Saturday, December 10, 2022

Aaron Judge is a Yankee...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Team’s best player chooses to remain in Pinstripes…

Yankees to Sign Aaron Judge

As totally and completely expected, Aaron Judge signed a new contract to play for America’s greatest baseball team. Yeah right. Although I believe there are those of you who never wavered in your confidence he would re-sign, I suspect more people were like me who had our moments of doubt.

Credit Judge for playing his free agency as great as a man who hit the American League single season home run record.  Clearly, at his age (nearly 31), Judge was at a disadvantage compared to guys like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado who cashed in while still in their late 20s. I remember reading an article a few years ago that said Judge would never get the ‘big money’ because of his age. Nine years and $360 million later, I say Judge is doing alright. He has the highest annual average value ($40 million) for a position player, helping to set a precedent for future players to achieve and exceed. No doubt the New York Department of Taxation and Finance loves that Judge, AAV leaders Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, plus Gerrit Cole, work in New York State. 

I was watching Twitter for news on Tuesday afternoon when MLB Insider Jon Heyman posted the now infamous “Arson Judge appears head to Giants” tweet.

My heart sunk. I literally saw life without Judge as a Yankee, and it was a gloomy thought. I think the release earlier in the day by Time Magazine naming Judge as the 2022 Athlete of the Year set us up for the harder fall. In the magazine article, Judge had predicted his future when he recalled a statement he had made in 2010, “I said, in 10 years, I’ll be married to Sam and playing for the San Francisco Giants.” Congrats to Judge for the recognition as Athlete of the Year, but the words in the magazine certainly detracted from the joy of the award.

Although Heyman’s tweet was retracted within minutes, Susan Slusser, the noted Giants beat reporter, continued to tweet that word on the street through insiders and team executives that Judge was, in fact, likely to sign with the Giants.

Later in the day, with reports that Judge was flying to San Diego, GM Brian Cashman claimed no knowledge of Judge’s trip during an interview on the YES Network. It struck me as odd at the time. In retrospect, Cash was telling the truth. Judge was traveling to Hawaii but had chosen to stop in San Diego to meet with the San Diego Padres for a few hours before resuming his flight to Hawaii to celebrate his first wedding anniversary with his lovely wife, Samantha.

Going to bed Tuesday night, I was very pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances to retain Judge. 

I never tried to look at Judge’s free agency as I would have in his shoes. A homegrown superstar with records as good or better than the legends of the organization, a fanbase that truly loves him, the chance to play his entire career for the most storied franchise in baseball history, the possible captaincy of the team, and so on. There are so many countless reasons to stay. But I do not know Judge personally. I do not know his personal ambitions and motivations. We know his professional ambitions…to be the best, a champion, and a tremendous supporter of his teammates. Yet personally, Judge holds everything close to the vest. We did not know how strong the pull to return home to California would be.

If you have ever been to San Francisco, it is a wonderful city with a beautiful ballpark. The city has a charm that few cities can match. The team has history with some of the greatest names to have ever played baseball. Hey, I love New York but I live in California. I get the attraction to the Golden State.  I believed it was possible that Judge could decide to play for his childhood team despite the overwhelming reasons to stay in New York.

When word had surfaced the Giants were offering nine years at $360 million while the Yankees were allegedly holding at eight years, there were rumors the Giants were prepared to go higher. The Giants were motivated to make Judge the centerpiece for their franchise, despite an earlier signing of former Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger, another Northern Californian coming home.  True or not, the Padres were prepared to offer as much as $400 million over fourteen years.  There is some believability in what the Padres would offer given their pivot to lure free agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts from Boston for 11 years and $280 million. 

To Judge’s credit, and probably with a huge assist by Manager Aaron Boone who had called Judge on Tuesday night to let him know what he meant personally and professionally for Boone and the team, he called Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner, who was vacationing in Italy. Not-so-shallow Hal asked Judge if he wanted to be a Yankee and what it would take. Judge conveyed his desire to remain in Pinstripes but needed the ninth year to match the Giants offer. Hal agreed, and Judge accepted. Despite being on the West Coast, I was awake early Wednesday morning when I saw Ken Rosenthal tweet that Judge had decided to stay with the Yankees. Huge relief!

Hold right there. At that point, Aaron Judge could have turned around and called the Giants and Padres and they would have sweetened their offers. He did not and this is where I have the most respect for Judge in how he handled these negotiations. People scream about the money but if the Yankees did not pay it, another team would have. Judge could have used the Yankees to leverage the other teams to commit to even greater dollars. I do not feel that Judge used the Giants or the Padres. I believe he and his wife legitimately listened to the conversations with the other organizations to gather as much information as they could in making the most critical financial decision/commitment of their lives. Once the Yankees met what he was seeking, Judge was satisfied and the decision to stay with the Yankees was made.

We routinely knock Hal Steinbrenner but without his personal involvement, I am not entirely sure we would have reached a favorable outcome. The Yankees cannot stop here, however, bringing back Judge was the biggest move the team had to make this year and they did it. I am confident the Yankees will find another starting pitcher, a left fielder and perhaps another bullpen arm. Today, I am happy and relieved Aaron Judge will be playing for the New York Yankees on Opening Day 2023 when they play the San Francisco Giants. I really did not want to see Judge trot out to right field in the bottom, rather than top, of the first inning. 

Welcome back, Aaron! All rise and celebrate!

Aaron Judge (Artwork by noted and brilliant American painter/illustrator Graig Kreindler)

Hot Stove continues to boil

It seemed like all the talking head insiders were touting Carlos Rodon to the Yankees this week. Nothing has materialized…yet…but I am hopeful the Yankees make this level of commitment. The years scare me (seven, if true). Rodon is only 30 so it is possible he can still be an effective pitcher at the end of his contract, health-permitting. As the best starting pitcher on the open market, he makes the most sense.

Carlos Rodon (Photo Credit: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Last offseason, the fan base was focused on Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea. Granted, the Yankees got Montas at the trade deadline, but he was hurt and the drop-off from Castillo was huge. I really do not want to settle for the second, third or fourth options available. I want to see the Yankees sign the best free agent starting pitcher which is Rodon. The Miami Marlins are not trading NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, and their other pitchers are not as good as Rodon. The other free agent options, like Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Bassitt, and Sean Manaea are not as appealing either. I have even heard the names of Noah Syndergaard and Drew Smyly. No thank you.  Rodon or bust.

For some reason, the Carlos Correa rumors linking him to the Yankees have re-surfaced. I am not convinced the Yankees would add another $300+ million contract so Correa seems unlikely. I have not forgiven him for his role in the cheating scandal, but I would not be opposed to having him on the Yankees. He is a good player and I do believe everyone deserves a second chance. Correa has not committed any sins (that I am aware of) since the trash cans were drummed.  I think the major appeal of adding Correa or Dansby Swanson is to free up Oswald Peraza and/or Anthony Volpe for a trade to Pittsburgh as part of a deal to snag outfielder Brian Reynolds. Although I continue to believe Volpe needs more time in Triple A, he will be the Yankees’ second baseman by next summer if he is not traded. I am happy and content with the thought of Volpe at second and Peraza at shortstop if the Yankees can get the right guy for left field. Andrew Benintendi or Michael Conforto can be added without giving up prospects. They may not be as good as Reynolds, but they are better than your average outfielders. There is also an abundance of young outfielders in Arizona (the names of lefties Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy being the most frequently mentioned) available through trade.   

Brian Cashman must find a way to eliminate Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I think their departures are key to improving other areas of need. Not that they would bring anything in return, but the elimination of their contracts or at least most of the dollars involved would be huge.

It does seem like the longer rumors of the Carlos’s to the Yankees persist, the less likely they will happen.

If I had my preferences, sign Rodon and Benintendi, keep Volpe and Peraza, and eliminate Donaldson, Hicks, and IKF. There would still be room for other tweaks, but I would be content for Spring Training 2023 to open with the improved roster. Granted, this is probably not the outcome, but I am hopeful Team Cashman makes the right moves to take advantage of the best years of Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole. 

Tommy Tightpants

I was pleased to see the free agent signing of former Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle has long been one of my favorite players. I liked him as a prospect, was saddened when he was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 Rule 5 draft, and excited when he was re-acquired in the 2017 trading deadline deal with the Chicago White Sox that brought him back to New York along with Todd Frazier and David Robertson. I understood it when the Yankees did not re-sign him after the 2020 season because of the Tommy John surgery. It was difficult to watch him pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season when he made his return from rehab. I did not think the Yankees would pursue him when he became a free agent after the season, but it was a delight when I saw that he had signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract with the team. 

Tommy Kahnle (Photo Credit:

I briefly thought it might be cool to also bring back David Robertson, but he signed with the crosstown Mets. Whatever happened between Robertson and the Yankees a few years ago with D-Rob’s role in cutting out certain guys from playoff shares, it seems like their differences are irreconcilable. Adam Ottavino anyone? I did not think so. 

It will be fun watching Tommy run around the bullpen again, in addition to his solid work on the mound, but I am hopeful the Yankees bring in at least one more solid reliever to match with the current crew. I am grateful Aroldis Chapman is no longer a Yankee. 

The Rule 5 Draft

Speaking of the Rule 5 Draft, it is always the worst moment of the Winter Meetings for me. The Yankees routinely get poached every year. Too much talent in the organization…a nice problem to have. The Red Sox seem to grab a Yankee every year. I guess they believe more in the Yankees farm system than their own.

In the Major League phase, the Yankees were not hit as hard as I thought they might be. The Cardinals selected 32-year-old RHP Wilking Rodriguez with the 25th selection in the first round, and the Mets took RHP Zack Greene. Both players, selected for $100,000, must stick on the Major League rosters for the entire season or be offered back to the Yankees for $50,000.

The Minor League phase is more painful. Players chosen are lost forever. The Minor League phase is anyone not protected on the big league or Triple A roster. The Yankees lost the following players:

  • Orioles (Rd 1): RHP Alfred Vega
  • Dodgers (Rd 1): RHP Yon Castro
  • D-Backs (Rd 2): RHP Denny Larrondo
  • Red Sox (Rd 2): RHP Ryan Miller
  • Rays (Rd 3): RHP Nelson Alvarez
  • Phillies (Rd 7): 2B Oliver Dunn

In Round 1 of the Minor League draft, the Yankees chose LHP Pablo Mujica from the Kansas City Royals. He was the Yankees’ only selection of the day. 

I do not know what their futures hold, but I was glad to see the Yankees retain C Josh Breaux, LHP Edgar Barclay, 3B Andres Chaparro, C Antonio Gomez, OF Ryder Green, RHP Matt Sauer, C Anthony Seigler, and SS Alexander Vargas. Who knows if any of these guys ever make it to the Majors, but I hope a few of them do.

As always, Go Yankees! 

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