With the trade of catcher Brian McCann for Houston Astros prospects, the New York Yankees continued getting younger and shedding payroll. Since the 2016 trade deadline, GM Brian Cashman and his team closed the book on several contracts and ensured several more would end following the 2017 season. What was once a payroll bloated by the back end of long contracts will soon become free of long-term obligations. In fact, at the start of 2017, Jacoby Ellsbury has the only bad contract on the books for New York.
The retirement of Mark Teixeira ($23 million), phase-out of Alex Rodriguez ($21 million), and deal for McCann ($17.5 million) settled the score on three players in the midst of late-career declines. Looking at the rest of the club ahead of next season, only C.C. Sabathia ($25 million) and Masahiro Tanaka ($22 million) join Ellsbury ($21 million) among the Yankees’ $20-million club.
Tanaka, the team’s best pitcher and overall leader in WAR (seventh in MLB among pitchers), is probably a bargain at this point. Sabathia, who proved he can be a force on the mound despite a dip in velocity, also leaves the club with little concern as he enters the final year of his deal.
Ellsbury, on the other hand, is officially a payroll blight for the long term with four years and nearly $90 million owed him once you include the $5 million buyout in 2021. Unlike the other players mentioned above, Ellsbury never had the big production years you expect from money players.