Yankees Mock Free Agency: Retaining Judge and building a contender

jacob degrom, mets
Aug 7, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Simply retaining Aaron Judge isn’t enough for the New York Yankees to build a World Series-caliber roster next season. Essentially, they would be keeping everything the same minus a few players they’ve lost to free agency, so continuing to add pieces is a necessity. Even Judge has already indicated that he wishes to get his contract out of the way sooner rather than later so the team he signs for can continue being aggressive.

If that is a condition Judge predicates his decision on, owner Hal Steinbrenner will need to pony up and splash some cash this off-season to fix weaker positions. Retaining Judge, signing a left-fielder, and adding a starter to the rotation would go a long way toward rounding out the roster for the 2023 season.

It seems as if the Bombers are committed to Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, so taking up two infield spots at a cheaper price but should open up Brian Cashman’s financial flexibility, but we’ve seen the Yankees take a more conservative approach in the past.

If the Yankees do want to save a bit of money and go after the top tier of players in baseball, there are a few options available that could make sense.

Yankees Mock Free Agency:

Sign: Aaron Judge

Judge reportedly has an eight-year, $300 million deal on the table from the Yankees. That would pay him $37.5 million per season, $2 million more than the historic deal Mike Trout signed with the Los Angeles Angels.

Coming off one of the best seasons in the history of the game, Judge has earned every penny of the contract he’s about to land. The injury concerns are well behind him, and his slugging prowess can elevate a team to playoff contention.

Retaining him is priority No. 1 for the Yanks, and it seems as if they’re in the lead to retain his services.

Sign: Jacob deGrom

If the Yankees have to pick between Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander, they may settle for the 34-year-old instead of the 39-year-old veteran coming off a Cy Young award this past season. Both deGrom and Verlander are in line to land contracts in a 2–3 year range, with elevated money.

Some project that deGrom could land anywhere between $32–40 million per season, whereas Verlander wants $40+ million on a Max Scherzer type of deal.

Despite deGrom’s injury issues the past few seasons, having last pitched over 100 innings in 2019, he’s one of the best starters in baseball when healthy. He would likely make a bit less than Verlander because of those injuries, so the Yankees might be able to take a shot with fewer years and justifiably less money, given the risk.

Over 64.1 innings in 2022, deGrom posted a 3.08 ERA and 14.27 strikeouts per nine. He was clearly bothered by the issue and needed to be shut down for the rest of the regular season. He made one postseason appearance for the Mets, pitching six innings and earning a 3.00 ERA in the process. deGrom has five playoff appearances to his name and has been dominant for the most part, as expected.

The Yankees really can’t go wrong between deGrom or Verlander, but going for the younger of the two, who might cost a bit less but makes sense if they’re trying to pinch pennies after retaining judge.

Sign: Andrew Benintendi

The Yankees need a starting left-fielder with Andrew Benintendi hitting free agency and Aaron Hicks well beyond his best years. Both Benintendi and Masataka Yoshida will likely cost in the same realm of about $15 million per season, but the former of the two has plenty of MLB experience.

Yoshida is a risk coming from the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, so Benintendi is ultimately the safer option. This past campaign, Benintendi hit .304 with a 37.3% on-base rate, five homers, and 51 RBIs. He posted a 10% walk rate and 14.8% strike-out rate, providing solid defensive qualities and elite contact hitting.

Ultimately, with his plethora of postseason experience and proven track record, the Yankees know exactly what they’re getting in the 28-year-old lefty. With that being said, Cashman will likely be in the market for guarantees instead of big money risks like Yoshida.