Yankees Rumors: Free agency plan if Aaron Judge departs is depressing

Aaron Judge (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
Aaron Judge (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images) /

After the New York Yankees tried their “best and final offer” on Aaron Judge last offseason, the slugger responded to Brian Cashman’s overtures with the Walk Year of All Walk Years, threatening MLB’s all-time home run marks while also chasing the Triple Crown.

Needless to say, retaining Judge will be the team’s top priority this offseason, though there are plenty of big-market teams, from the Red Sox to the Mets to the Giants, lurking in the distance, potentially preparing high-dollar offers that Hal Steinbrenner will not match.

Losing Judge after a season like this would be a significant hit to morale, no matter how it’s sliced. At the very least, though, it would remove a long-term commitment from the Yankees’ ledger and allow them to chase two or three other top-tier free agents who could mimic Judge’s production across the diamond, deepening the Yankees’ lineup.

Or they could, uh, not do that.

According to MLB insider Ken Rosenthal, they’re not going to do that. Apparently, the 2013-14 offseason playbook scared the Yankees away from ever replacing a Robinson Cano-type talent with three or four lesser All-Stars. If the Yanks lose Judge, they’re zipping straight to the youth movement.

…OK, fine, they’re probably zipping straight to the Brian Roberts Movement.

Will Yankees pursue top shortstops if Aaron Judge leaves? Nope.

If this report made your head spin uncontrollably, then nod in agreement, then froth in anger again, you’re not alone. It’s an odd one, with many layers. Like a weird onion!

First, the idea that Isiah Kiner-Falefa absolutely must be accommodated, which could potentially lead to all-world prospect Anthony Volpe switching positions, is mind-boggling. Volpe, and Oswald Peraza, were both held onto last offseason — during the Carlos Correa/Corey Seager/Marcus Semien/Trevor Story/Javier Baez free agency cycle — because the team viewed them so highly as dueling “shortstops of the future.” IKF was supposed to be a stopgap option until one, or both, was ready to take over. And stop that gap, he did! He’s been much better lately, too. But if Peraza can play short and Volpe can play second — or vice versa — why wouldn’t DJ LeMahieu shift to third and make IKF the utility guy he was meant to be?

And if Volpe and Peraza aren’t getting a shot at short in 2023, as both round into form, when is that shot coming? And if neither’s getting a shot next year, why not spend on Correa/Swanson/Turner if Judge is gone?! How many years will go by without a true shortstop on the roster?

All that being said … doesn’t this make you a bit more confident Judge will return? If the team isn’t entertaining backup plans and pu pu platters at all? That they don’t believe any of their money stash will need to go to Turner and Xander Bogaerts because they know full well they’ll be raking in the big fish, with endless infield prospects (Trey Sweeney, too) on the horizon?

Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and the Yankees have gone spendthrift on us before at the most inopportune times. But this seems like they’re entering the Judge pursuit without a safety net. In that case, they’d better finish with the highest offer.

And if they don’t? Peraza and Volpe, please.