It’s easy to get swept up in Yankees Offseason Mania, especially after a disappointing season with all the wrong chemistry.
Odds are Brian Cashman is given the green light from Hal Steinbrenner to spend this offseason, and spend he will to fill any number of holes. But David Cone wants to make sure that, during this chaotic process, Cash doesn’t pass up the chance to reward one of the very few sure things that’s already residing in his backyard.
Because, in reality, this whole offseason — and the “reopened” window to come — flows from Aaron Judge. Every offensive addition will be made to give Judge a better chance to lead a World Series run, and will insure against any potential injuries. Any lefty bat Cashman imports will balance out Judge’s middle-of-the-order contributions from the other side.
So, if Judge is still the anchor … how can New York justify spending lump sums on Corey Seager, Justin Verlander or former enemy Carlos Correa without also rewarding their centerpiece? Or, perhaps Judge isn’t their anchor, which is also a fairly huge decision that has to be made.
Cone made it clear on the Talkin’ Yanks podcast that this whole offseason should begin when New York’s braintrust decides to either extend or dangle Judge.
Are the Yankees going to need to take care of Aaron Judge before anything else?
"“You need to decide,” Cone said, “if Aaron Judge is going to be your guy, you get him under control, under a contract negotiated with him, get it settled. That sets a ripple effect all the way down. Because if Aaron Judge is not going to be a Yankee, if he’s not in your plans, then right now is the time to trade him, too, if you’re a front office and you determine that as well and you’ve got some sort of monster deal out there.”"
All that talk of chemistry issues last season, and we kind of, sort of forgot that it doesn’t set the best standard when the de facto captain only has one year left on his deal. Maybe we were too focused, when the season wrapped, on Brett Gardner’s pranks and Joey Gallo’s pants? We missed this concern?
The bottom line is, the Yankees have a special talent in Aaron Judge, and even the teams that trade talents like this for “hauls” never get the full value back. The Red Sox probably go to the World Series this year with Mookie Betts instead of Alex Verdugo, even if their fans have been brain poisoned into the opposite opinion. And that’s one of the best returns a team has gotten in a trade like this.
If the Yanks trade Judge two years after we cackled at Boston for doing the same with Betts, we’ll be extremely disappointed. But whatever the outcome is, it needs to precede a Matt Olson trade or any shortstop signing. We hope the team believes Judge is The Guy and that Judge believes in the vision enough to stay.
If not, though? It’s clearer where some of the 2021 rot was coming from. I wouldn’t want to lead a team that didn’t believe in me, either.