New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has been thinking about paying Aaron Judge for quite some time, as his caution played a significant part in his unwillingness to spend big during this past off-season. In fact, the team had a great opportunity to improve the shortstop position tremendously, with a bevy of elite-level players available on the open market.
Instead, the Yankees took a more cost-efficient approach, trading for Isiah Kiner-Falefa in a bigger deal with the Minnesota twins. IKF was traded from Texas to Minnesota and then to the Bronx in just a few days, but the Bombers were forced to take on the two years and $50 million remaining on Josh Donaldson’s contract.
One could argue that signing Carlos Correa would’ve been a more efficient move, considering he’s already opted out of his three-year deal with the Minnesota Twins.
Correa finished the 2022 season with a .291 average with a 36.6% on-base rate, including 22 homers and 64 RBIs. He remains an elite offensive player with incredible defensive qualities, but the Yankees simply missed out, despite Correa earning $35.1 million for the season.
Per Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the Yankees’ owner held back funds to improve the shortstop position:
But Hal Steinbrenner did not want to authorize the long-term mega-funds with a big payday looming for Aaron Judge. So the Yankees took a half measure. They decided to go for a stopgap until Oswaldo Peraza or Anthony Volpe were ready. They liked Kiner-Falefa, but couldn’t get him from Texas, who traded him to Minnesota. The Yanks could get him and a catcher whose defense they liked, Ben Rortvedt, but the blackmail was to take on Josh Donaldson’s two years at $50 million and prickly nature. So, lose-lose.
The Yankees mismanaged their funds a bit:
Considering the $25 million the Yankees ultimately paid Donaldson this season, they could’ve coughed up a little bit more and acquired Carlos to push them further in the playoffs.
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Nonetheless, that is not the direction the Bombers went, instead featuring IKF at shortstop for the majority of the 2022 season.
Across 142 games, he hit .261 with a 31.4% on-base rate, including four homers and 48 RBIs. He also stole 22 bases, a career-high. His offensive metrics aren’t terrible, despite not offering much in the slugging category and getting on base at a measly percentage. Defensively, he made some flashy plays but missed routine ground balls on occasion, which has shown up in the playoffs during inopportune moments.
Preparing for Judge’s deal:
Steinbrenner‘s decision revolved heavily around Judge and the monster contract he’s prepared to get in free agency. Coming off one of the best seasons in MLB history, the Yankees are likely kicking themselves, so they didn’t offer just a bit more to get the deal done.
Now, they’re looking at a substantial increase beyond $35 million per season. For a player that is 30 years old, a long-term contract could end up biting them in the butt, but they’ve been cornered and have lost all leverage since initial negotiations began. Someone is going to be Judge a handsome amount, and the Yankees seem remain the likely suitor.