In what was arguably the worst (or actually, best?) timing, this past weekend it was revealed Washington Nationals star Juan Soto rejected a $440 million contract extension from the team and will now be subject to trade talks between now and the Aug. 2 deadline.
Of course, the New York Yankees were mentioned among the few teams capable of pulling off a blockbuster deal due to their deep farm system and financial strength to offer the 23-year-old an (eventual) $500 million contract.
Naturally, on Monday prior to the Home Run Derby while the stars were out talking to the media, Aaron Judge was asked about the possibility of playing alongside the 2019 World Series champ even though there seems to be a clear conflict with Judge remaining in New York should Soto be acquired.
Nonetheless, Judge’s diplomatic demeanor was front and center as he handled the questions with grace and did nothing but compliment Soto for his accomplishments (despite the fact they both play the same position, Judge is in a contract year, and the Soto trade buzz is the realest it’s ever been).
Sadly, it feels like Judge hasn’t been able to truly enjoy his time in Los Angeles between this and the contract extension questions. But he’s handling it all pretty well, it seems.
Yankees’ Aaron Judge comments on Juan Soto trade speculation
Judge responded to two separate questions about Soto and had only positive things to say, even joking that he hopes the young slugger doesn’t end up on a team the Yankees have to play a lot down the stretch.
As for the two stars sharing an outfield, a lot has been wondered in regard to that. Soto isn’t exactly a premier defender and was actually moved to right field on a full-time basis in 2021 (he started his career as a left fielder and played some right field during the shortened 2020 before the Nationals made the switch).
Unfortunately, he might be even worse after the change. Per FanGraphs, Soto owns a -9.7 Defensive rating in 2022 to go along with -4 Defensive Runs Saved and -8 Outs Above Average. Per Baseball-Reference, he’s accumulated a -0.7 dWAR so far this season. This comes after a fairly successful 2021 stint on the defensive front, too (-1.1 Def, 4 DRS, 5 OAA, -0.2 dWAR).
Judge, by far, is the superior right fielder and should remain there if he re-signs with the Yankees and Soto is acquired before the trade deadline or in the offseason. Perhaps Soto can benefit from playing some more left field, where he was beginning to show promise in 2019 (0.7 Def, 2 DRS, 7 OAA and -0.5 dWAR) before he was introduced to right field.
In the end, there’s no denying the impact of his bat, which is arguably the best in the game from an all-around production standpoint. One of the few others in that discussion? Judge … who also happens to be an elite defender.
This pairing would certainly work, whether it’s with Judge in right or Judge in center with Soto in left or Soto in right. It’s just a matter of whether the Yankees want to give up the farm, surrender a $500 million contract, and potentially sour their relationship with their franchise player.