Putting the Pieces Together
By Tim Kabel
December 8, 2022
Well, they did it. The Yankees re-signed Aaron Judge to a 9-year contract worth $360 million. I speculated previously that he would probably get $40 million a year for at least eight years. I thought they may have to add a couple of option years but, nine years is a tremendous commitment. Essentially, Hal Steinbrenner kept his word by making Judge a Yankee for life.
There was some drama associated with this signing. The Giants were very interested and ready to sign Judge. There was a false report on Tuesday that Judge was on his way to San Francisco. The Padres swept in at the last minute and reportedly made a $400 million offer. However, Judge wanted to be a Yankee and the Yankees were willing to give him a ninth year to keep him. Apparently, Hal Steinbrenner was crucial in the negotiations and dealt directly with Judge. That is how the deal was consummated.
Hal is certainly not his father but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. When fans reminisce about George Steinbrenner, they think of only the positives. There were a lot of negatives. There were times when he was vilified by the fans and the media. He was a very controversial and blustery figure. Hal is not. George was like a terrier, running back and forth and barking, making a lot of noise and drawing a great deal of attention. It was hard not to notice George. Hal is more like a Basset Hound. He's quiet, docile and not flashy at all. This time, the Basset Hound came through. By and large, he has done so throughout his tenure as the team owner. He signed Gerrit Cole and acquired Giancarlo Stanton. Obviously, Brian Cashman was the one who completed those transactions, but he could not have done it without the owner's blessing.
I read somewhere that Hal was surprised and possibly hurt when Yankees’ fans booed him on Derek Jeter night and when they retired Paul O'Neill's number. Hal seems genuinely committed to putting a winning team on the field. His calm and quiet demeanor as well as his lack of showmanship may have caused fans to think he didn't care about having a winning team. The way he handled the Judge signing could be a harbinger of championship seasons in the very near future.
Both Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner informed Judge that they were committed to building a more competitive team around him. They are rumored to be heavily involved in negotiations with Carlos Rodon. They just signed Tommy Kahnle to beef up the bullpen. They were reported to be interested in Masataka Yoshida but, the Red Sox signed him 14 seconds after he was posted. That is all right. Andrew Benintendi is still available and is a proven Major Leaguer. The point is that even after signing Judge, there are still moves to be made
In addition to a leftfielder and another starting pitcher, the Yankees could use another bullpen arm. They also have to make moves to clear out roster space and rid the team of unnecessary components. They are reportedly looking to jettison Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks. The Yankees would strengthen the team by doing both of those things. They may also trade Gleyber Torres to free up second base for one of their young prospects. Ideally, the Yankees will acquire a few more players and incorporate their youngsters into the roster as well. That will strengthen the team for the present as well as for the future.
Seeing the way Yankees’ management, and in particular, Hal Steinbrenner, handled the re-signing of Aaron Judge, I am much more confident they will add a quality leftfielder, another starting pitcher, another relief pitcher and possibly a role player. They took care of the most important part of business by locking Judge up for what will most likely be the rest of his career. Now, they have to build around that move. Tommy Kahnle is a nice addition in a return to the Yankees. I'm sure that in the next few days, they will add more pieces through either free agent signings or trades. They are definitely headed in the right direction and Hal Steinbrenner has emerged as a kinder and gentler version of his father who is still able to reel in the big free agent when he needs to.