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Yankees settle with six players, on track to get under tax line

NEW YORK -- The Yankees reached one-year contracts with their remaining six players eligible for arbitration on Friday, leaving their projected luxury-tax payroll at $177 million -- $20 million below the threshold.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius agreed at $8.25 million, pitcher Sonny Gray at $6.5 million and setup man Dellin Betances at $5.1 million. Also reaching deals were relievers Adam Warren ($3,315,000) and Chasen Shreve ($825,000), and backup catcher Austin Romine ($1.1 million).

New York's luxury-tax payroll rose to $149,927,500 for 15 players with agreements, and the projected total is well under the $197 million tax threshold. The projection includes $10 million for the rest of the 40-man roster, $14,044,600 for benefits and a $3 million charge for cash transactions: a $5.5 million payment to Houston as part of the Brian McCann trade, a $500,000 payment to San Diego as part of the Chase Headley deal and a $3 million credit from Miami as part of the Giancarlo Stanton acquisition.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has vowed to end the team's streak of 15 straight years of paying the tax. If New York gets under the threshold, its base tax rate would reset from 50 percent to 20 percent in 2019 -- better positioning the Yankees to pursue next offseason's free agents, who could include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and possibly Clayton Kershaw.

Gregorius established career-bests in 2017 with a .287 batting average, 25 home runs and 87 RBIs, hitting mostly fourth through sixth in the batting order. He made $5.1 million.

Gray was acquired from Oakland for three prospects at the July 31 trade deadline and went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts for the Yankees. He finished 10-12 with a 3.55 ERA in 27 starts overall and made $3,575,000.

Betances lost to the Yankees in arbitration last winter and was awarded $3 million rather than his request for $5 million. After the decision, Yankees president Randy Levine said "five million dollars goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot, a lot and a lot of saves."

Betances filled in for suspended closer Aroldis Chapman last April and made his fourth straight AL All-Star team but struggled with his mechanics and control late in the season and was relegated to a marginal role during the playoffs. He finished 3-6 with 10 saves and a 2.87 ERA in 66 games, throwing 59 2/3 innings, down from 73 in 2016 and 90 in 2014. He walked a career-high 44, an increase of 16.

Warren was 3-2 with a career-best 2.35 ERA in 46 relief appearances, missing 17 games from mid-June to early July because of right shoulder inflammation. Traded to the Cubs in December 2015 for second baseman Starlin Castro, he was reacquired the following July in the deal that sent Chapman to Chicago. Warren had a $2.29 million salary last year.

Shreve was 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 44 relief appearances, striking out 58 and walking 25 in 45 1/3 innings. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time after earning $552,425.

Romine hit .218 with 2 homers and 21 RBIs in 252 plate appearances as the backup catcher to Gary Sanchez. Playing regularly in the first month when Sanchez was sidelined with a biceps injury, Romine batted .316 with 2 homers and 10 RBIs in 16 games. He made $805,000.

Outfielder Aaron Hicks ($2,825,000) and reliever Tommy Kahnle ($1,312,500) agreed Thursday.

Warren can become a free agent after the season, Betances, Gray, Hicks, Gregorius and Romine following the 2019 season, Kahnle after the 2020 season, and Shreve following the 2021 season.

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