SSTN Weekly Mailbag: Planning for 2022, Away Uniforms, And An Extension For Judge!
By Andy Singer
Alas, the 2021 season is over for the Yankees. It was a disappointing end to say the least, so now we have a seriously long offseason in front of us. It’s going to take awhile to dissect everything that happened this season; while many have already diagnosed some problems from afar, I am of the opinion that there are deeper issues beneath the surface that need to be addressed moving forward. Diagnosing those issues are critical and central to the Yankees having success in the next few years. For now, I just want to work on getting the bad taste out of my mouth from 2021 and move on to better topics.
As always, thanks for the great questions, and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, I’ll play GM for a few minutes, discuss an idea to change the road uniforms, and provide my opinion on an extension for Aaron Judge! Let’s get at it:
Lionel asks: assume that you’re the GM and that you have instructions to increase the payroll no more than $40M above that of the 2021 payroll to begin the 2022 season.
do you go after a starter ahead of a new closer?
and do you attempt to acquire a free-agent shortstop above all else or do you go after an MLB-ready shortstop prospect as a stopgap and wait on Volpe or Peraza?
Corey Kluber and Anthony Rizzo’s salaries fall of the payroll right off the top, so we’ve got roughly $50 million to play with after we consider increases for arbitration eligible players (just using top of the napkin math). Yet again, this is a question that deserves a full post, but I’ll answer pretty generally here, and it will give you an idea of how I would run the offseason.
One of the biggest storylines this offseason is going to be where all of the big name shortstops sign to play out the rest of their careers. We’ve heard rumors that the Yankees really like Trevor Story. We know that Corey Seager and Carlos Correa are likely to demand mega contracts after producing good seasons in 2021. I look at their outlook from a different angle. To answer Lionel’s most specific question, I think that at least one of the hot shortstop prospects in the Yankee farm system is for real. Peraza is a fine bet to stick defensively, and though Volpe’s tools are a hair light for shortstop due to his arm, I think he still has a shot to be average there with his range. With that in mind, I think that a stopgap at shortstop is the way to go.
Now, that does not preclude the Yanks from grabbing one of the big guns on the Free Agent market. If I had my way, I’d go for one of Seager or Correa, which will take a $30 million chunk out of the budget, in all likelihood. Defensively, I already think Seager and Correa profile better at third base than at shortstop. They are both big bodies with limitations in range, with big arms and good reaction timing, making a move to the hot corner a good move at least in the long-term. However, for 2022? Sure, play one of them at shortstop. I would then hope that one of Volpe or Peraza forces their way up the ladder, giving the Yankees a good problem heading into 2023: how do you align 2B, 3B, and shortstop? It will also give Gleyber Torres one more year to reclaim his previous stature. There were some very positive signs in the last two-plus months of the season (more on that at a later date).
That leaves a lot of money left on the table. Yes, the Yankees need another starter, and I’d get that before I spend money on relief pitching – we all know how I feel about developing young farmhands as multi-inning relievers at the big league level, and we saw firsthand in 2021 how successful that strategy can be if used effectively.
Most importantly, the 2021 Yankees lacked depth. They need everything they can get, so I want to see the Yanks sign real competition for Aaron Hicks and a really good utility infielder to pair with Tyler Wade.
All of this can likely be had within a $40 million budget increase. The CBA situation is in flux, so we’ll see what happens there, but if ownership increases the budget to that extent, the Yankees can build a fantastic roster.
Oscar asks: Yankee Road Jersey – Change the present one from block letters to script.
All of you know that I am strongly against any changes of the classic Yankee uniforms. Once you start changing the uniforms or the hats, the Yankees lose some of their mystique. For my day job, I’ve been able to see a significant amount of Europe and parts of South America. The only baseball hat or uniform I’ve ever seen in these regions are Yankee uniforms. Start changing that, and all of a sudden it may not be a Yankee Universe anymore.
Script letters might be an interesting look – even the Mets manage to pull off that look reasonably well. But as a traditionalist, I just can’t get behind any change.
Michael asks: Forget about numbers for a minute: should the Yankees extend Aaron Judge? He’s older and huge but he’s the best player on an iconic team. How would you proceed?
The time has come to extend Aaron Judge. I think we saw some signs that the changes the Yankees made to their fitness and wellness staff are beginning to work, and both of their big sluggers (Judge and Stanton) stayed healthy in 2021. Aaron Judge, on a rate basis, is one of the 5-8 best position players in baseball, and I think he’ll be good for a long time.
It will be a tough negotiation in terms of money and years, but both sides need to find a way to get it done. This is a topic I’ll explore more this offseason.