Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yankees’ non-tender decisions are not clear cut

The New York Yankees will make decisions by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday on arbitration-eligible players currently occupying a spot on the 40-man roster and whether to extend them a contract for the 2015 season. They have six such players – David Huff, Shawn Kelley, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Esmil Rogers. Who will they keep and who will they cut?

Huff is on the bubble with the acquisition of Justin Wilson from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Francisco Cervelli. Also, considering Jacob Lindgren is knocking on the door, Huff could be the odd man out. Despite Huff’s estimated $700K contract per MLB Trade Rumors, there are other lefties (Tyler Webb and James Pazos) in the minor league system ready to take steps up the ladder. Huff’s 1.85 ERA in 39 IP is dirtied by a 4.00 FIP. Further, if the Yankees do indeed make a push for Andrew Miller, Huff is just a waste of a roster spot, though his inexpensive salary could simply make him a DFA candidate down the road.

Kelley, who could garner a $2.5 million deal, might have done enough in 2014 to return. At one point Kelley was notching saves when David Robertson was unavailable. Then he ran into a rough patch and was getting grunge work with the early emergence of Adam Warren and then later by Dellin Betances. Kelley ended the season  with a 4.53 ERA, but a 3.02 FIP in 51.2 IP which might be enough to be part of any sixth and seventh inning needs the Yankees encounter, assuming they re-sign Robertson or go with Miller keeping Betances in the eighth inning role. Kelley could be the odd righty out if the Yanks intend on upgrading the slot via free agency or by trade.

Nova, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and not expected back until after May 2015, is looking at a potential $3.3 million contract, which replicates his 2014 salary. If Nova’s timetable remains solid, he is expected to be part of the Yankees’ rotation upon his return. Nova’s up and down career is one of interest to the Yankees. Should he not recuperate or not perform as hoped in 2015, Nova could be in a different organization in 2016.

Phelps’ ability to start and relieve make him one of the must haves among this group. In 113 innings (17 starts among 32 appearances), Phelps registered a 4.38 ERA (4.41 FIP). At $1.3 million, Phelps is well worth what he can bring to the Yankees; a starter early in the season while Nova gains strength and a swing man assuming the rotation is fully healthy.

Pineda, barring any unforeseen maladies will come to spring with a rotation spot. Pineda performed extremely well when able in 2014 logging a 1.89 ERA (2.71 FIP) in 76.1 innings, bringing to light the potential the Yankees saw when they traded Jesus Montero for him in 2012. If Pineda can stay on the field, he will be an important piece in the middle of the rotation, and potentially find himself at the top of it if injuries befall CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. At $2.1 million, Pineda could return great value.

Rogers’ spot seems to be most at risk. The possibility of paying him $1.9 million with the glut of arms in the system, already on the roster and with the potential to add another reliever even after signing Robertson or Miller seems much like in Huff’s case to be a waste. Rogers (5.73 ERA and 4.73 FIP in 45.2 total innings) has a live arm and showed glimpses of it after being claimed off waivers, but for the money it seems like the Yankees would be better off with someone else; either an upgrade or by bringing up a Danny Burawa type.

The Yankees really do not have any massive contracts looming in arbitration this year. Each of the deals I suggest they will make would seem to be rather economical and essential to the structure of the roster.

All salary figures retrieved from MLB Trade Rumors.

Yankees' logo courtesy of

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In.