The 2022 season had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for the New York Yankees. From Aaron Judge setting the American League home run record and the Yankees going 56-23 from April-June to getting swept by the Astros in the ALCS and only scoring 9 runs in 4 games.
Offensively, things were pretty solid for the Yankees. They finished top 5 in the league in runs, home runs, RBI, total bases, walks, OBP, SLG, and OPS. While the bats might have been hot for most of the season, they cooled down in the playoffs when they were needed most.
Defensively, the Yankees were also a top 5 overall defensive team according to Fangraphs.com which included two Gold Glove winners in Jose Trevino and DJ LeMahieu. To complement the defense, the Yankees saw some flashes of big-league experience from newcomers Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza as they were both called up this year.
The starting pitching was one of the biggest question marks this year for the Yankees, and this staff was going to need to be stellar in order to give the Yankees a chance at making a run. The Yankees staff finished top 10 in K/9, BB/9, HR/9, BABIP, ERA, and FIP.
With such stellar statistics all across the board, it might be tough to see why the Yankees didn’t make a better effort in the playoffs this year. However, that’s a different article for a different day.
Aaron Judge is without a doubt the biggest free agent name in all of baseball. After having the best season of his career and leading the American League in home runs with 62, Judge hit the free agent market at the perfect. After turning down a 7-year/$213.5M extension in March, Judge is at least listening to offers from multiple teams (as he rightfully should). I believe that Judge will land himself somewhere between the $35M-$40M AAV price range for around 7-9 years.
Some other notable free agents for the Yankees include Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Andrew Benintendi, and Jameson Taillon. I will go over later what I think should happen regarding free agents this offseason.
#1: Bring Back Judge. Now. Do it.
As the days go by, Judge is one day away from not becoming a Yankee in my opinion. I think that the Judge Yankee relationship is comparable to those of young people in today’s generation. The Yankees (and fans) love Judge and Judge loves the Yankees. However, there are always problems with every relationship, even the great ones. While Judge might love the city and the fans and the players, he loves to win, and regular-season wins don’t cut it anymore. It’s been years of just never closing, never finishing, and ultimately being disappointed. It’s like having a significant other who does the little things right and for the most part, is cool, but there’s just one thing where if they fixed it, things would be absolutely perfect.
Before you propose to this significant other and get locked down for the rest of your life, you start to think, “Maybe things are better somewhere else. Maybe I’ll find someone back in my home town can fill the holes.” That’s where the Giants come in. They have the money, they are close to his home where Judge grew up, and most importantly for Judge, they’re proven winners (at least more recently than the Yankees). This sounds like the perfect recipe for Judge. He could go there, however, what if they never win and he realizes things were okay in NY?
So before that happens, the Yankees need to open up the checkbooks and bring Judge back.
#2: Don’t be Afraid to Cut Ties
The Yankees bring guys from all over the league to help them win, and while some guys might be successful in this, there are a lot of cases where this isn’t the case. One of those cases is Josh Donaldson. Don’t get me wrong, Donaldson played a solid third base defensively. However, his offense was absolutely terrible and he was a liability at the plate, especially during the playoffs. Nobody on this amazing green earth would want that contract, so if getting rid of Donaldson means eating some of the contract, that is what needs to be done. See ya.
Adding to the list of people who need to leave is Aaron Hicks. He signed a 7 yr/$70M extension in 2019, but that contract needs to be cut short. Hicks hasn’t had a wRC+ over 100 since 2020, and his offense just isn’t good. The only reason he still gets innings in this lineup is because of his slightly above-average defense and the fact that he is a switch-hitter. Assuming the Yankees can resign Judge as well as another outfielder such as Benintendi or Brandon Nimmo, to go along with Harrison Bader and Oswaldo Cabrera, I think the Yankees wouldn’t be too bad without Hicks.
#3: Attack Free Agency
If the Yankees want to be the Yankees that the Yankees think they are, they need to go out and attack free agency. Obviously, resign Judge. Okay now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to other signings that need to happen.
The first thing that needs to be done is to get an outfielder. That may mean bringing back Benintendi (which seems like the better/easier option) or going out and getting another free agent like Nimmo, Conforto, or (and stay with me here) Bellinger. Bellinger is 27 years old, and the Yankees have money to blow. If you can somehow fix him, he would thrive in Yankee Stadium.
After losing Jordan Montgomery in the Bader trade, it seems that the trade might not have been the best and the Yankees may need to add to their rotation. Bader was solid, so it is no knock on him, but Montgomery was a great piece of the rotation, so to let him walk really hurt. Another starting pitcher would only benefit Cortes and Cole, and there are a few premier guys the Yankees have a legitimate shot at getting. A few of these names I believe should include Rodon, Bassitt, and Manaea.
Sticking with the pitching, it looks as if Chapman’s time with the Yankees might be coming to a close. The addition of Scott Effross helped tremendously, and it looks like Clay Holmes is going to take over as the closer moving forward. If the Yankees can sign two more big arms like Luke Weaver, Danny Duffy, or Taylor Rogers, they can solidify themselves as one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.
Last but not least is the catcher position. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Jose Trevino. His defense was so refreshing after having to put up with Gary Sanchez for the past few years. Trevino took control of the starters and seem to be able to handle anyone who threw to him. However, with Sean Murphy on the market, I think this is someone that the Yankees NEED to go after. He is only 27 and in 2 seasons has 35 home runs to go along with 3 out of 4 seasons with an OPS + of over 100 (in the fourth season he had a 98 OPS+). Murphy is a good enough catcher defensively with a plus bat that needs to be in Yankee Stadium.
Even though I listed a ton of changes that need to happen this year, I truly do believe the Yankees are in a good spot to make a run. However, I feel like I, as well as most Yankee fans, say this every year. It all starts with a Judge contract. If he stays, that sends a message to free agents and other teams around the league that the Yankees are for real and they want to win.
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