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THURSDAY Discussion: Judge and the Off-Season

December 8, 2022

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We asked our writers the following:


What are your thoughts on Judge's return, and now that he's back, what would your idea of a "good" offseason look like?


Here are their answers...

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Paul Semendinger - The Yankees had to bring Judge back. I think he is set up now to be among the top-five Yankees in bWAR of all time. (Please see here.)


I think $40 million is a ton of money. But I want the players to be paid. My concern is never how much a player earns, but how the Yankees handle that impact on their salary structure for the team.


If this deal prevents the Yankees, at any time, over the next nine years, from putting a great team on the field ("We'd get Player X, but we can't afford him because of Judge...") then it's a problem. If that's the case, the contract will be an albatross. Judge is just part of making the Yankees great. If the contract holds them back on getting other talent, it's no different than when A-Rod was on the Texas Rangers - his contract prevented the team from acquiring the necessary talent to compete.


I also believe that with Stanton, Cole, LeMahieu, Rizzo... all in their 30's, the time to win is now. The Yankees must go all-in for 2023.


The Yankees need a left fielder. I'm not as high as most on Andrew Benintendi. I'd rather see them get Bryan Reynolds. Maybe there is a player no one is considering...


The Yankees should now also secure Carlos Rodon. They need another starting pitcher.


So, I'm thrilled Judge is back so long as the Yankees continue to use their resources to make the team great. If the Yankees now stop spending and don't spend big for the next nine years, I'll state that I'd rather he have left because the end result would be the same - no championships.


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Lincoln Mitchell - On balance, I am glad to see Aaron Judge back in pinstripes. The contract is massive, but does not strike me as an overpay in today’s market. Nonetheless, we should recognize that it is likely that Judge probably has no more than three or four years remaining as a truly elite player. Resigning Judge was a necessary, but not sufficient, move for the Yankees if they want to have a real shot at wining the World Series sin 2023-2024. However, they still need to do more during this off-season. Judge could hit 20 fewer home runs and have an OPS+ 150 points lower than last year and still be a very good player, but the Yankees would not be as good. The Yankees still need to add another starting pitcher and a left-handed hitting outfielder who can hit. My fear is that the Yankees front office will see this as the big move of the offseason and then tell us that prospects and better health will make the difference in 2023. The problem is that every team can say that and many teams have young players at least as good as those the Yankees have


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Patrick Gunn - Good on the Yankees for paying their man. Judge's performance called for a massive raise - certainly more than the Yankees' offer before the 2021 season. Considering everything they did to push Judge away (announcing their offer to the media, almost going to arbitration with their best player), the Yankees should be grateful that Judge chose them over the Giants and Padres. Long-term contracts usually age poorly, but this is about more than just money. Judge is the Yankees' first homegrown superstar since Robinson Canó and I'd argue the Yankees should have kept him even in hindsight of his last decade. Judge is somehow playing at an even higher level than Canó's Yankee years. Yes, the Yankees got some hitter-friendly baseballs this year (highly recommend Bradford William Davis and Dr. Meredith Wills' research if you can), but Judge has been consistently a top-five player every season. He's still been a five-win player when he misses 40-50 games and he's been healthy the last two seasons. The Yankees had to meet Judge's high standards and they did.

Now, as far as the offseason goes, the Bombers have to keep going. Resigning Tommy Kahnle is a good start and a much-needed bullpen boost. New York could still use another starter, a lefty-hitting outfielder, maybe another reliever, and some clarity regarding their infield. The Yankees have the money to get Carlos Rodón and Andrew Benintendi/Masataka Yoshida and another reliever if they want. Bringing back Judge was essential; now it's time to build the best possible team around him.

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James Vlietstra - The Yankees had no choice but to ante up and pay Judge. The optics would have been terrible if they let him go. On the field, it would have set the team back years. As they currently sit, they are already behind where they finished last year, due to loss of free agents. At the moment it feels good to have gotten Judge to stay, but their work isn’t done. An arm to replace Taillon is needed as well as another bat or two.

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Mike Whiteman - I'm very pleased to see the return of Aaron Judge. He's a great player, and a pleasure to watch/follow on a daily basis.


A successful offseason: Re-sign Judge (check) Fortify the bullpen (check) Address left field (waiting) Add another high-level starting pitcher (waiting)

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Cary Greene - Please see my article at 3:00 p.m. today.

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Ethan Semendinger - Don't get me wrong here, I am happy that Judge is back. From what we can see he's fantastic with the media, he is someone who gets along with all of his teammates, he is great with fans (and especially kids). As a person, Judge is exactly who and what I want the Yankees to have as a franchise icon. The money is a bit high for my liking, but if the Yankees continue to spend and not use this as the excuse for not spending elsewhere (as we've seen this playbook time and time again) I will not complain. It was the cost of business.


That being said, the Yankees have a lot of holes. They don't have a left fielder, they need another bullpen arm or two (as if having Miguel Castro in the ALCS bullpen wasn't telling), and they could use another top-of-the-line starting pitcher. There are options (though few) to cover each on the free agent market.


They also need to shed the salaries of Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks. I have some plans for how all of these things could be addressed. Hopefully I can get them to you throughout next week.

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Andy Singer - How do I feel? Relieved. The Yankees badly misplayed negotiations in the Spring, acting like just another big market club as opposed to THE YANKEES. They would have been able to lock Judge up for a shorter, more team-friendly (relatively speaking, of course) contract back then. Now, the Yankees needed to lock up their franchise star for good, and everyone knew it wouldn't come cheap. There were real threats out there to take the Yankees' best player away, and it was nice to see the Yankees finally fight to keep a player.


Reports have come out that Cashman implored Hal Steinbrenner to be personally involved and invested in this negotiation, as Hal has publicly stated previously that he is uncomfortable and often out of his element as the guy in the middle of a player negotiation. I am very hard on Steinbrenner, but he deserves kudos here for both closing the deal and opening the Yankees' piggy bank. From a pure performance standpoint, is this contract an overpay? Of course, but the Yankees can't realistically compete for a World Series in the next 2-3 seasons without Judge. Judge is the right guy to take the mantle from Jeter as the next Captain, and re-signing him tells the clubhouse that the Yankees are ready to roll for this season and beyond.


According to Fangraphs, the Yankees' current luxury tax calculation stands at roughly $266 million, just $7 million from the third luxury tax threshold the team wouldn't cross last season. Unless the Yankees can unload some significant portions of some large contracts (Donaldson, Hicks, Stanton, Torres, etc.), the Yankees cannot fill the other holes on this team without crossing into the next tier of luxury tax penalties, which stands at $293 million in 2023. I believe they will do that, as there is a significant amount of salary set to come off the payroll in 2024 ($52 million by my back of the napkin math). Take a look at who comes off:

  • Luis Severino, $15 million

  • Josh Donaldson, $15 million ($8 million buyout in 2024 will be on the payroll)

  • Frankie Montas, $7.7 million (projected)

  • Harrison Bader, $5.2 million

  • IKF, $6 million (projected)

  • Wandy Peralta, $3.1 million (projected)

Some of that is easily replaceable with lower cost options internally with a hopefully productive year by the farm system, without needing significant supplementation from outside the organization. Hal has proven willing to open his wallet, and I think it's likely he'll be willing to break through the next tier for one season, so I think the new budget is $293 million for 2023. That would allow the Yankees to get a lot done, assuming they can move a contract or two.


Carlos Rodon is a great fit. I don't dislike the rotation right now, but a top-tier pitcher puts the rotation into a no-doubt top-3 rotation tier in all of baseball. I loved Rodon when he could have been obtained for pennies after the White Sox non-tendered him a couple of years ago, and he's been nothing short of brilliant in the two years since. Word is that Rodon really likes the Yankees, and he pitches with a fire that I really like. That Rodon is also a lefty is just too perfect to ignore. The Yankees need to make this happen.


The Yankees could also use a left fielder. One of my favorite options, Masataka Yoshida was just overpaid spectacularly by the Red Sox, so he's off the board. With two elite defenders in RF and CF, I want an offense-first left fielder. My favorite remaining options are, in order:

  1. Brandon Nimmo (free agent)

  2. Bryan Reynolds (trade target)

  3. Michael Brantley (free agent)

  4. Michael Conforto (free agent

Brantley/Conforto are 3A/3B for me, and I think they're better options than people realize, and fit better into the budget and timeline for some good prospects on the way. Nimmo's projected salary likely doesn't fit the $293 million budget with Rodon also aboard. I'm personally lukewarm on Reynolds, but if he doesn't cost one of Volpe or Dominguez, I'm interested above the budget options. I didn't list Benintendi, because I believe he is due for some strong offensive regression and I don't want to commit a long-term contract to him.


I also firmly believe the Yankees should be in on Sean Murphy, but I don't expect it to happen, and there are more pressing matters to tend to. I think Trevino's value will plummet some with a worse bat (in all likelihood) and added pressure on his poor arm to control the running game (which will increase significantly in 2023 with the new rule changes), but the pitching staff loves throwing to him, so I'm still okay with going into 2023 with Trevino/Higgy one more time.


In short, the Yankees are on their way to a very good offseason. Judge and Kahnle are excellent signings for the team, and if they get Rodon and one of the left fielders I mentioned above, this is an "A" offseason for the Yankees.




23 Comments


fuster
Dec 08, 2022

step one is trading Donaldson, not Stanton.

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Dec 09, 2022
Replying to

If the Yankees eat 1/3-half of the contract, it becomes a lot easier to deal him.

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Dec 08, 2022

Time to call the Dodgers and inquire as whether or not they'd like to do a deal for Stanton. Also call the Padres eventually, but give the Dodgers first right of refusal. Not sure if he'd play for the Giants, but call them too, just in case.


Imagine a scenario where,

Step One: Stanton waived his no-no and him and his contract were sent packing.

Step Two: Then, the Yankees filled in the roster by adding Conforto on a two-year deal with an opt out, while also adding Rodon.

Step Three: Torres, Hicks, Montas, IKF and German are all traded.

Step Four: Trade for a starter.

Step Five: Sign Carlos Correa as the shortstop.

Step Six: Save as much payroll…


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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Dec 09, 2022
Replying to

If packaged together, Torres (+11.6-MTV) and Montas (+10.1-MTV) both have not only positive trade value, but we're talking a combined +21.7-MTV on the open market. Marlins lefty Jesus Luzardo (25 yrs-old), who has four-years of team control and has a +27.1-MTV would be a guy to inquire on. His availability is only medium-level, so the fish would need to be enticed but for next season, if healthy, Montas would seem to be the superior pitcher. It's doubtful Cashman would dangle a Torres + Montas + Drew Thorpe (Yankees 13th-rated prospect) for Luzardo, though the trade lines up, the Marlins could stand to win that deal pretty easily.


I've contemplated the best way to trade Torres and since I'd be unwilling…


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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Dec 08, 2022

Regarding signing an outfielder, here's my assessment of who's available, ranked in order of preference:

  1. Nimmo - profiles far better as a left fielder, easily the best offensive player of the available free agents or trade candidates. He's pricey for sure, but he also gives some backup coverage to center field, assuming Cashman keeps Bader in the event of a Nimmo signing. Has an above average arm and he's fast, walks a lot and limits strikeouts.

  2. Michael Conforto - has a lot of upside but he hasn't played in over a year now. Statcast likes him better defensively than FanGraphs does, though due to his plus-arm and only average speed, he's better off in right-field than left-field. He really tailed…


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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Dec 09, 2022
Replying to

Yeah, Nimmo got exactly what I expected he'd get in this market, just surprised that it was the Mets that were willing to pay.


No way around it, Brantley is a poor defensive left fielder...who more than makes up with it at the plate, and is a significantly better version of what Benintendi provides offensively (if he's healthy...that's key following shoulder surgery). The plan might very well be to play Stanton in the outfield...but we all know where that regularly goes: Stanton to the IL. I think he should play LF as much as he's capable, but that still leaves at-bats at DH and LF, and Brantley fits this offense perfectly.


I am far less concerned with defense in LF,…


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Dec 08, 2022

Conforto? He was league-average OPS last year and a defensive liability. I mean, maybe if you could get him for cheap, but if the Yankees are going all-in for 2023, I don't think he's a championship-quality ballplayer anymore. Nimmo is the best option if he's willing to move to left, then Benintendi. Reynolds would be fine with the bat, but is defensively suspect, and with team control through 2026, what kind of haul would the Yankees have to give up to get him? For some reason, I suspect whatever the December 2022 equivalent to Hoy Park and Diego Castillo isn't going to do it.

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Dec 08, 2022
Replying to

Conforto didn't play last year as he was recovering from shoulder surgery. His diminished numbers at the plate in 2021 came from trying to play through the bad shoulder. He's left handed, and assuming the shoulder is healed up, had always been a very good hitter (save for 2021). His defensive metrics were dragged down by the fact that the Mets were the Mets and played him in CF even though there was no way on Earth he was a centerfielder. His metrics in the outfield corners have always been solid, and I'd bet on him being average to slightly below in LF.


All indications are that Conforto will be cheap - probably 1-2 year deal, +/- $10 million AAV.…

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yankeesblog
Dec 08, 2022

The best route for a Reynolds trade might be a 3-way swap - say Torres for prospects which are sent to PIT in exchange for Reynolds. Of course that's premised on DJLM being able to play 3B and one of Peraza or Volpe filling in at 2B (assuming Donaldson is a goner)

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Dec 09, 2022
Replying to

It's a lot to give up though here Blog. The Yankees would be getting a dynamic left fielder in Reynolds (+59.9 MTV), no question there. But, they'd be giving up a lot of offense in Torres (+11.6 MTV) and, to round out the trade, the Yankees would need to pony up another $48.3 MTV, which would require the Yankees to add Oswald Peraza (+27.8 MTV), Everson Pereira (+16.8 MTV) and Yoendrys Gomes (+4 MTV) with the Bucs to possibley add a very low level, far off prospect to balance the trade.

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