Yankees Sign Justin Wilson

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edited February 23 in Sport

11:45am: Wilson’s contractual terms are virtually identical to Gardner’s, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). He’ll be paid $2.85MM in 2021 with a $2.3MM player option for the 2022 season. If Wilson declines that option, the Yankees have a $7.15MM club option or $1.15MM buyout on him. The lone difference is that if Wilson exercises his player option for the 2022 season, the Yankees will pick up a 2023 club option worth the league minimum plus $500K. (The exact 2023 league minimum isn’t yet known due to the expiring collective bargaining agreement.)

As with Gardner, it’s quite unlikely that Wilson will exercise that player option, thus giving the Yankees a year of virtual league-minimum control over him — particularly when he’s guaranteed at least the $1.15MM buyout on the 2022 club option anyhow. But rather than a straight $4MM guarantee, this structure reduces the luxury hit to a more palatable $2.575MM.

Feb. 23, 10:40am: The Yankees have announced the signing of Wilson to a one-year deal. As with their signings of Brett Gardner and Darren O’Day, the contract contains a player option for Wilson and a club option for the Yankees that can be picked up if he declines. The player option structure will allow the team to artificially weigh down the luxury-tax hit on Wilson, as it’s considered guaranteed money for luxury purposes.

Feb. 15:  The Yankees and free-agent reliever Justin Wilson have reached a deal, pending a physical, Robert Murray of FanSided tweets. Sweeny Murti of WFAN first reported the pact. The Yankees were in discussions with Wilson over the weekend and looked to be progressing toward a deal then, so it isn’t a surprise that the ACES client is joining the team.

This will be the second Yankees stint for Wilson, who began his career with the Pirates from 2012-14 before moving on to the Bronx in a trade for catcher Francisco Cervelli. The left-handed Wilson was highly effective in 2015, but the Yankees nonetheless moved on from him after that season in a trade with the Tigers. The Yankees acquired right-handers Chad Green and Luis Cessa (who are still on their roster) for Wilson, who has continued to perform well dating back to that deal. Along with the Tigers, the 33-year-old Wilson has suited up for the Cubs and Mets since the Yankees first parted with him.

Wilson has been effective everywhere he has pitched, evidenced in part by his 3.27 ERA/3.54 SIERA and above-average strikeout percentage (26.7) over 429 1/3 innings. The hard-throwing Wilson has also surrendered comparable numbers versus lefty hitters (.291 weighted on-base average) and righties (.284), so regardless of handedness, the Yankees can be confident he’ll keep holding his own in 2021.

Along with the aforementioned Green, Wilson will join Zack Britton and fellow free-agent pickup Darren O’Day in giving the team another proven reliever in front of closer Aroldis Chapman.

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