Yankees: The Renewal Project Just Begins With Aaron Judge – Reflections On Baseball

Snow covered Yankee Stadium

When the Yankees sign Aaron Judge, the work to overhaul the team will still lie ahead. Here’s a rundown of critical issues needing action.

The Yankees have correctly arranged their priorities for the 2023 season by making AL MVP Aaron Judge their “no excuses” free agent signee.

But beyond Judge is a host of critical weaknesses that need to be addressed before the Yankees can meet the challenge of an ultra-competitive division and the eventual collision with the Houston Astros in the playoffs.

The signing of Anthony Rizzo fell nicely into place amid numerous reports the Astros were hot on Rizzo’s tail, and make no mistake, second to Judge – Rizzo is the next most important offense and defense piece on the team.

Beyond Rizzo at first base, the rest of the Yankees’ infield is subpar and in need of addition by subtraction.

Yankees Priority One: Shortstop

Isiah Kiner-Falefa began the 2022 season with a whisper of hope. But as the season waned into crunch time and eventually the playoffs, his spark had wavered, and his self-confidence was extinguished.

Once again, the crop of free-agent shortstops dominates the free-agent market for the 2023 season. Spotrac lists these players. all of who are in their prime as the top four.

Top 2023 MLB Shortstops
Top 2023 MLB Shortstops

While Carlos Correa is the “jazziest”, Xander Bogaerts represents the best fit for the Yankees as a proven winner, and as the holder of two championship rings during his tenure with the Red Sox.

Yankees target - Xander Bogaerts
Yankees target – Xander Bogaerts

While the Yankees spin their wheels patiently waiting for Anthony Volpe and/or Oswald Peraza to complete their “finishing” in the minors, the haunting reality is that prospects are just that – prospects – until they are not.

For every homegrown star like Aaron Judge, the Yankees, and their fans have yet to heal their wounds from players like Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Gary Sanchez, and so on.

Yankees Priority Two – Catching

The tandem of Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka worked until it didn’t, and by the time the playoffs rolled around they was an open wound at the bottom of the Yankees lineup.

Arriving from the Texas Rangers in an April trade, Trevino looked like the real thing, even earning a spot on the AL All-Star team. But by October, all he could manage was a dismal one for twenty-two in the playoffs.

While no one questions either player’s defense skills, together with Higashioka’s inconsistency at the plate, Aaron Boone cannot afford to make the same mistake again this year, believing that either player will magically transform themselves into something they are not.

Regrettably, this year’s crop of free-agent catchers, with one exception, is remarkably thin.

2023 MLB free-Agent Catchers

Willson Contreras (3.9 WAR and 128 OPS+) is the most desired player in the group, and that is reflected by the aggressive play of the Cardinals and Orioles as they seek to take Contreras off the board.

Yankees target - Wilson Contreras
Yankees target – Wilson Contreras

According to Spotrac, Contreras has a current market value of $16 million annually. Considering the combined $60 million for the cost of Judge and Bogaerts, the decision ultimately rests with Hal Steinbrenner as to how far he wants to extend the Yankees payroll.

Yankees: Addition By Subtraction

Despite what appeared to be a cohesive unit in the clubhouse, the Yankees fell far short of achieving the heights of the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Guardians, both of whom overachieved as a team with wildly spirited play when it counted most.

Therefore, change for the sake of change is needed within the Yankees team, if only to shake things up – while simultaneously issuing a warning to everyone – play up to your capability – or else!

Gleyber Torres rises to the top of the end-of-the-line list of players currently on the Yankees roster. It’s ever more clear that Torres’ 2019 season is an aberration rather than the norm.

DJ LeMahieu belongs at second base where, at 35, Aaron Boone needs to treat him for what he is – an aging veteran who will always be a hitting machine at the top of the Yankees lineup.

Torres still has trade value, but with each year that value is subsiding. Make the move – he is not all he’s hyped up to be.

Yankees sparkplug centerfielder - Harrison Bader
Yankees sparkplug centerfielder – Harrison Bader

What to do with Aaron Hicks and the outrageous remainder of his contract? Eat it and let bygones and hopeless hope incinerate themselves.

Harrison Bader is the real deal and his explosive display of power and defensive wizardry during the playoffs proves it.

His presence all but eliminates the need for Hicks, and all that remains is for the Yankees to release their love affair with Hicks in much the same way they eventually did with Gary Sanchez.

Josh Donaldson is another matter, but the downward trend of his offensive skills is alarming and the Yankees should (at least) be exploring the possibility of moving him – perhaps in a multi-player deal in which the Yankees absorb a portion of Donaldson’s salary.

Accordingly, the Yankees and their fans can only rue the day they let Gio Urshela (.285, 13 HR, 64RBI, 3.1 WAR, and 121 OPS+) escape to the Twins.

While Donaldson is a defense wizard, his overall contribution to the team demands he be held accountable – something the Yankees and in particular Aaron Boone seem bent on, giving him a pass.

Are The Yankees Insane?

Albert Einstein, when asked to describe insanity, said it boiled down to doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

Unless some or all the changes mentioned herein are accomplished, the Yankees will fall prey to Einstein’s definition of insanity, and the result will be yet another season of falling short in the playoffs.

Unless that is, Steinbrenner and his Yankees are content with rewarding their stockholders with another “winning” season that pads the ever-increasing vault of wealth that is (and will always be) the New York Yankees.

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.