Saturday, November 12, 2022

Judge Rules for Freedom...


Giancarlo Stanton, Samantha Bracksieck-Judge, & Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Bryan Bedder/New York Road Runners via Getty Images)

Yankees outfielder is THE top Major League free agent…

It has been a long road for Aaron Judge, but he has finally reached free agency at age thirty. If the Yankees had been more aggressive with their offers before the season, perhaps Judge would not have reached this point. They did not and Judge had one of the greatest seasons in Yankees history. The ultimate “bet on yourself” move. He has earned the right to market himself to all teams. To be wined and dined by the other executives and hear the sales pitches for how fantastic he would be for their organizations would be wonderful for anyone to hear.  The antithesis to an arbitration hearing where your worth is blown up instead of torn down.

As a Yankee fan, it is admittedly tough to watch. He is ours. It is a bit shocking when you look at the current 40-man Yankees roster and the only outfielder named Aaron is Aaron Hicks.  Over the years, it has been hard to see some guys leave via free agency. Robinson Cano stands out as a painful one, and while I am not trying to be disrespectful, the loss of Judge would be far worse. 

The YES Network will air an interview of Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner by Meredith Marakovits on Monday. Through excerpts released from the interview, Steinbrenner told Meredith he has had more than one conversation with Aaron Judge since the end of the season. He expressed his desire to retain Judge by saying, “I have made it clear to him that is our wish. He means a lot to this organization, and I’ve made it clear to him we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”

Hal Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: YES Network)

I am slightly disappointed the Judge camp has not told the Yankees they will give them the right to match or beat any final offer.  The words “(Insert team name) to sign Aaron Judge” are going to hit hard one way or the other. The San Francisco Giants are the most frequently mentioned team. Judge is from Linden, California and the Bay Area is a short ride from his parents’ home. Linden is approximately 90 to 100 miles from AT&T Park depending upon the route taken. 

While I get the “home” connection, signing with the Giants would mean the end of Judge’s involvement with the New York City community and he would be far from his current home in Tampa, Florida, near the Yankees training facility. The Giants train in Scottsdale, Arizona. While the Giants have a few more World Series championships than the Yankees since 2009, their seasons tend to run hot and cold. They won the NL West with 107 victories in 2021 and followed it up by winning only 81 games this season.  Another factor is the weather. I know, California weather is beautiful. I live in Southern California, and complaints about the weather are not part of my vocabulary. Yet, San Francisco can be quite cold in the summertime. There is a quote attributed to (possibly misattributed to) Mark Twain that says, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” I experienced this once wearing shorts. The day started in San Jose which sits on the South Bay, with the temperature nearly reaching 90. Made the trip to San Francisco to see the Giants play, and I nearly froze to death. I was surrounded by fans wearing winter coats. I never made that mistake again. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers loom as a factor. Harder for me personally to find reasons not to want to live in the greater Los Angeles area since I do, but Clayton Kershaw is an example of a great player who belongs to stay in one uniform…just like Aaron Judge should remain in Pinstripes. Kershaw was just re-signed by the Dodgers to a one-year, $20 million contract for the 2023 season despite the speculation over the last few years that he would return to his home in North Texas.  Kershaw may no longer be the heart of the Dodgers when he is not even the best pitcher on the team anymore, but he means so much to the organization. He will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown, and no other Dodger will wear number 22. This is exactly the path Judge should take with the Yankees. Ride the Pinstripes to the Hall of Fame, unscathed by not wearing any other uniform.  Judge is the heart of the current Yankees and his stature with the Dodgers would not be the same. Sure, he could become the heart and soul of the team like he is with the Yankees, but it would take time, or it might not happen at all. Why take the chance?

In October 1941, Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio said words that later reached the heart of Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee”. I hope these words reach a little further (and higher) into Judge’s heart. He is a Yankee, and he should always be a Yankee.

The next Yankees Captain?

Aaron Judge, please come home to the Yankees. We miss you.

Award Season is upon us. The Silver Slugger Awards were announced Thursday on the MLB Network. The best offensive players at each position are voted on by MLB managers and coaches. Aaron Judge received his third Silver Slugger for the outfield. He was joined by fellow AL outfielders, Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners, the possible AL Rookie of the Year, and Mike Trout, of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Judge, the likely AL MVP, continues to assemble hardware for the trophy case. He really should not try to move those valuable trophies and awards across country for fear they might get damaged in transit. Just sayin’…

The magical season for Jose Trevino continues. He arrived at Spring Training in Arizona with the Texas Rangers as a backup catcher. By the end of the season, he was the starting catcher for the New York Yankees. Living the dream. On Friday, the winners of the Rawlings Platinum Glove Awards were named. The award is given to the best defensive player in both leagues. Jose Trevino won the award for the American League, while Nolan Arenado of the St Louis Cardinals was the National League winner. It is a tremendous honor for a deserving player.

Jose Trevino (Photo Credit: FOX Sports)

Congratulations to both Aaron Judge and Jose Trevino!

The Roster Chess Match begins. Facing minor league free agency, the Yankees made several moves to add players to the 40-man roster this week. RHP Jhony Brito and LHP Matt Krook were added to the Major League roster, and the Yankees selected the contract of RHP Jimmy Cordero from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cordero, the former White Sox reliever, underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2021. He signed a minor league contract with the Yankees last year while rehabbing. He should be ready to compete for a spot in the bullpen in 2023. 

Jimmy Cordero (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Speedy Tim Locastro elected free agency after he was removed from the 40-man roster, so he joins Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, Jameson Taillon, Andrew Benintendi, Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Carpenter, Zack Britton, Miguel Castro, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman as guys on the open market.

The Yankees must set their 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection by next Tuesday so there should be a few more moves made between now and then.

Here are some of the minor league players who elected free agency:

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple A)

RHP Richard Rodriguez, RHP Jose Mujica, RHP Tyler Duffey, DH Jake Bauers, RHP Matt Bowman, LHP Chasen Shreve (I had legitimately forgotten he had returned to the organization), C Rob Brantly, RHP Braden Bristo, LF Ryan LaMarre, LF Michael Beltre, RHP Reggie McClain, CF Blake Perkins, 3B Armando Alvarez, 2B Derek Dietrich, SS Chris Owings, RHP Shane Greene, and 3B Phillip Evans.

Somerset Patriots (Double A)

RHP Carlos Espinal, RHP Emmanuel Ramirez, and C Rodolfo Duran.

Hudson Valley Renegades (High-A)

SS Wilkerman Garcia, C Saul Torres, and RHP Wellington Diaz.

Tampa Tarpons (Single-A)

RHP Nolan Martinez.

I remember my optimism when the Yankees signed Wilkerman Garcia as an international free agent in 2014 for $1.35 million. The Yankees made a big splash in international free agency that year, blowing past the bonus allotment (which was allowed with penalty at the time).  Dermis Garcia was the big fish that year, signing for $3.2 million. He is currently with the Oakland A’s. The other forgotten names are 3B Nelson Gomez, OF Juan De Leon, OF Jonathan Amundaray, C Miguel Flames, and SS Hoy Park. Sad to look at the names, and Park is the only one that stands out. He was packaged with infielder Diego Castillo in the July 2021 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates that brought reliever Clay Holmes to New York.

Houston Astros GM Jim Click departs team shortly after the World Series championship. The contracts for both Click and manager Dusty Baker had expired after the World Series. The Astros re-signed Baker, but everyone was surprised when it was announced on Friday that the Astros had parted ways with their general manager.

Ken Rosenthal had written a piece in The Athletic prior to the World Series that alluded to the possible breakup, so it was not a surprise. Yankee fans immediately began clamoring for Click as the Yankees’ new general manager. Click probably gets too much credit for building the World Champions since the roster was largely put together by disgraced former GM Jeff Luhnow, but he knew enough not to tinker too much with a successful team. He knows how the Astros are built and why they are successful.  I am not saying fire Brian Cashman and hire Click, but a scenario that elevates Cashman to President of Baseball Operations with Click as the new GM is not unreasonable.  I doubt it happens, but I really believe the Yankees would benefit with a new voice in the GM seat and Click certainly carries the qualifications.

To be clear, I am not on the ‘Fire Cashman’ bandwagon. He has a place in the organization and should be promoted accordingly.  I do find it odd that the Yankees have yet to announce a new contract for Cashman who continues as an at-will employee.  If Steinbrenner is struggling to find the right terms with Cashman, what does that say about his ability to get Aaron Judge’s signature on the bottom line? A rhetorical question, it is simply an observation that Steinbrenner can be too passive at times, creating missed opportunities. 

As always, Go Yankees!