Goldfinger: Judge Meant to Get One

nysportsday wire

It was nice achievement that Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe and first-baseman Anthony Rizzo (with all due respect, an arguable nomination) were named finalists for the 2023 Gold Glove award at their respective positions. (The winners will be announced on Sunday)

Through no fault of his own, Aaron Judge, who has an MVP and Rookie of the Year Award to his credit, has yet to win a Gold Glove. Excluding this past season because of the toe injury that limited him to 54 games, Judge does not even seem to be in the conversation. For a third straight full season and four of the last five (it’s five in a row if you count the 60-game 2020 season but that comes with a caveat), Judge was not even among the finalists for right field in the American League.

Judge was a finalist in 2017 and 2018 but has not been a finalist since. 2019 began the string of not even reaching finalist status. In the shortened season of 2020, Judge played less than half the 60-game season and remember, Clint Frazier was a finalist in right field.

In 2021, Judge started playing some games in center field and didn’t finish among the finalists. Joey Gallo joined the Yankees and was a finalist along with Houston’s Kyle Tucker and Boston’s Hunter Renfroe. Gallo ended up winning his second Gold Glove for rightfielders even though he only played a total of 92 games in right field, including 9 with the Yankees.

At the very least, Judge should’ve been a finalist in 2022 and probably should’ve won it. Tucker, Minnesota’s Max Kepler and Jackie Bradley Jr. who played for Boston and Toronto, were the finalists ahead of Judge.

Tucker, the reigning Gold Glove winner in RF, Boston’s Alex Verdugo, and Texas’ Adolis Garcia are this year’s finalists, outstanding fielders, no question. The toe injury limited Judge, so he wasn’t worthy of being included this year, but there’s no denying he’s a Gold Glove caliber right fielder.

Last off season, the Yankees weren’t showing any real interest in signing former NL MVP Cody Bellinger. That mindset did a 180 when the Yankees were desperate for a left hand power hitter and Bellinger returned to his MVP form.

Bellinger bet on himself when he signed a one year deal with a mutual option for 2024 with the Chicago Cubs and it paid off as he hit .305 with 25 homeruns, 97 RBIs and an .881 OPS.

The 28-year old opted out of his deal and is expected to land one of the larger deals this off season. Scott Boras is his agent so ‘nuff said.

Bellinger fits the Yankees like a glove (excuse the pun) but will they be in the mix. Giancarlo Stanton’s contract continues to be an albatross as the Yankees, under Hal Steinbrenner’s ownership, has attempted to field a winner without employing their lavish spending ways of the past.

In recent years, when the Yankees were criticized for not having enough left hand hitting, much less left handed power hitting. They would answer that critique by saying they have players like Judge and Stanton who can hit the ball into the right field seats so that negated some of the need for lefties. The problem with that philosophy is that it applied to the short right field dimensions at Yankee Stadium, but was not applicable at most if not all the road venues.

What they failed to realize is that left hand hitters like the Phillies’ Bryce Harper and the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez put a scare into an opposing pitcher, particularly right handers who don’t like to face lefties.

The Yankees lack of left hand hitting reared its ugly head in 2022 when the Yankees had to acquire players like Matt Carpenter and Joey Gallo. In 2023, it was adding marginal left handed hitters like Billy McKinney and Jake Bauers. No offense, but those players just don’t scare opposing pitchers (McKinney was released but Bauers is still on the roster).

Will the Yankees be a player for Bellinger? Switch-hitter Jasson Dominguez showed some real promise during his short stint but he won’t be ready until maybe next June after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow. I like Austin Wells’ bat but the Yankees need to take some pressure off of him and have a significant left handed bat to protect Judge, because teams will continue to pitch around him until they do. 

The Yankees have also been linked to Juan Soto who will be a free agent after next season. Soto is going into his third and final year of arbitration and he was already at $23 million last season but the 25-year old played in all 162 games and hit 35 home runs with 109 RBIs. He led the NL with 132 walks (but 129 Ks) and posted a .930 OPS.

Going into the 2023 season, the only change the Yankees made in their starting lineup from the previous season was Volpe at shortstop as they practically “sat pat” last off season.

The fan base was disenchanted with the team in 2023, so drastic changes will need to be made. 2024 has to be a lot better.

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