The Yankees have avoided arbitration with five players

David Robertson in spring training during the 2012 season.

David Robertson in spring training during the 2012 season.

The Yankees have avoided arbitration in bringing back four players from last year’s team. Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Ivan Nova and Shawn Kelley are four players that were expected to return, and they were all signed to reasonable contracts.

Brett Gardner was signed to a one-year, $5.6 million contract, David Robertson was signed to a one-year, $5.21 million contract, Ivan Nova was signed to a one-year, $3.3 million contract and Shawn Kelley was signed to a one-year, $1.765 million. The Yankees also avoided arbitration with back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli in signing him to a $700,000 contract. Cervelli will be the back-up to Brian McCann, which is the perfect role for him.

These contracts bring the Yankees closer to the $189 million luxury tax threshold that the Yankees have said that they want to get under, but if they do end up signing Masahiro Tanaka that likely will not occur. According to Joel Sherman, Gardner, Robertson, Kelley, Nova and Cervelli cost the Yankees $16.58 million and took their payroll to $170.058 million.

It was important that Kelley was brought back to the Bronx Bombers because they are obviously without the retired future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, so his strikeouts at the back end of the bullpen will be important. The 29-year-old had a 3.67 ERA before the All-Star break and a 5.68 ERA after the All-Star break (4.39 ERA for the season), which proves that the Yankees should slightly reduce his workload by a few games next season. In six games in September, Kelley had an unacceptable 16.20 ERA.

However, he did show signs in much of the middle of the season of being able to be a reliable relief pitcher based on being able to use his slider to get strikeouts. In his first 32.1 innings, through July 12, Kelley had an impressive 48 strikeouts. The main negative for Kelley is that he allowed 23 walks in 53.1 innings, but that will not be so much of an issue if he can continue to record strikeouts at the rate he did last season.

Ivan Nova is a pitcher who will be critical for the Yankees in the 2014 campaign. Nova is coming off a season where he had a very good 3.10 ERA, nine wins and 116 strikeouts. He would have had more wins last season if the Yankees gave him more run support. He had a great bounce back season after posting a 5.02 ERA in 28 starts during the 2012 season. Nova, who was super for much of the season, had 12 starts where he allowed two runs or less.

Nova relies heavily on his four-seam fastball as well as a circle changeup, slider and a 12-6 curveball that fools batters. He missed time last season because of being on the 15-day DL as a result of inflammation in his triceps and being demoted to AAA Scranton for a short stint, but in his first start back on June 23 he only allowed three runs in 6.2 innings.

David Robertson finished last season with an outstanding 2.04 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. He is poised to be the one to take over the closer position from the great Mariano Rivera. Robertson has been able to Houdini his way out of many jams in the past few seasons as the set-up man to Rivera, so that experience should help him in the ninth inning. The Yankees could still use a reliable relief pitcher who has experience being successful in the eighth/ninth inning such as Grant Balfour.

Brett Gardner, who likely be the starter in left field with the acquisitions of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, hit .273 last season with 52 RBIs, 24 steals and 10 triples. He hit .310 with nine RBIs during the month of September. Beltran and especially Gardner and Ellsbury should combine for a lockdown defensive outfield since Gardner and Ellsbury are two of the faster players in baseball. It would make sense if Gardner hits ninth and Ellsbury hits leadoff because Gardner knows how to get on base and will be able to be in scoring position for Ellsbury.

This is a recent interview that Derek Jeter did with Harold Reynolds on MLB Network. He reflected on A-Rod’s suspension and said it would be odd not having Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte or Jorge Posada not playing with him for the first time this season.

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