The New York Yankees aggressively moved to solve their major outfield problems this off-season. They landed Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo earlier this week and then traded for superstar slugger Juan Soto the very next day. The Yankees had to shred their farm system of pitchers and sent an MLB-ready rotation arm in Michael King to the San Diego Padres in the process.
As Aaron Judge said via Fox on Thursday, they aren’t done making moves, and the expectation is they are looking to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto in free agency. However, general manager Brian Cashman spoke to the media, making some bold projections and displaying the team’s aggressive nature this off-season to compete for a World Series.
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The Yankees Have a Brand New Outfield
Many are questioning what the outfield alignment will be in 2024, but Cashman made it clear that Judge will likely start in centerfield, barring some significant change. That would slot Verdugo into LF and Soto into RF, where they can hide his defensive liabilities.
“If today was opening day, Judge would be out in center field.”
The 31-year-old slugger is coming off of a down season that was hampered by a toe injury. Despite missing over 50 games, Judge still managed to hit .267/.406/6.13, including 37 homers, 75 RBIs, and a 174 wRC+. By all accounts, Judge was still a tremendous offensive asset and projects to be insanely productive alongside Soto.
Defensively, Judge played 573.1 innings in the outfield, including 134 in center. He hosted a perfect fielding percentage in CF, posting -1 defensive run saved and one out above average, essentially breakeven defense. He is a fine centerfielder who has good range and one of the best arms in baseball.
Obviously, the Yankees may prefer to limit his mobility to a degree since his probability of injury increases significantly playing in CF. The toe injury was a freak accident, and Cashman said it’s an issue that’s been “resolved,” so Judge should be ready to go and has no repetitive or lingering issues in his wake. The Yankees should have a high-octane offense because of their outfield in 2024, which certainly couldn’t be said about their 2023 unit.