right field and would overlap with Alex Rodriguez as a DH in 2017. Beltran’s $16 million per year contract will do well in what is shaping up to be a perfect storm for spending in the Bronx in winter of 2017 or 2018.
Aaron Judge – The wildcard to the entire future of the Yankees’ outfield. He could be the power hitting outfielder the Yankees need and the middle of the order bat it desires. He could be a replacement in right field for Carlos Beltran and a change of pace from two table setters in the outfield. He is a prospect who will look to get a call up in 2016 barring a disaster and who would be a 24-year-old outfielder with six years of team control if he proves he can take over for Beltran in 2017. Like any high prospect, Judge can also never break through at the MLB level and become a flop, or a fourth outfielder. To a high degree, Judge’s performance this year in the minors and/or majors will decide the fate of Gardner and some other potential trade pieces.