And just to add to this, while it obviously helps that the Yankees can spend money, they were burned by a lot of the high priced guys in 2017, a year they won 91 games.
Tanaka wasn’t good that year. Ellsbury was a zero. Holliday and Headley were very mediocre. Gardner had a good year and Castro was decent
Their best players were Judge, Sanchez, Severino, Didi and Chapman. Mostly home grown guys.
I think you are missing a couple of points here. First, lots of players were scheduled to make more than $22 mm last year. But because they only played 37% of the regular season, they only got 37% of their scheduled pay. For example, Kershaw was scheduled to receive $31 mm but only received $11.5 mm due to the shortened season. Chen, on the other hand, had been released before spring training even began and therefore was owed his entire 2020 salary of $22 mm. I’m sure if the Marlins had known in advance that the season would be shortened, they would have left Chen on the roster and only paid him $8.1 mm.
The second point is that Chen’s contract was significantly backloaded. The Marlins signed him for 5/$80 mm, which averages $16 mm/yr, but it was structured like this: $12.5 mm, $15.5 mm, $10 mm, $20 mm, $22 mm.
So, the fact that Chen was the highest paid player last year is just a consequence of the pandemic truncating other players’ salaries but not his, and the backloading of his deal.
Any way you slice it, the deal worked out horribly for the Marlins.
I think his ceiling would be that of a guy who is, as you say, a fringe core player.
So, I would agree that he has an outside chance of becoming that player, although I don’t think he can do it year in and year out. Like most very good role players, they are capable of popping a year or 2 where they look like AS or even make the AS team, deservedly. However, they will have other years where they aren’t much better than a replacement player.
However, he is most likely “just” a solid role player capable of carrying an offense for a week or so. While he is making little to no money (basically for the next 2 seasons), that is quite valuable. No denying that.
But there isn’t risk there and you can replace him within the organization and since you don’t care about winning, just do that.