The 2020 MLB seems destined to finally happen, although not the way anyone envisioned.
After months of a contentious labor dispute that failed to reach any sort of agreement, Rob Manfred will implement a schedule for the 2020 season, which is reportedly expected to be between 54-60 games.
For many players, it will be a short window that could have major ramifications on their futures.
The Yankees are among the teams who will have a handful of players with plenty to prove in the shortened 2020 season:
The 31-year-old righthander is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, leaving the Yankees with a big decision to make. Tanaka has been one of the Yankees’ most consistent and reliable arms over the last several seasons, especially in the postseason where he has pitched to a 1.76 ERA in eight appearances.
A strong showing in 2020 should surely convince the Yankees to hold onto the veteran, but at what cost will be the pressing issue heading into the offseason.
For comparison, 32-year-old Dallas Keuchel signed a three-year $55 million contract while 33-year-old Hyun-Jin Ryu inked a four-year, $80 million deal.
Tanaka already scored his big contract, signing a $155 million deal as a free agent out of Japan in 2014, and clearly likes playing in New York, declining to opt out of his deal after the 2017 season.
Yet, Tanaka will likely command a contract similar to the aforementioned pitchers and will have a short window to reassure the Yankees of his worth.
The left-hander was reliable for the Yankees in 2019 – when he was healthy. Paxton posted a 3.82 ERA but pitched just 150.2 innings; he has not pitched more than 160 innings in a season.
Paxton’s durability is a major concern and had the 2020 season started as planned he would have missed the beginning of the season on the injured list. He now has just a short window to make his final case as a free agent, but if he were to get hurt and miss any of his limited starts in a short season it would be detrimental to Paxton’s appeal as a free agent.
The question now is whether or not Urshela was just a one-year wonder or if the Yankees have something in the 28-year-old with the flashy glove at third base.
If Urshela fails to recapture the magic from 2019, the Yankees have Miguel Andujar – who is nowhere near the defensive gem Urshela is but is the more touted player with more pop in his bat – to plug into the hot corner and push Urshela back into a utility role.
Now, Andujar needs to prove that his shoulder is healthy and that he is the same type of hitter he was his rookie season when he belted 27 home runs and slashed .297/.328/.597 to finish as the runner up to Shohei Ohtani in the AL Rookie of the Year race.
Andujar also needs to show he has value in the field, too. Whether it is improvement at third base or that he can play the outfield – the Yankees experimented with him there in some spring training games back in March – there will be plenty of eyes on what Andujar brings to the table in this shortened year.
What the Yankees’ plans are for Frazier remain a mystery. He becomes arbitration eligible in 2021 but if he does not get enough time on the field to prove he belongs on the roster then it is hard imagining he is wearing the pinstripes much longer.