After ALCS loss, Yankees brace for adjustments
HOUSTON -- As the Yankees exchanged hugs in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night, their 6-4 loss to the Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series still too fresh to process, there was certainty that it was the last time that the entire group would occupy the same room.
The Yankees’ 2020 roster will be altered by the pending retirement of left-hander CC Sabathia, who wore a Major League uniform for the final time in this ALCS. Several other prominent Yanks also face uncertain futures in pinstripes, including outfielder Brett Gardner and shortstop Didi Gregorius.
“That's not my department,” said Gregorius, who is a potential free agent for the first time in his career. “I don't even know where I'm going to be. Who knows what's going to happen?”
That will be up to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman, who can immediately begin planning their roster for next season. Both Gardner and Gregorius said that they hope to continue their careers with the Yankees.
“To be honest, I haven't put too much thought into it,” Gardner said. “I’ve just been focused on what's going on here on a daily basis and the guys here in this room and the team that we have. There'll be a time in the next few weeks or next few months when we sit down and talk about that and figure out what that looks like. I'm not concerned about it right now.”
Gardner, who enjoyed a career year at age 36 by hitting .251/.325/.503 with 28 homers and 74 RBIs, agreed to a one-year, $7.5 million deal with New York shortly after last year’s AL Division Series loss to the Red Sox. Gardner said that he intends to continue playing in 2020.
“He had one of his best years offensively and even defensively,” Aaron Judge said. “He was moving around from left field to center field, wherever we needed him … hitting leadoff, hitting third, hitting fourth and however many homers he hit. It was a special year for him and he’s still got a lot left in the tank. I hope he comes back for sure.”
Gregorius earned $11.75 million for an injury-shortened 2019 campaign, batting .238/.276/.441 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 82 games after missing the first two months while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He will turn 30 in February.
“It is what it is now,” Gregorius said. “There's nothing else that we can do about it. You've got to come back next year.”
Though Aroldis Chapman is signed through 2021 at $17.2 million per season, the left-hander’s contract contains an opt-out clause after 2019. Chapman, 31, posted a 2.21 ERA and 37 saves in 60 appearances during the regular season.
Asked about that clause, Chapman said, “We haven’t even finished [talking about the loss] and you are asking me about my contract. That’s a topic for another time.”
The Yankees are unlikely to pick up a $20 million option for first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who will otherwise receive a $5 million buyout. Other Yanks free agents include injured right-hander Dellin Betances, right-hander Cory Gearrin, outfielder Cameron Maybin and catcher Austin Romine.
“It's tough,” Judge said. “I just think about the whole season; the [June] trip to London, guys getting injured, guys coming back. Then I think about missed opportunities and some guys I might not play with again. I know CC is retiring after this year, that was the last game I'll get to play with him. I think about things like that.”