It goes without saying that the Yankee outfield is better with Aaron Judge than without, but the chances of him returning to the Yankees has decreased since the Yankees elimination from the postseason. During the 2022 ALCS, Aaron Judge went 1-16 hitting only a single. As a result, this is what the Yankees might point to when arguing that Judge is not worth the money he is asking for. On the contrary, Aaron Judge will point to his mammoth 62 home run season as the reason why he deserves every penny he wants. Right now, Aaron Judge’s future in the Yankee outfield looks potentially perilous.
Aaron Judge"s Future
The essential question is as follows: How much will Judge’s postseason struggles deter other teams from paying him what they would have otherwise?
Reports that the San Francisco Giants "will not be outbid" for Judge seem a little over exaggerated, and if feels unlikely that the Dodgers will move Mookie Betts to the infield. Both of these rumors reek of negotiation tactics on the part of Aaron Judge. With that said, the Giants will likely be the biggest competitor for the Yankee outfielder, given their desire for a big star to help bring them to the level of the Dodgers and Padres. This also works into Judge’s hands for negotiation tactics because he can push the narrative that he is tempted to head to his hometown.
The best case scenario for the Yankees is that Aaron Judge signs before Christmas, regardless of his destination, so the Yanks can have a plan and budget for the rest of the off-season. The worst case scenario, is a Bryce Harper situation that gets dragged on into spring training, keeping Yankees plans in limbo. If this is the situation, the Yankees should find a replacement for Judge and refuse to play the cat/mouse game to the detriment of the overall roster.
Prediction: Judge will stay with the Yankees, and it"s likely the Yankees had this planned and in the budget for years.
The Rest of the Yankee Outfield
Now for the part that fans are ignoring: who is the Yankee left fielder? Aaron Hicks has not proven himself worthy of a roster spot in 2023, and Hicks has no one to blame but himself. His offense was abysmal and his defense looked distracted and half-effort. He needs to be traded. Giancarlo Stanton is a fine outfielder, but it is clear the Yankees do not want him to play in the field every day. Matt Carpenter was a fun little lightning-in-a-bottle story, but let’s be honest, he is not a left fielder who will bring a championship to the Bronx.
The cheapest internal option is Oswaldo Cabrera, but his highest regarded value is his uniqueness to play anywhere between the infield and the outfield. Making him a full time left fielder would hurt roster flexibility, which is something the Yankees have done consistently well with.
Signing Andrew Benintendi would be a logical option for the Yankee outfield given that he is a lefty at Yankee Stadium, his high contact hitting adds great value to the lineup where needed, and his experience on a championship team can be valuable to a team searching for its first championship since 2009. It is reasonable to disregard his fluke injury from this past year and assume good health otherwise.
We must also keep a couple of alternate possibilities in mind. First, that the Yankees have their eye on an outfielder to acquire in a trade, whom hasn"t been previously reported. Second, that the Yankees hire a brand new GM who will blow up the team by spring training and bring us something unrecognizable. Third, Aaron Judge signs with another team and we then need to find two corner outfielders.
Regardless, it will be an interesting offseason in the Bronx as the Yankee outfield and fans await word on Aaron Judge"s future.
Let us know where you think Aaron Judge will land this offseason!