Yankees’ next free-agency priority is clear: ‘Matter of how much’

4 weeks ago
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There’s a chance the Yankees could have a rotation on Opening Day of Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt.

All that uncertainty behind Cole could put more stress on a bullpen that by the end of 2020, wasn’t at its best.

That’s why some around the league believe the Yankees could go after another reliever — the quality of whom, of course, depends on the outcome of DJ LeMahieu’s free agency and how much the Yankees are willing to spend.

“Guys are out there who fit what they need,’’ one AL executive said. “It’s just a matter of how much they’re willing to spend.”

General manager Brian Cashman was adamant this week the Yankees are willing to miss out on some players as they wait out LeMahieu, and that could prove to be the case in the pen.

The Yankees already have invested $ 15 million in closer Aroldis Chapman for 2021 and brought back Zack Britton (Cashman likened him to a closer last week) for another $ 13 million next year.

Beyond those two elite lefties, there are right-handers Chad Green and Adam Ottavino.

Ottavino is coming off a subpar second season in The Bronx, when he was left all but unusable in the playoffs.

Cashman said earlier this month he expects a bounce back season from the 30-year-old as he heads into the final year of a three-year, $ 27 million deal. In 2020, Ottavino had a 5.89 ERA and a WHIP of 1.582 (numbers similar to his brutal 2017 campaign with the Rockies) in 24 regular-season appearances. And he pitched just once in the playoffs.

“I want to stay on the team,’’ Ottavino told The Post’s Ken Davidoff earlier this month. “I want to prove my worth. I want to pitch well.”

Ben Heller, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga will be a part of the pen, but all have dealt with either injuries or ineffectiveness.

Tommy Kahnle is a free agent after declining a minor league assignment by the Yankees following Tommy John surgery in August and Jonathan Holder also is gone, having signed with the Cubs after being non-tendered.

Despite those losses, the Yankees so far have made just minor moves with the pen. Former Yankees Adam Warren and Nestor Cortes Jr. returned on minor league deals, and they also added Matt Bowman, but he will miss the upcoming season after Tommy John surgery.

Archie Bradley; Brad Hand
Archie Bradley; Brad Hand
Getty, AP

Upgrades remain available, including left-hander Brad Hand, whose $ 10 million option was declined by Cleveland, and Archie Bradley, who was non-tendered by the Reds after they acquired the righty from the Diamondbacks during the season.

Bradley is arbitration-eligible and is expected to make $ 4 million-$ 5 million in 2021. He struggled both in 2019 and this past season in Arizona before pitching well for the Reds down the stretch.

So, though Cashman’s focus after LeMahieu is expected to be on upgrading the rotation, additional moves to fortify the bullpen could be on the horizon.

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Baseball | New York Post

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