Aaron Judge locked down; now what?
The New York Yankees homegrown superstar Aaron Judge locked down his personal life with the marriage last weekend to Samantha Bracksieck in a tropical setting in Maui, Hawaii. The only question to be answered in his life is whether he will have a marriage with the Yankees.
The 2017 Rookie of the Year had his second-best year with the Yankees last season. He stayed healthy and basically carried the team on his back with consistently good play all season long. Judge has often been called the face of the Yankees and the face of baseball. But Judge will become a free agent after this season, and it’s time for the Yankees to make him a lifelong Yankee with a handsome contract extension.
Although the Yankees have been mostly quiet on the subject, they are well aware of the need to address the Judge situation sooner than later. Part of their delay in propping up the team pre-lockout could be because they need to see what monies will be available for their needs, including an extension for Judge. Once a new CBA can be reached, the Yankees will have to pounce on these needs quickly.
Appreciating Jordan Montgomery
Yankee pitcher Jordan Montgomery has gone under the radar the last few years but has been a mostly solid player for the Yankees. Over five seasons with the Yankees, one out for Tommy John surgery, he has a winning record. Monty has been their only constant in the pitching rotation throughout the period, with the loss of Luis Severino to surgery, CC Sabathia to retirement, seeing Masahiro Tanaka lost to Japan, and now the loss of 2 time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
Montgomery is a good pitcher, although not flashy; he never enjoyed the hype of a Joba Chamberlain but has been solid for the Yankees. Montgomery’s career stats are not bad. 388 IP – 15.8 K-BB% – 1.27 WHIP – 3.90 FIP – 7.3 fWAR, which is nothing to sneeze at. Last season, he was 6-7 with an ERA of 3.83 in 30 games. That record is not representative of how he pitched; he got absolutely no run support in over half of his games. Montgomery could be big for the Yankees in 2022 in the third spot in the rotation.
Anthony Rizzo is enjoying free agency
At the trade deadline last season, the Yankees got the long-time Chicago Cub to replace the ailing Luke Voit at first base. Rizzo started out like a superstar for the Yankees, but his hitting cooled off. One thing that didn’t cool off was his defense at first base, the best since Mark Teixeira. So now Rizzo is a free agent for the first time in his baseball life, and he is enjoying it.
The Yankees, as of the lock-out, do not have a starting first baseman for the new season. They retained Luke Voit, but with his health, he is not the best option, nevertheless having him reduces the priority for the Yankees. Rizzo, meanwhile, has made it known that he likes New York and would like to stay here. Other names that have been mentioned for the Yankees to act on once the lock-out is over are Matt Olson and the best in the business, Freddie Freeman, among others.
Is Trevor Story a fit for the Yankees?
Even before the World Series was over, the Yankees announced that they would be spending money and that their number one priority was to sign a star-like shortstop. To date, that has not been done, with some ambiguity as to if the Yankees will do that or go the way of a stopgap purchase, waiting for either Anthony Volpe or Oswald Perzaza to become major league ready.
Several names the Yankees have been looking at are already gone. Corey Seager went to the Texas Rangers, and Marcus Semien went to the Angels. That leaves the big prize of Carlos Correa still unsigned. Correa is not the best fit for the Yankees because of a lingering mysterious back ailment and involvement in the Astros sign-stealing that could have cost the Yankees a World Series appearance.
There are other options, and one of them is a shortstop the Yankees have looked at previously; Trevor Story. Trevor Story remains an intriguing prospect for a team with a current need at SS but less of a need in the future. The Yankees once very high on Story seem to have soured on him somewhat. Nevertheless, they made a play for him at the trade deadline but could not come to an agreement with the Colorado Rockies.
Story had an unexpected down season in 2021; (.251/.329/.471/.801, 24 home runs, 75 RBIs). However, Story has solidified himself as one of the top offensive shortstops in the game, and he is not far from out of the headlights on the Yankee horizon.
Is a shortstop already in the system?
The New York Yankees could blow off the shortstop need and avoid spending money as they look for a number two starter for the pitching rotation, a first baseman, and help in center field. However, to do that, they would have to recognize how good Gio Urshela was replacing Gleyber Torres at short. Although a small sample, Urshela proved he can play the position to upgrade Torres.
Should the Yankees take the stopgap option, Urshela could slide in at short until Yankee prospects Anthony Volpe and Osward Perzara are ready for the big time. Last season in 28 games, he hit .267 with a better fielding percentage than at third base, his usual position. Urshela is not the perfect option for the Yankees, but for one year, it could work. With Torres penned in at second and moving DJ LeMahieu to third base, where he played adequately last season, that would let the Yankees concentrate on a long-term upgrade at first base.
Luke Voit; trade piece or first baseman?
Early in the post-season, the Yankees decided to hold onto first baseman Luke Voit. The question is, why? He is not a great defender at first and can’t seem to stay healthy. There are two answers to that question. They are going to concentrate on a new expensive shortstop, or they are holding onto Voit as a trade piece to fill one of the team’s needs, at short, in the outfield, or at first base.
With a questionable health record, in 2020, he led all of baseball with 22 home runs in the shortened season. But last season, he regressed playing in only 68 games, hitting .239 with only eleven home runs. He couldn’t stay healthy below the belt with foot and knee problems. There is no question that the Yankees are concerned about Voit and who will play at first base. The Yankees attempted to trade Voit before the trade deadline but were unsuccessful. The Yankees have several first-base options, including keeping DJ LeMahieu there. They also could resign Anthony Rizzo, get Olson, or go after the superstar Freddie Freeman. At his point, Voit does not seem like the best option as we advance.