As the Yankees find themselves rapidly running out of time to enhance their offense and make significant improvements that would increase their chances of a World Series victory, General Manager Brian Cashman is all too aware of the team’s need for Aaron Judge. There’s growing optimism that Judge could return around the weekend to bolster the struggling offense.
Judge left the team with a commendable .291 batting average and a .404 OBP, along with a 187 wRC+ under his belt. Despite his absence, he remains the team’s highest home run scorer with 19, and he was shaping another MVP-worthy season. Without him, the Yankees have noticeably struggled to score runs and secure victories.
Cashman’s Ideal Scenario: Boosting the Team’s Offense
In an ideal world, Cashman would simultaneously secure a powerful batter through a trade and welcome Judge back to the team, thereby transforming the team’s offensive narrative. Cody Bellinger, currently with the Chicago Cubs, who are trailing seven games in the NL Central and five games behind in a Wild Card spot, remains one of the primary targets in the market.
The Cubs are likely to sell off some pieces at the deadline, making Bellinger one of their most valuable assets.
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Cody Bellinger: The Perfect Fit for Yankee Stadium
Bellinger, a 28-year-old lefty, fits the Yankee Stadium profile perfectly, with his 14 home runs this year and ability to exploit the short right porch. He boasts a .319 batting average and a .369 OBP, with 44 RBIs and a 144 wRC+, his career’s second-best.
In July, Bellinger has performed exceptionally well, hitting .452 with a .475 OBP, a .795 slugging percentage, and a 1.270 OPS. He’s the hottest player currently, despite some inconsistency throughout the season. The Yankees are keen to secure the elite Bellinger, reminiscent of his 2019 performance with a .305 batting average and a .406 OBP.
Bellinger’s Contract and Defensive Value
Bellinger’s current contract, which includes a 2024 mutual option at $12 million, is set to expire soon. Should the Yankees acquire him from the Cubs, it’s likely they would extend his contract considering his young age of 28 and his fitting presence in the outfield.
Bellinger brings more to the table than just his left-handed batting; he’s also recognized for his defensive capabilities. This season, he has clocked 478.1 innings in the outfield, achieving a .993 fielding percentage with three outs above average.
The Potential Role of Bellinger in the Yankees Lineup
Experienced in every outfield spot but with the most exposure in the center field, Bellinger could be an ideal replacement for Harrison Bader, should the Yankees not renew his contract. Moreover, Bellinger’s extensive experience of over 2,000 innings at first base suggests he could transition to this position to replace Anthony Rizzo once his contract expires after the 2024 season.
The Yankees’ interest in Bellinger has been apparent for months. As the saying goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.” Given Bellinger’s current hot streak, Chicago would undoubtedly want a substantial return, but his expiring contract limits how much they can realistically demand.