Yankees offseason plans key ‘with or without’ Aaron Judge

NEW YORK — When it comes to Aaron Judge and his future with the New York Yankees, mom is the word.

General manager Brian Cashman declined to comment on Friday whether he had been contracted to Judge’s representatives under a new contract. Cashman, however, failed to understand Judge’s importance to the organization’s plans for this offseason and beyond.

“When you make those player commitments, you know he’s a fan favorite,” Cashman said during a news conference at Yankee Stadium on Friday. “He interacts extremely well with our fans. He is respected within this clubhouse, manages his affairs as well as he can. He is an elite player – among the best in the game, if not the best player. That being said said, these are the types of players you want to keep and have for as long as possible.”

Judge’s historic 2022 season — he hit .311 / .425 / .686 with an American League record 62 homers and 131 RBI — has the 6-foot-7 slugger in position to receive one of the biggest contracts in baseball history this off-season.

Cashman said owner Hal Steinbrenner will spend time assessing Judge’s market this offseason to get an idea of ​​what kind of commitment the team will be willing to make moving forward. The fact that Judge is a player who brings fans to the stadium will play a role in how much money the Yankees would be willing to commit to a long-term contract.

“As George Steinbrenner said, he puts fannies in the seats,” Cashman said. “People want to go watch this guy play, and you want to put great teams on the field that they want to come here to watch compete and win. Some individual players transcend the team and it all stops when they’re at bat or that they have the ball in their hand. He is one of those types of talents.”

Whether or not Judge returns to New York will shape the Yankees’ offseason trajectory. Because signing Judge would represent the biggest expense for the team, the front office is making contingency plans based on his ability to sign the star slugger and how he would proceed this offseason if he couldn’t. not.

“[Judge is] is going to dictate the dance moves to his free agency and he’s worked extremely hard to earn that position, so we’ll see how that plays out,” Cashman said. “It may tie you up a bit along the way, but he’s not the only guy we have to deal with. He’s the most important, but if he came here today and said, ‘Oh man, I’m signing up, let’s go’, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he had a chat with the judge in his office at the end of the season and expressed his appreciation for their relationship and how it has developed over the years. .

“Of course, I hope he’s back and a Yankee forever,” Boone said. “I can’t think of a better guy than you would lead your team and lead your organization, and I hope it all works out. But my conversations with him now are just communicating with him through the winter and I hope it works. But, obviously, that’s beyond me.”

While Steinbrenner has pledged Boone to return as manager, questions surround Cashman’s future within the organization. Cashman’s contract expired at the end of October and he remains an at-will employee of the team. He continues to hold planning meetings with the rest of the front office and said Steinbrenner told him it was interesting to keep him on the team.

Although his future is up in the air, Cashman remains focused on shaping the Yankees’ plans to be a better team for 2023 and win the World Series — with or without Judge.

“We have a lot more that we need to take care of to put ourselves in a better position to navigate not just the Astros, but all of the other newcomers who are forging their way into the mix to represent the American League to the world. Series next year,” Cashman said. “Obviously we want it to be us, but that’s something we haven’t been able to push through.

“Regardless of recognizing that Aaron Judge is such an important piece here, he is one of many that we hope to accomplish in different forms and modes.”

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