Aaron Judge bet on himself and he hit the jackpot. Now, the Yankees are going to have to “ante up.” What happens if, for one reason or another, Judge does walk.
Do the Yankees have a “Plan B?”
Robinson Cano walked after the 2013 season. The replacement for Cano to start the 2014 season was 36-year old Brian Roberts, while names like Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and the legendary Dean Anna also manned the position. Oh, by the way, the Yankees missed the playoffs that season.
The question may not be “How much money or length of contract will get this done?” It could be “Does Judge even want to be here?” All indications are that he does, but until we know for sure, the Yankees should be formulating an alternative way to go.
A team that is in position to lose their best player to free agency has two ways to help try and fill that hole. Whether it’s through free agency or dipping into the farm system, the Yankees will need to be making better decisions concerning their personnel than they have been recently.
Some of the names they’ve missed on include Tyler Wade, Greg Bird, and Clint Frazier, to name a few.
In the minors, the Yankees’ best outfield prospects are in the lower levels of the minor leagues. Switch hitting outfielder Jasson Dominguez is the Yankees #2 overall prospect but he’s only played five games as high as Double-A and will be 20-years old next season.
Spencer Jones, the Yanks’ first round pick in last June’s draft, has played only 25 minor league games, but wherever he’s played, the left hand hitter has shown he can hit. After signing with the Yankees, Jones played three games in rookie ball and after only 10 at bats, showed that he belonged at a higher level and was promoted to A-ball where he hit .325 (27 for 83) in 22 games.
If Jones gets off to a fast start in the minors, it’s not out of the question to see him with the big club but that’s a long shot at this point. The Yankees need a more proven answer if they have to replace Judge.
The Yankees have been saying that Estevan Florial is a top prospect. He’s only had a few chances but my “scout’s eye” tells me that he may not live up to the billing.
The roster is already thin on outfielders. Harrison Bader is the starting centerfielder while Oswaldo Cabrera, Estevan Florial, Aaron Hicks, Tim Locastro and Everson Pereira are the other outfielders on the 40-man roster. Cabrera may be the starting left fielder next season, or right field if Judge leaves. Would Giancarlo Stanton have to take on more of a role in the outfield? Right field is his best position.
Free agency after Judge doesn’t exactly knock your socks off.
Do the Yankees pursue a left handed bat like Joc Pederson who has been with three teams in the past three seasons, is a strikeout machine (92 Ks per season in a 9 year career) and a career .211 hitter against left hand pitching. I don’t think they want to bring back another Joey Gallo for a second stint in the Bronx.
It’s not just bringing in someone to replace a player like Judge. This player is going to have to be mentally tough and have a thick skin because he would have pressure on him, like you’ve never seen.
With recent reports of players who didn’t appreciate players like Judge being booed by the passionate fans, you wonder if there is any free agent out there who would want to come here as a replacement for the Yankee superstar.
Jurickson Profar could be an interesting get as he has decided to opt out of his contract with the Padres. Profar had an $8.33 million player option with a mutual option for 2024 and is obviously looking for something better.
The Yankees have previously inquired about Profar, a switch hitter who was originally an infielder but moved to the outfield. In 2022, Profar was San Diego’s starting left fielder but he can play any infield position in a pinch. It seems like Profar has been around for a long time but he’ll be 30 years old next season. From all reports, Profar is good in the clubhouse and hitting second behind Bader would add a little more athleticism to the top of a lineup that has been anything but in recent seasons.
The Yankees will need more left hand hitting if they hope to overtake the Astros.
Remember this little tidbit. The Astros did not respect the Yankees left handed hitters. So much so, that Houston did not have a left hander in their bullpen. In the World Series against the Phillies, the Astros added left hander Will Smith with the idea of countering the Phils’ left handed threats, Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper.
Do you think the Yankees could’ve used Harper? When they failed to make an attempt to sign the left handed slugger when he was a free agent, I wrote that could turn into a mistake. Make your own judgment.
Anthony Rizzo opted out of his deal, but the Yankees will reportedly make him the one year, $19.65 million dollar qualifying offer. Thursday is the deadline to make an offer. Rizzo would then have ten days to accept. If he doesn’t accept the offer, the team that signs him would have to give up a draft pick.
The Yankees are expected to pursue Andrew Benintendi, but there’s not many game changers out there as far as free agent outfielders.
Even if Judge stays, the Yankees are going to have to get creative to make some needed radical changes to a roster that needs an influx of athleticism and left handed hitting.