MLB Insider predicts Yankees’ off-season aggression in free agency

Alexander Wilson
aaron judge, yankees
Oct 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts after striking out against the Houston Astros during the eighth inning in game one of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees‘ entire off-season plan is completely predicated on the future of Aaron Judge. Will general manager Brian Cashman offer enough to convince Judge to remain in pinstripes? That is the big question, but the team has many other voids that require filling, notably in left field and a few big decisions in the infield.

One way or another, Cashman will have to spend money, specifically on Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and a starting left fielder to replace Aaron Hicks as an everyday option. Hicks has played his way right off the team, being benched regularly during the 2022 season before suffering an injury during the playoffs that knocked him out the rest of the way. He’s set to earn $10.5 million next season, so the Yankees may look to offload some of his contract and re-allocate the funds.

In fact, the Bombers have a number of ways to clear salary space, notably offloading Hicks and Josh Donaldson, who is set to earn $21 million next season. They could pay for the majority of Aaron Judge’s deal in 2023 that way, but it is unlikely they manage to get rid of their entire salaries.

However, with a new landscape following the Collective Bargaining Agreement last off-season, there is skepticism regarding teams’ willingness to spend aimlessly.

Many wonder how the MLB’s big hitters will approach the market, with Judge undoubtedly landing a monstrous deal, but will the Yankees push beyond that and continue spending on players like Justin Verlander?

This offseason amounts to the first test of the new landscape. And I’m not sure two of the game’s biggest spenders will act as we might expect. The Dodgers, believing they are deep in major-league talent, might only opt for high-end players they can sign to expensive short-term deals. The Yankees, in a similar position, might only go heavy on Judge.

Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic

The Yankees have the money to spend:

Rosenthal believes that after retaining their own, the Yankees will be a bit more conservative with their approach. The Bombers project to have $182.3 million in total payroll after arbitration, but that isn’t including retaining Judge, Rizzo, or signing a player like Andrew Benintendi. That will increase their payroll to around $255 million, and the team still needs a few depth pieces and pitching support.

Again, they can clear some money off the books and inject those funds into a short-term star like Verlander or try to acquire a catcher to help Jose Treviño or even compete with him.

As aforementioned, Cashman’s entire plan revolves around keeping or losing Judge, so once that domino falls, we will have more answers.