The Yankees took care of re-signing their top priority in Aaron Judge, so what's next?
In the end, Aaron Judge wanted to finish his career with the New York Yankees more than join his hometown-ish San Francisco Giants. Judge has agreed to remain with the Yankees on a massive nine-year, $360 million contract. He reportedly turned down a similar offer from the Giants and the San Diego Padres were a late entrant in the Judge sweepstakes as well.
With Judge back, the Yankees can now move on to other offseason matters. To date, this winter they've re-signed Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and signed Tommy Kahnle. Essentially, all the Yankees front office has done so far is reassemble the 2022 team. Now they have to add pieces as they look to get over the hump and win a championship.
Here are the three major items remaining on the Yankees’ off-season to-do list:
1. Find a New Left Fielder
The Yankees are set in right field with Judge and in center with Harrison Bader, but left field is wide open. They started nine different players in this position in 2022, including three players at least 30 times each, and then went on to start three different players in left for their nine postseason games. Andrew Benintendi's wrist surgery had the Yankees in scramble mode in left field late in the season and he currently remains available as a free agent. The Yankees are rumored to have interest in re-signing him.
Here are the top unsigned free agent outfielders ranked by by WAR (Wins Above Replacement):
Brandon Nimmo: 4.7 WAR
Andrew Benintendi: 2.3 WAR
Brandon Drury: 1.7 WAR
Michael Conforto: 1.6 WAR
Recently, Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Bryan Reynolds requested a trade, and while the team is under no obligation to trade him, the Yankees have had interest in Reynolds in the past and do again now. It'll cost a lot to get him, but quality switch-hitters with strong defensive chops and three years of control are certainly worth acquiring.
2. Bring in Another Starter
The Yankees rotation has been above-average the last two years, but there's always room for improvement, especially after losing the steady Jameson Taillon to free agency.
The Yankees have been connected to free agent southpaw Carlos Rodón, the best unsigned starter, throughout the offseason. Rodón is said to be seeking a six-year contract worth $180 million and given the pitching contracts we've seen handed out this offseason, that is in no way unreasonable. Chris Bassitt and Nathan Eovaldi are the best remaining free agent starters behind Rodón.
At the moment, the Yankees have All-Star and breakout lefty Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas slotted in behind Cole in the rotation. Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt are candidates for the No. 5 spot. New York doesn't necessarily need to add another starter, but that No. 5 spot can definitely be upgraded.
3. Figure Out the Left Side of the Infield
In early 2022, the Yankees swung a five-player trade with the Minnesota Twins that sent shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Bronx. Kiner-Falefa played inconsistent defense and didn't hit much this past season and Donaldson was starting to show his age at that plate. That means the left side of the infield is a question mark right now.
This is not a crisis situation because the Yankees have two premium shortstop prospects in Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. Peraza debuted in September and saw some action in the postseason, and Volpe reached Triple-A earlier this year.
Volpe projects as an above-average hitter who can contribute in each of the slash line categories. Defensively, he'll have to continue to prove that he can make all the plays at short despite a below-average arm.
Unless the Yankees intend to spend big for one of the remaining free agent shortstops, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, or Dansby Swanson, they'll probably stick with their current infield core. They then must decide whether to play the Donaldson and Kiner-Falefa tandem, or give the kids, including Cabrera, an extended look. Either way, a decision needs to be made about the left side of the infield.
Re-signing Judge was priority No. 1 for the Yankees this offseason and now that that's out of the way, they can move on to other matters and focus on improving the team. Left field is a glaring need and adding another starting pitcher is never a bad idea. The left side of the infield needs work too, though the Yankees do have good internal options.
Judge getting back was an important offseason goal. Now the Yankees have to improve the roster around him.