Saturday, November 19, 2022

While We Wait for (the) Judge's Decision...


Aaron Judge and Friends (Photo Credit: @MLB via Twitter)

Aaron Judge, 2022 AL MVP…

Aaron Judge is the King of New York.

With 28 of 30 first place votes by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Aaron Judge became the American League’s Most Valuable Player for 2022. The two non-votes were courtesy of Los Angeles area writers who opted for the multi-talented Shohei Ohtani.

While I have no issue with the two writers who chose to vote for their hometown star, a player they followed every day, there is no question Aaron Judge was THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the American League this year. The focus was on the home run count (62, an American League record, eclipsing the great Roger Maris by one). However, Judge’s dominance did not stop there. He had a Major League best 11.4 fWAR. By comparison, the NL MVP, Paul Goldschmidt, had a 7.1 fWAR. Baseball Reference lists Judge with 10.6 WAR but regardless of how you score at home, Judge crushed it. Judge led the American League with On-Base Percentage (.425), Slugging Percentage (.686), On-Base Plus Slugging (1.111), Runs Scored (133), Total Bases (391), Runs Batted In (131), Bases on Balls (111), Extra Base Hits (90), and Times on Base (294). Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference. Judge’s batting average of .311 was second in the AL. 

Aaron Judge may never have another season like this one, and it was a fun year to be a Yankee fan despite the disappointing ending. During the pre- and post-Award win interviews, Judge handled himself with the utmost grace, unseen since the days of Derek Jeter. It is the same Judge we see after games, and anytime he faces the public. He is the consummate professional and made for New York. There was little doubt Judge would win when the MLB Network brought former tallest MVP Giancarlo Stanton on-screen to announce the winner.

The experts continue to point toward free agent Judge signing with the Yankees. I hope they are right. There was a bittersweet feeling watching Judge win MVP, knowing that he could depart for another team in the coming weeks. The Yankees are saying the right words, and they have submitted an upgraded offer to Judge according to GM Brian Cashman. It seems there will be no resolution until at least the Winter Meetings next month. The fear is that this drags out and prevents the team from making other upgrades despite the team’s assurances it will not. I want Judge back in Pinstripes. I know his age, and concerns about such a large man aging well as he moves through his thirties. Some guys are meant to wear only one uniform in their career and Judge is one of those guys.  The Captaincy of the Yankees awaits, as does a future date in Monument Park.

I do not want to lose Aaron Judge. We do not want to lose Aaron Judge. He is ours. The power is within Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s control. Make Judge happy with wealth which, in turn, will provide us with a wealth of happiness.

Aaron, please stay.

The return of Anthony Rizzo.

It was music to my ears to hear the Yankees had re-signed Anthony Rizzo to return as their brilliant first baseman for the next two years. As we know, Rizzo had exercised the player option on his previous contract to opt out. Tagged with the qualifying offer, Rizzo rejected it but no sooner than you could say the words “The Houston Astros are interested in Rizzo”, the veteran first baseman had re-signed with your favorite baseball team.

Rizzo’s new deal calls for $17 million in each of the 2023 and 2024 seasons. There is a team option for $17 million in 2025 or $6 million buyout. So, the contract is worth at least $40 million and could be worth as much as $51 million. Rizzo has limited no-trade protection and can block deals to six clubs annually. 

I am very happy Rizzo chose to return to the Yankees. In retrospect, it is clear Rizzo had no desire to go elsewhere. He did not speak to other clubs, and after signing the new contract, he expressed his love being a Yankee. Rizzo, rest assured, we love you as a Yankee too. 

Anthony Rizzo, Yankee

The left-handed balance, the timely hits and home runs, the protection he provides the lineup, his brilliant defense at first base (saving countless runs), his elite clubhouse leadership, there are so many reasons that Rizzo is right for the Yankees.

The problems Rizzo encountered last season with the back spasms are a concern. Rizzo is no Spring Chicken; he is 33 years old. But let the record show he is nearly two years younger than NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt. There is hope he will benefit from the elimination of the shift next season, and I hope they can find the right treatment to limit any issues or concerns related to his back. Despite the concerns, I would rather have Rizzo on the team than not. 

Welcome back, Anthony!

Yankees re-sign Key Player.

Okay, the title is misleading…at least in my opinion. After the Yankees had announced they had signed infielder (I refuse to call him shortstop) Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a guaranteed 1-year, $6 million contract for the 2023 season, I saw an article that declared the Yankees had re-signed a key player. Um, excuse me? Most of the fan base wanted IKF non-tendered. So, there was a collective groan in the Yankees Universe when the news of the signing surfaced. 

IKF is not a bad guy. He is not “unlikeable” (like a certain third baseman who plays to his right). There are positive factors about his play, both offensively and defensively, but he should not be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. I did not really see the Yankees non-tendering IKF although I would not have been disappointed if they had. He has value as a utility man given his ability to play the left side of the infield and can even catch if necessary.  Maybe that role is not worth $6 million, but it is not my money.

Although IKF is presently a Yankee, there is no guarantee he will be when the team takes the field on March 30th.  There is always a chance the Yankees find a trade partner. The Minnesota Twins liked IKF well enough last year to send their starting catcher to the Texas Rangers for the infielder. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so there is always a chance another team sees the value IKF can bring to their team. He strikes me as a player would thrive away from the Main Stage of Major League Baseball. I think he is a good guy, and I would like to see him have success. It does not mean that I think he should be a Yankee. I am hopeful for a trade, although I will support him if he is on the Opening Day Roster so long as he is not the starting shortstop.

Although it is possible Anthony Volpe could absolutely kill it in Spring Training (ala Greg Bird and Kyle Higashioka), I think it is more likely the Yankees break camp with Oswald Peraza as their starting shortstop. Volpe will have his chances, but I think it will be closer to summertime before he makes an impact for the big-league club. Until they are signed, there is always a lottery chance that Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, or Dansby Swanson could be Yankees although they seem unlikely. 

Cody Bellinger to the Yankees?

In a surprise to no one, the Los Angeles Dodgers non-tendered former NL MVP outfielder Cody Bellinger. Fans immediately began clamoring for the Yankees to sign the new free agent, son of a former Yankee. I like Cody. He is good defensive player and can play all outfield positions, plus first base. The problem is his bat.

Bellinger has declining production since his MVP year of 2019. In 2022, he hit .210/.265/.389, with .284 wOBA and 83 wRC+. He played 144 games, hitting 19 home runs and drove in 68 runs. He also stole 14 bags.

Cody Bellinger (Photo Credit: Carole Brehman/EPA, via Shutterstock)

The Yankees do not need another hitter who cannot hit. Maybe the Yankees see something they can tweak to return Bellinger to his 2019 glory, but I would rather have more of a sure thing. Realistically, I think the Los Angeles Dodgers will strike a new deal to bring Belli back to Chavez Ravine. His production did not warrant the $18 million he would have cost next season, thus, the non-tender. However, it does not mean he is not wanted in Los Angeles. I would hate to see him re-surface in Toronto or Boston and find his prior success.  I am hoping for his return to the Dodgers.

As for the Yankees, my left field favorite remains Andrew Benintendi. Brandon Nimmo would be ideal; however, I think Benny is the more reasonable target for Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet. I would really like to see Benny for a full season in the Bronx. He was starting to make a difference when he suffered the broken hook of his hamate bone last season. I know many people love Oswaldo Cabrera, and he did a fine job replacing Benny last season. However, I feel he is best used as a regularly playing super-sub, capable of playing both the infield and outfield. Keeping guys fresh for the long haul of an arduous season is paramount for a team’s chances in October.

Roster maintenance.

The Yankees chose to vacate Stephen Ridings’ spot on the 40-man roster. Whether or not, they thought he would pass through waivers, he did not. The New York Mets were the beneficiaries of Ridings’ slide through waiver claim priority. Clearly many teams passed before a 101-win team in the other league claimed the 6’8” reliever.

I would say the loss of Ridings is bittersweet. You always wonder what he could have been if healthy, but then again, can he stay healthy? The Mets will find out. I wish Ridings the best, and I certainly do not want him to fail even if he is now a Met.

The Yankees added right-handed pitcher Randy Vasquez to the 40-man roster this week, as expected. Rosters had to be finalized in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. 

Randy Vasquez (Photo Credit: Somerset Patriots, via NJ Advance Media for

I guess the surprise was other strong prospects who were not protected. It guarantees there will be Yankee prospects chosen by other teams next month, which of course is the case every year. Having too many good players is a nice problem to have. The bright side is Rule 5 players tend not to stick with their new teams and are returned. Boston’s Garrett Whitlock and Cleveland’s Trevor Stephan are the exceptions to the rule, but they are a clear minority. I would rather not lose catchers Josh Breaux or Anthony Siegler, or pitcher Matt Sauer, but if they are lost, there will be other guys to replace them.

The Yankees also avoided arbitration with reliever Lou Trivino. While some were suspecting that he would be non-tendered, the Yankees announced they had signed Trivino to a one-year, $4.1 million contract for 2023. It was reported the Yankees did not non-tender any of their arbitration-eligible players. The arbitration-eligible list includes Wandy Peralta, Frankie Montas, Gleyber Torres, Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, Lucas Luetge, Kyle Higashioka, Nestor Torres, Jose Trevino, and Michael King. I thought Higgy might be a non-tender candidate. It seems like his half of the catching platoon is ripe for upgrade, but he lives to see another day as a Yankee. 

As always, Go Yankees!