While the Yankees are said to feel somewhat better about their chances to re-sign top target Aaron Judge, there are no guarantees in free agency and they are staying busy on multiple fronts. Beyond re-signing star first baseman Anthony Rizzo to what amounts to a $40 million deal for two years plus an option Tuesday, they have made several surprising free-agent connections, including with marquee shortstops Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts and also crosstown center-field star Brandon Nimmo.
It’s possible the Yankees are merely covering the bases and/or hedging their bets, and club personnel have suggested that it remains likely that youngster Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe will compete for the starting shortstop job. Yankees people have not indicated a strong desire or inclination to get into the splashy shortstop derby and make a big play for one of the big-time free agents, who also include Dansby Swanson, so perhaps they are merely getting an early gauge on the market in case Judge leaves and plenty of spending money is left over.
It’s also possible the Yankees were as disappointed as their fans to be eliminated again by the reviled World Series-champion Astros, who have now eliminated them four times in six seasons, and may bump up their $260 million payroll in an effort to change the narrative. Managing partner Hal Steinbrenner told writers at the owners meeting in Midtown on Tuesday that he sees fitting Judge into the budget but that it won’t be limitless.
Signs look positive regarding Judge, with Steinbrenner revealing on YES Network that he’s had two conversations with Judge since the season ended. And while there’s bound to be serious competition for the services of the new American League single-season home-run recordholder (the Giants are almost sure to be in the bidding) and free agency is unpredictable, Yankees people have sounded a bit more hopeful in recent days.
They won’t confirm they’ve made an offer, but any optimism would almost certainly relate to negotiations. Judge is expected to get an offer of $300 million or more after he turned down a $213.5 million, seven-year Yankees bid in spring training. It was interesting that Judge said on MLB Network that he had some initial misgiving about turning down the spring bid after he got off to a slow start (for a few games) before taking over the league and establishing himself as the dominant force in the American League this year.
The Rizzo deal for $17 million a year (plus a $6 million buyout on the third-year option) can only aid their chances to keep Judge, as he and Judge are very close. Losing him certainly would have been a detriment in their main goal to retain Judge.
The Yankees made no play for Correa when he was free last winter before he ultimately signed a one-year deal for $35.1 million with the Twins. The Yankees have accepted 2017 Astros into the fold (YES analyst Carlos Beltran and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez). Turner is thought to prefer heading east, and Bogaerts thrived with rival Boston, winning two rings.
The Yankees are said to be seeking two outfielders, so they are checking in with several, including Japanese star Masataka Yoshida and their own free agent Andrew Benintendi. They already have one of the best center fielders in the game in Harrison Bader, so Nimmo doesn’t look like an obvious fit. The incumbent Mets are among many teams showing interest in Nimmo.