Yankees' Aaron Judge promises he's 'not done' playing risky position

2023 BBWAA Dinner
2023 BBWAA Dinner / Michelle Farsi/GettyImages

New York Yankees reigning MVP Aaron Judge signed a nine-year deal to be a Yankee for Life this offseason. That means his future is secure; no matter what projections say or what curveballs reality has for the 6-7 slugger, he won't have to worry about self-preservation for free agency any longer.

That means 2022's extreme risk might just be a way of life for Judge moving forward, who'll do anything it takes to help the team ... and who dominated in center field when called upon last season.

Based on Judge's reaction to playing center this offseason, it seems like he may have enthusiastically volunteered rather than tripping into the role.

Conventional wisdom has foretold Judge remaining in right moving forward for the duration of his Yankees contract. After all, it's his natural position. It's the place where his cannon right arm really shines. It's also the best spot for him to minimize wear and tear; less tracking balls in the gap, more waiting and gunning down runners trying to stretch doubles.

Judge doesn't see it that way, though, even with Harrison Bader locking down center for 2023. The Captain told reporter Bryan Hoch at last week's BBWAA dinner that he's "not done" in center field.

Yankees RF Aaron Judge 'not done' in center field, but ... should he be done in center field?!

We'll see just how "not done" he is when the regular season begins (or when Bader reaches free agency after the season wraps).

Judge's time covering center in 2022 contributed to his remarkable 10.6 bWAR, though his 62 home runs also had quite a large influence on the number. Last season, Judge actually played more games in center (77) than in right (60) due to personnel issues, though Bader locked down the position with sparkling, Gold Glove defense when he was finally ready in mid-September.

It feels strange to say about a legitimate superstar in Judge, but ... Bader's actually better in center. There's no shame in that, however. The 28-year-old Bronxville native is born to be a center fielder, and is one of the league's best at reacting and flashing the leather. Judge, on the other hand, is a Gold Glove right fielder who can cover center. There's a difference.

Despite the long-term Judge deal, the future of the Yankees outfield remains in flux. Bader has yet to be extended, and may only have six regular-season months left in the Boogie Down. Lord knows they don't have a left fielder secured. If Judge plans to enthusiastically float between right and center, that leaves a few spots for Spencer Jones, Jasson Dominguez, and Free Agent Addition X (Ian Happ?).

That said ... Bader in center and Judge in right is still safest. Presuming 2023 goes well, the Yankees should do their best to ensure that endures.