About the Off-Season: Awaiting the Verdict
by Tim Kabel
November 21, 2022
The Yankees have already started making moves to improve the team for 2023. They re-signed Anthony Rizzo. They also cut Tim Locastro from the roster and tendered contract offers to all their eligible players. They signed Lou Trivino and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to contracts for 2023, avoiding arbitration. They acquired relief pitcher Junior Fernandez off waivers from the Pirates.
However, the most important thing the Yankees did was negotiate with Aaron Judge. Hal Steinbrenner reportedly had several conversations with him, including one face-to-face. Brian Cashman is negotiating with his agent. The Yankees reportedly made a new offer, and Steinbrenner told Judge he wants him to be a Yankee for life. Judge has been popping up everywhere in New York over the past few weeks, including the New York Marathon and a Peloton class. He might show up at my Thanksgiving table for all I know. It looks extremely likely that Aaron Judge will be returning to the Yankees on a long-term contract. That is a very good thing. The ball is in his court.
There are many reasons why the Yankees need to re-sign Judge. He is the best free agent available. He is the reigning American League Most Valuable Player. He should have many productive years left. He has been a Yankee his entire career and is the face of the franchise. There is no one else to replace him. He is a team leader. Besides, losing Judge would diminish the Yankees immeasurably. The reputation of the franchise would be tarnished by allowing one of the best players in their history to walk away. If Judge did not want to return and absolutely loathed the idea of remaining with the Yankees, that would be something else. However, that is not the case. Judge clearly enjoys being a Yankee and it means something to him. For all those reasons, I believe Aaron Judge will return to the Yankees fairly soon.
Bringing Judge back is the key move to the offseason but, it is not the only move that needs to be made. Reportedly, the Yankees are shopping Gleyber Torres. There are teams, including the Seattle Mariners, which are interested in him. It is time for him to go. He could potentially bring back one or two valuable relief pitchers or possibly, a starting pitcher. Removing him from the roster would also free up second base for one of the young players we have heard about for so long. If the Yankees commit to playing Oswald Peraza at shortstop, Anthony Volpe could conceivably win the job at second base in spring training. This would give the Yankees a young, athletic, and dynamic middle infield. Gleyber Torres has not realized his potential as a Yankee. He improved last season, and his trade value is higher than it was. He is too streaky and inconsistent to count on as a key contributor.
The Yankees are also reportedly looking to jettison Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson from the roster. Those will both be tricky maneuvers, but they can be done. They might have to take a bad contract in exchange for Donaldson and eat some of Hicks’ contract. Regardless, they both need to be off the team as soon as possible. Getting rid of Donaldson will free up third base, ideally for Oswaldo Cabrera. DJ LeMahieu is an uncertainty at this point. He and the Yankees will not know for several weeks whether he will require surgery. If he does, he could be lost for a good portion of the season. At this point, it would not be prudent to count on him as a starter. If he is able to make it back early in the year, he could fill the roving infield position the Yankees envisioned for him in the first place. If one of the younger guys struggles, he could step in, at least temporarily, if needed.
I don't believe the Yankees plan or ever did plan on having Aaron Hicks as the starting left fielder next season. At best, he would be a backup but, I imagine he would sulk and pout and be a negative influence on the team. The best thing they could do is get rid of him. That leaves left field open. A lot of people have suggested that Oswaldo Cabrera could be the everyday left fielder. He certainly could be but, he could also be the everyday third baseman, which is a position he has more experience playing. The Yankees need more left-handed bats. Cabrera is a switch hitter, who could certainly fill that bill at third base. Leftfield should be manned by either Andrew Benintendi or Masataka Yoshida, who will be posted and available. They are both left-handed hitters. Reportedly, Yoshida is an even better contact hitter than Benintendi and could provide more power.
Imagine a lineup with Harrison Bader, Peraza, or Volpe leading off. Yoshida or Benintendi would bat second, allowing Judge to be in a position to produce more runs. Rizzo would come next, between Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Cabrera could bat sixth, continuing to alternate lefties and righties down the lineup. This would give the Yankees a team with speed, athleticism, and the ability to produce runs without relying completely on home runs. It would be a bold move for the Yankees to commit so heavily to youth and to add a left-handed contact hitter in leftfield. I think it would make them a much better team.
Based on the comments Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have made, I think the Yankees are looking to build a championship team around Aaron Judge. I think they are tired of losing to the Houston Astros. Even if they trade Gleyber Torres to add bullpen pieces, they could still use another starting pitcher. I get the feeling they may go out and sign Justin Verlander. Imagine a starting rotation with Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas.
Steinbrenner and Cashman stated they are not afraid to spend money and want to build a winner. They are saying all the right things and appear to be doing them as well. Let's see what the final verdict is not only regarding Aaron Judge but the entire team as well.