Though it feels criminal to even mention with the New York Yankees in the ALDS at the moment, there’s no avoiding the Aaron Judge free agency discussion. His contract will expire in a few weeks and any team will be free to sign him.
Most insiders/pundits/experts believe he has the best chance to return to the Yankees, but have cited other possible threats that could very well sway the AL Home Run King to depart New York. All it’s going to take is a disrespectful offer from general manager Brian Cashman to send it all spiraling.
But even with a competitive offer, it’s very possible the Yankees don’t offer the most money. They’re already going to have a high payroll for the 2023 season and will probably cap their offer to Judge, which could leave the door open for other clubs with more room for financial aggression.
Giants? Cubs? Dodgers? Mariners? Mets? Can’t rule them out. Free agency surprises us each and every year. The Yankees know that, which is why they’ve reportedly been considering some contingency plans in the event Judge leaves.
One of the possibilities, per MLB insider Mark Feinsand, is pairing Gerrit Cole with Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
Yankees Rumors: Jacob deGrom to replace Aaron Judge on New York’s payroll in 2023?
Judge could very well be a $40 million AAV player when all is said and done. That would essentially mean, in this scenario, deGrom would be replacing him on the payroll. Only one problem, though!
The value deGrom would bring to the pitching staff is not equal to the offensive value Judge brings to the Yankees. The theoretical high-profile addition of deGrom would elevate the starting rotation to new heights, but wouldn’t do enough to cancel out the lost offense (Judge has been worth a 16.6 WAR over the last two years).
Judge quite literally carried the offense in 2022. If the Yankees are going to lose him, they can’t be spending the equivalent on a single starting pitcher. They need multiple players filling important roles with the money he would’ve made. Some agents have prognosticated deGrom’s next contract to be colossal, too.
So that’s $41.6 million, $46.6 million and $45 million per year. deGrom’s made 38 starts since the beginning of 2020 (out of a possible ~76). Is this really where the Yankees want to invest their “big fish” money? After losing the league’s best offensive player? As valuable as deGrom is, we’ve seen him rendered useless plenty of times behind inadequate Mets offenses.
Nobody would be sitting here complaining if deGrom was among the Judge replacement plans, but perhaps it’s best to talk as many out as possible before reality looms. The 2022 Yankees had a very good pitching staff, but in the end would’ve been a fringe playoff team had Judge not carried the roster from start to finish. That value would need to be replaced.