If the New York Yankees end up losing Aaron Judge to free agency, alternative strategies can be implemented to help supplement his production on both sides of the ball.
Realistically, Judge isn’t going to replicate the numbers he put on the field in 2022, but likely settle in around his 2021 metrics. He hit .287 with a 37.3% on-base rate, including 39 homers and 98 RBIs, still justifying the massive contract extension he’s about to land from out of the Yankees or the San Francisco Giants, who seem to be the most aggressive.
However, the best alternative in the outfield if Judge does walk is Bryan Reynolds, who requested a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend.
The 27-year-old Reynolds’ services would be sought after if the Pirates were to explore trade options. The Giants, Mets, Yankees, and Rays could all use center fielders. The Bombers may pivot toward the Vanderbilt product if 2022 AL MVP Aaron Judge chooses to sign elsewhere.Per Colin Loughran of the NY Post.
The Yankees have great options wherever they turn:
The Yankees have been connected to Reynolds in the past, and considering their vacant left and right field positions in this scenario, he would slide in easily and become a focal point moving forward. In fact, it would be extremely affordable given the Pirates have three years left of team control which would transition over to the Yankees if traded.
At 27 years old, Reynolds hit .262 with a 34.5% on-base rate this past season, including 27 homers and 62 RBIs. Those numbers are down from his 2021 totals, hitting .302 with a 39% on-base rate, 24 homers, and 90 RBIs. He struck out at 23% this past season with a 9.1% walk rate but put together another stellar offensive campaign.
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Traditionally Reynolds is an extremely poor centerfielder but can shift overto left or right seamlessly. He may transition over to the right side in the scenario that Judge leaves, opening up the possibility of retaining Benintendi in LF.
The concept of acquiring Reynolds is obviously great, but they would have to give up a massive haul in return. Specifically, three top prospects would likely be on their way, including Oswald Peraza, Everson Pereira, and Austin Wells. The package would include the Yankees’ starting shortstop next season, one of their top outfield prospects, and a solid lefty catcher with a ton of upside.
Nonetheless, trading Peraza would open up the idea of signing one of the top shortstops on the market, which is where Xander Bogaerts comes into play. Bogaerts, a 30-year-old free agent coming from the Boston Red Sox, is one of the top infielders on the market.
This past season, Bogaerts hit .307 with a 37.7% on-base rate, 15 homers, and 73 RBIs. He’s hit double-digit homers every season since 2015 and hasn’t had a strikeout right above 19% since 2014, his rookie campaign.
Given he’s also a fantastic defensive player, Bogaerts could situate himself at shortstop and eventually transition to another spot when Anthony Volpe is ready to make the jump to the majors.
There’s a good argument to make that this Aaron Judge alternative might end up being more beneficial since the Yankees would lock down their infield and gain an above-average outfielder in the process. Those two combined would supplement the offensive loss of Judge and at a much cheaper price point.
Bogaerts is expected to land a deal worth around $28 million per season over eight years, so the longevity of the contract would match up closely with Judge but at over $10 million less.
Obviously, the Yankees would prefer to keep their homegrown talent in pinstripes and show that loyalty, but to be quite honest, there are other strategies they could implement that may bolster the team even more.
Since Reynolds would be relatively cheap with more service time left before hitting free agency, the Yankees could then add one of the top starting pitchers in the market as well. Looking at a haul of Reynolds, Bogaerts, Benintendi and still have the financial capabilities to add Carlos Rodon in the process.