Aaron Judge has established himself as the game's premier right fielder since 2017, but during this upcoming season, the Judge's Chambers might have to uproot themselves for most of the first half.
After the Yankees acquired Juan Soto (right fielder/ultimately a DH), Alex Verdugo (right fielder/left fielder?) and Trent Grisham (center fielder/right fielder?), both Judge and Giancarlo Stanton seemed likely to be affected. Considering the abundance of outfielders, it's odd that there isn't a natural center fielder among them; that would lend itself to the uncomfortable outcome of Judge starting often in center, then shifting over in the late innings for Grisham to relieve him.
Stanton, who's locked down the DH spot for a half-decade, will likely have to cede reps to Soto, something that might be more of a long-term concern if the Yankees' newest import re-signs (and something that also might settle itself if Stanton continues to regress and remain unhealthy). In the meantime, though, while Jasson Dominguez recovers from Tommy John surgery and Harrison Bader patrols Citi Field, the Yankees have been left without a center fielder, leaving the 32-year-old Judge to cross his legs and absorb the burden.
According to Aaron Boone, though, that might not be Judge's only shift. He's also approached his star slugger about playing some left field, which would help ... something? Overall, that feels like muddling more than it feels like clarity.
Yankees might ask Aaron Judge to play left field
Judge will, of course, say yes when pressed. He's already demonstrated he's willing to do anything for the good of the team. Frankly, center field is the stretch for Judge, something we've all accepted he's going to have to do 60+ times next season. Left field should be a walk in the park (and, presumably, Trent Grisham/Dominguez will then roam center?).
Boone noted, too, that more days in center field mean more days (in between) at DH for Judge as he rests and recovers. Putting undue stress on the 6'7" behemoth is a less-than-ideal solution, but it's possible he'll cover some left field in the process of said recovery.
While Judge has never occupied the position in a game that counts, he did slide over to left in spring training briefly last season. In limited reps, he looked like a comfortable mirror image of his familiar right field self.
The less experimentation the Yankees do with Judge this season, the better off they'll be.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, less Judge in left means more Judge in center, so most of the outcomes here are unpalatable. Hopefully, the lineup mashes enough for everyone to forget about the wonky puzzle pieces.