Yankees’ plans for MLB free agency are about to crystalize

With the World Series heading for completion, the answers to questions facing the Yankees will begin to crystalize.

The organization began meeting this past week via Zoom and will continue this coming week.

The biggest decisions facing the Yankees are whether to re-sign free agents DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka, what to do with Zack Britton’s 2022 option, and deciding whether Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez will continue to be their shortstop and catcher, respectively. If they decide Torres and Sanchez are not their best options, the Yankees will be busy filling those positions in a financial climate that has been severely damaged because COVID-19 denied customers entrance to ballparks for the 60-game schedule.

Other decisions include whether or not to bring Brett Gardner back and whether they should explore trade options for Adam Ottavino and Luke Voit.

The Yankees have three days following the World Series to pick up Britton’s $14 million option for 2022. If they don’t, Britton can opt out of the $13 million he is due for 2021 and become a free agent.

Free agency begins the day after the World Series ends. Players can’t sign with a new team until five days after the World Series is completed. Trades can be made starting the day after the World Series ends. Contract options can be exercised or not within five days of the World Series ending.

Don’t expect Giancarlo Stanton to opt out. There are seven years and $218 million left on the 13-year, $325 million deal he signed with the Marlins in 2014.

This year’s qualifying offer to free agents is $18.9 million. Clubs have five days after the World Series is over to make the offer to their own free agents. The players then have 10 days to accept or reject. A player accepting the offer is signed for the 2021 season. If the player rejects the offer and signs elsewhere, his former club receives a compensatory draft pick.

LeMahieu is very likely to get the $18.9 million qualifying offer and then politely decline it. The majors’ leading hitter (.364 average) would like to stay and the Yankees need their best player to return. But at what price?

James Paxton and J.A. Happ are not likely to receive the qualifying offer, so they likely will leave via free agency. Luis Severino is not expected back from Tommy John surgery until June, so the Yankees have just Jordan Montgomery behind Gerrit Cole in the rotation.

It is possible Tanaka, who will turn 32 on Nov. 1, will return and slot behind Cole and in front of Montgomery. Even if Tanaka returns, do the Yankees need to add another starter while they wait for Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt to develop? Where do they stand on Domingo German returning after he missed this year due to being suspended for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy?

Trevor Bauer is the best free-agent starter and the field drops off significantly after him. If the Yankees are serious about getting under the $210 million luxury tax, Bauer is likely beyond their reach.

LeMahieu returning doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees can’t move Torres from shortstop to second base. LeMahieu could shift to first base and can play second and third. If the Yankees deem Torres’ defense a liability at short, they would need a replacement. The free-agent field includes Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien. Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor will be the subject of trade rumors. Tyler Wade is the in-house candidate at short if Torres is moved.

And what about Sanchez, who started just two of the Yankees’ seven postseason games after hitting .147 (23-for-156) with 10 homers, 24 RBIs and a whopping 64 strikeouts in 49 games?

Had there been a full season, Sanchez would have made $5 million. Eligible for arbitration, Sanchez would get a bump. The Yankees, however, could decide to non-tender the soon-to-be 28-year-old and make him a free agent. The possibility of a trade is slim after his nightmare season.

Gardner, 37, finished the season strong and is owed a $2.5 million buyout if the Yankees don’t pick up a $10 million option for next season.

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