The New York Yankees have their right fielder of the future locked up in Aaron Judge -- or is he a center fielder? Left fielder? Why's he going over there?
No matter where he roams, Judge will be a Yankee for life, with a nine-year captaincy term still ahead of him (at least). But how will the Yankees fill the rest of the outfield during his tenure? International signee Jasson Dominguez and 2022 first-rounder Spencer Jones both seem extremely promising, but neither has more than one full year of minor league experience to date (and neither is a slam-dunk center fielder).
If both Jones and Dominguez (and perhaps Everson Pereira) pan out -- great! Having too many star outfielders is a great problem -- or, at least, it's a considerably better one than,"Who the hell's the left fielder for a contending team?"
In the interest of insuring against multiple prospect busts, the Yankees should probably sniff out a perfect long-term fit when one falls into their laps. Hard-hustling Bronxville native Harrison Bader would seem to qualify, especially considering he has elite "fourth outfielder" potential on the oft chance that the Yankees' prospects all surpass their ceilings and he takes a step back.
MLB insider Jon Heyman certainly agrees with the premise that Bader works best in the Bronx, and posited a pre-season extension in his column this week. Count us in.
Do Yankees have a Harrison Bader extension in them before 2023 season?
According to Heyman, the Yankees didn't initiate talks with Bader this winter -- and, you know what? Fair. He played just a handful of September games for them before taking off in October.
That said, everything about him screams "Yankee," and in casual conversation, the stud defender seems to agree he's finally where he belongs:
"Bader is the near perfect guy to sign. He’s a dynamo in center, one of the best in the game, which is something Yankees honchos value. And he hits in the clutch. Center fielders are hard to come by, and with generally mundane regular-season numbers (almost irrelevant to the Yankees), perhaps he’d be a potential bargain. What really matters around here is October baseball. Bader lit up the scoreboard in the postseason, posting a 1.235 OPS. He loves it here, another big plus. When I offhandedly mentioned he’s no longer a Cardinal, their spring opponent Wednesday, and now a Yankee, Bader, who speaks in perfect paragraphs, succinctly said, 'Let’s keep it that way.'"- Jon Heyman
Let's. Keep. It. That. Way.
After so many years of trying to fit square pegs into the spotlight, the Yankees have finally found themselves an elite defender up the middle who elevates himself in the moments that matter most -- and, oh, by the way, he loves to put on for his city.
He's not here for a paycheck, but the Yankees should probably give him one anyway, especially if there's an ever-rare hometown discount to be had.