What are the 2021 New York Yankees?
Are they a contender? Are they anywhere close to approaching the postseason ceiling that was forecast for them? Or are they utterly stuck in the middle, a five-man roster of stars with 20 pieces of expendable filler?
They should have all the information they need to make a decision in about a month’s time when the All-Star break approaches. If they’re still down in the dumps at that point, anyone attending the game in Colorado in a Yankees jersey should be constantly refreshing Twitter to see if they’re headed elsewhere.
Yes, even Aaron Judge.
We’re well aware by now that the Yankees will not even entertain something like this, and the reality is more complex than the hypothetical.
But Judge has a year and a half left under contract before the Bombers have to entertain a high-dollar extension, and if they want to avoid a dramatic, last-gasp, Mookie Betts-esque negotiation fiasco, they’ll want to get their ducks in order well before then.
At this point, Judge is playing as well as he has since his rookie year of 2017, both in terms of ability and availability. Most extremely rich franchises would see this as a prime opportunity to reward their de facto captain, and worry about the financial implications later — again, of which there are none, because this team makes profit hand over fist.
But will the Yankees? Or will they instead look at a roster competing under far fewer budgetary restrictions than the Rays, yet falling well short of their mark, and decide drastic change is necessary? Will Hal Steinbrenner decide that investing $35 million annually into Judge, when the team is already struggling to win while paying him well less than that, isn’t good business, no matter the interpersonal implications?
We’re not saying a Judge trade could or should happen in the coming weeks. But if the current ownership group wants to be explosive instead of passive, these three trades could blow up the deadline.
Yankees: 3 Aaron Judge trades that could blow up the deadline.
Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani #26 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates with catcher Buster Posey #28 (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
3. Aaron Judge to the San Francisco Giants
We’ve been eyeing the Bay Area as a potential free agency destination for Judge for a long while, simply because he might want to head home after a difficult tenure in New York, and because the only way he’d possibly be allowed to leave would be if his time out East had ended in difficult fashion.
Coming off an MVP season and a World Series win, the Yankees would never let him go. Coming off discontent? Judge might seek comfort in the familiar.
We also figured the Giants would be in a position to spend big next offseason, commensurate with Farhan Zaidi’s timeline for contention. However … nobody asked the Giants’ players about that timeline, and bounce back seasons from Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have this feeling like 2012 again, with San Francisco among the quickest teams to 40 wins.
Wouldn’t Zaidi prefer a year and a half of Judge in right field to supplement his close-to-contending core, rather than paying him big bucks to break down as an expensive import in his mid-30s? Plus, who could argue with a reunion with Mike Tauchman (holding back nausea as I write this)?
As far as we can tell, something like this would take a veteran big leaguer like Giants RF Mike Yastrzemski, controlled through 2025. A Yaz playing for the Yanks? That might be the only thing stranger than an Aaron Judge trade. Presumably, the Bombers would also ask for top prospect catcher Joey Bart or outfielder Heliot Ramos, the team’s No. 2 and 3 prospects, per MLB Pipeline. Add in another top 10 name — 6-11 righty Sean Hjelle? — and you might have a deal.