The 2022 MLB Winter Meetings are underway, and it seems like Aaron Judge’s decision is imminent. While the Yankees are waiting to hear back, how should they approach the offseason?
It has been reported that Judge’s decision is no longer a financial one, but it will be based on the lifestyle he wants. There was a false report that Judge was going to the Giants on Tuesday, but he has not signed with a team. As has been reported since before this offseason even started, Judge is said to be deciding between the San Francisco Giants and a return to the Yankees.
The Yankees began the week by announcing a 4-year contract agreement with General Manager Brian Cashman.
The New York Yankees today announced that the club has re-signed Brian Cashman to a four-year contract through the 2026 season to continue serving as Senior Vice President and General Manager. pic.twitter.com/IPLP31HwVc
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 5, 2022
This has been expected, but some fans voiced annoyance that he was brought back before Judge was re-signed. There were also concerns about the way the Yankees seemed to be blindsided by some things this week, and that brings me to how the Yankees should approach things while they are waiting for Judge’s verdict.
Cashman was asked about what the backup plan could be if Judge decides to join the Giants.
Brian Cashman: "Listen, if Aaron Judge signs somewhere else, do we pivot and do something else? Do we remake ourselves completely? I have no idea. It's not what we want to do."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) December 6, 2022
This sounds really bad, and it’s probably something that you shouldn’t say publicly. The Yankees are still in negotiations with Judge, so maybe Cashman said this for negotiating purposes? Regardless, I am sure that the Yankees have thought about pivot plans in the case Judge signs elsewhere.
What should the Yankees be doing in the meantime? They should be laying out their courses of action for both possibilities. So let’s look at the players the Yankees have been connected to a lot.
Cashman said himself that he is looking into both corner outfield spots and starting pitching. So there are essentially three spots to fill.
If Judge returns, that obviously fills right field. The Yankees have been connected to Brandon Nimmo, Andrew Benintendi and Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida. Nimmo is going to get a large contract, so he might not be an option unless Judge leaves. Benintendi could get a sizable contract, and there are rumors that the might not want to play in New York, but no one knows for sure. Yoshida is intriguing, but there are concerns with his defensive capabilities. If Judge is back, Yoshida might not be a good fit to play left field in Yankee Stadium. Without Judge, it might make a little more sense.
Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds has requested a trade, and the Yankees are said to have interest, but the Pirates seem determined to keep him. It would take a haul to swing that trade, and the top ranked Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe is someone the team have planned around for years. With Judge back, the Yankees would likely have the best outfield in baseball if they added Reynolds, and without Judge they would fill one of the corner outfield spots with an elite player. As much as it seems like a stretch, that is why Reynolds is intriguing.
The Yankees are said to be approaching the starting pitching market independent from Judge. Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander are off the market, so that leaves Carlos Rodon, who is the starting pitcher the Yankees have been most linked to anyway. The Yankees aren’t a heavy favorite, but multiple reporters have said that is the team they would guess he ends up with. If the Yankees don’t end up with Rodon, the Yankees rotation is probably in a good enough spot to keep as it is for now. Maybe there are trade possibilities, but that is something the Yankees could take up until the deadline.
The last factor to address is that if Judge does end up leaving, the Yankees will have to get some type of star player. They likely won’t be spending on a shortstop if things go as planned and Judge returns, but the reality is the biggest stars that would be left are shortstops. Trea Turner is off the board after signing with the Phillies, but Carlos Correa is still out there and so is Xander Bogaerts. It has been speculated that the Giants would pivot to Correa if they miss out on Judge, so it would be a surprise to see him sign before Judge does. Maybe the Yankees would pivot to him as well.
Even if the Yankees sign a shortstop, there are ways to make room for the prospects. Gleyber Torres is movable, and the shortstop they do sign could end up moving to third base in the long-term. It would also open up opportunities for the Yankees to deal someone like Oswald Peraza for help in other areas. Maybe he could even be included in a Bryan Reynolds trade.
The only sure thing is that whatever the outcome is with Judge, his decision opens up a can of worms for the Yankees. Fans should be hoping that Judge decides soon, because if he doesn’t, the Yankees could lose out on other players they have their eye on.
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