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Yanks face key decisions early in offseason

@BryanHoch
November 1, 2020

NEW YORK -- For the first time, general manager Brian Cashman has been using Zoom to conduct the Yankees' professional scouting meetings. Those sessions are setting the blueprint to retool a team that finished second in the American League East behind the Rays, who they also lost to in the

NEW YORK -- For the first time, general manager Brian Cashman has been using Zoom to conduct the Yankees' professional scouting meetings. Those sessions are setting the blueprint to retool a team that finished second in the American League East behind the Rays, who they also lost to in the AL Division Series.

After exercising an option to keep left-hander Zack Britton in their bullpen through 2022, Cashman and his baseball operations department project to have many more important decisions to make over the next several weeks. One of them was made on Sunday when the club extended the $18.9M qualifying offer to DJ LeMahieu. They did not extend the offer to right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.

LeMahieu and Tanaka were among the Yankees to declare for free agency at the conclusion of the World Series, along with left-hander James Paxton and catcher Erik Kratz.

The club also declined the options for Brett Gardner and J.A. Happ on Friday.

Yankees' 2020 offseason FAQ

The 32-year-old LeMahieu is likely to decline the qualifying offer and search for a multiyear deal coming off an MVP-caliber season in which he led the Majors with a .364 batting average.

LeMahieu paced the AL in on-base percentage (.421), OPS (1.011) and OPS+ (177), earning $12 million this past season.

“If you take a snapshot of the last two years, you probably count on one hand how many players have been as good as DJ LeMahieu, and how important they've been to their team,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “Of course, we'd love to have him back, but you never know where this offseason is going to go.”

Tanaka, who turned 32 on Sunday, was also under consideration for a qualifying offer. Tanaka just completed his seventh season with the Yankees, during which he went 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 10 starts while earning a prorated amount from his $23 million salary.

“He’s been fantastic every step of the way,” Cashman said. “We’re really proud of what Masahiro Tanaka has accomplished thus far as being a Yankee. No one can promise the future and how it's going to transpire, but he's been very special since he's been here. We consider him a Yankee.”

The Yankees declined their $10 million option for next season on Gardner, the team’s longest-tenured player, instead paying a $2.5 million buyout. Gardner, 37, posted a .223/.354/.392 slash line with five homers and 15 RBIs in 49 games this past season.

Britton staying till '22; Gardner a FA

It is possible that Gardner and the Yankees could reunite at a lesser dollar amount, especially after he started five of the team’s seven playoff games. Prior to the postseason, Gardner said that he expects to remain in pinstripes, but he understands that is not guaranteed.

“I want to, and expect to, be back next year,” Gardner said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Happ's contract included an option for 2021 that would have vested if the veteran made 27 starts or pitched 165 innings in an uninterrupted season, but the Yankees announced they won't pick up the option worth $17 million.

Yankees decline J.A. Happ's option

Due to a technicality, Happ’s option was one of a handful excluded from being prorated in a 60-game regular season and would have been settled in arbitration. Happ was dissatisfied with his inconsistent usage, completing the regular season 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA in nine starts.

“Ultimately, we'll do what we always try to do, which is evaluate all aspects of this roster,” Cashman said. “We’ll engage ownership about the realities of today and come up with the best game plan possible to move forward, with hopefully the most talented roster we can put forth to get back out there again for next year.”

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.