The Yankees locked up some notable players before Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline for exchanging salary figures for a potential arbitration hearing, but they did not come to terms with Luis Severino, meaning the two camps might have to undergo the messy arbitration process before finalizing a contract.
The Yankees signed Greg Bird late Thursday night and moved on to secure contracts with Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Austin Romine, Sonny Gray, James Paxton and Tommy Kahnle, all of which were announced Friday.
Severino, though, created a more complicated problem than the rest of the crew: He was a true ace in the first half of the season, going 14-2 with a 2.31 ERA before imploding in the second half (5-6, 5.57 ERA). He did have a return to form in the wild-card game, punching the Yankees’ ticket to the ALDS, before getting battered by the Red Sox in his only start.
MLB Trade Rumors had him projected at $5.1 million for 2019 after he made only a little more than $600,000 last year.
Teams and arbitration-eligible players can continue to negotiate right up to the hearings in February, so Severino and the Yankees still could strike a deal.
The Yankees and Betances got into a notoriously ugly arbitration battle in 2017 – a case the reliever lost, and one that led to president Randy Levine publicly criticizing how much money Betances’ agent had requested for a non-closer. This isn’t uncommon (though not always that public), as arbitration hearings can lead to a team undershooting the value of a player and agents overshooting it, all in an attempt to get a better deal. Hearings also can get ugly for players as teams bluntly make their case for a lower salary.
The Yankees were quick to mostly avoid arbitration. Hicks, who is set to hit free agency next year and had his strongest season yet, will make $6 million, as first reported by USA Today. Bird will earn $1.2 million and Romine $1.8 million. The terms for the other five remain unclear.
What is clear is that the Yankees are being tough negotiators. Of the three salaries that are known, all three came in $200,000 less than projected by MLB Trade Rumors.
Hicks, 29, put together a .248/.366/.467 slash line with career highs in home runs (27) and RBIs (79) in 137 games, the most he’s played in a single season in an injury-plagued career.
Bird, 26, once a highly touted prospect, has yet to make good on his promise. He began last season on the disabled list – courtesy of a broken spur in his right ankle – and played only 82 games. He hit .199 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs, lost his job to Luke Voit and eventually was left off the postseason roster.
Romine was a necessary stabilizer during starting catcher Gary Sanchez’s rough year. Romine hit .244 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs, all of which were career highs, in 77 games.