New York Yankees‘ owner Hal Steinbrenner took decisive action at the trade deadline in early August. With the team in turmoil and the front office struggling to make effective decisions, Steinbrenner intervened, halting all trade discussions and giving the Yankees a chance to regroup.
True to Steinbrenner’s prediction, September provided some clarity. The young prospects stepped up, leading an impressive win streak and solidifying their potential for the 2024 season and beyond.
A Promise to Aaron Judge
Steinbrenner made a significant commitment last off-season by offering slugger Aaron Judge a nine-year, $360 million deal. As part of this commitment, he promised to build a Championship-worthy team around Judge. At 31, time isn’t on Judge’s side. Though still delivering awe-inspiring performances few can match, the Yankees must be proactive this off-season.
Steinbrenner’s decision to bring in a third party to assess the team’s strategies and past decisions, from trades to minor-league development, is strategic. This objective analysis will guide the Yankees’ future decision-making, ensuring that they deliver on their commitment to Judge.
“That’s why I came back to New York with this group of guys, to build something and get New York back to where it’s supposed to be. When you don’t show up and produce and get kicked out like this in the regular season, that’s a big failure right there. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of internal talks, a lot of stuff we’ve got to get figured out.”
Given that Judge may only have a limited number of peak performance years left, it’s crucial for the Yankees to maximize this window of opportunity, especially in their pursuit of another World Series title.
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Judge’s Challenging Season
Despite facing challenges, including a significant right big toe ligament injury sidelining him for over 50 games, Judge’s stats remain remarkable. Boasting a .269 average, a .407 OBP, and a .622 slugging rate, he achieved 37 homers, 75 RBIs, a 28.5% strikeout rate, a 19.1% walk rate, and a wRC+ of 177. Notably, this season saw Judge achieve his career’s highest walk rate, and he was on track to hit 56 homers over 157 games before his injury.
Had he continued, Judge might have even surpassed his own 2022 record. As fans eagerly await the next season, there’s hope he will offer another MVP-level performance.
Opting against off-season surgery, Judge is taking a holistic approach to recovery. He’s managing persistent toe pain and continues to play even as the Yankees were ruled out of the playoff contention.
An Aggressive Approach Ahead for the Yankees?
If there’s any indicator that the Yankees will be assertive in free agency, it’s the undeniable fact that with an MVP-quality player like Judge and Gerrit Cole, a potential Cy Young Award winner, on their roster, they have the foundation for greatness. Not capitalizing on the prime years of these two superstar talents would be an oversight, and Steinbrenner is undoubtedly aware of that.