Yankees Notes: Shortstop, Judge, Gardner, Coaching Staff

There are plenty of opportunities available for the Yankees, widely expected to be one of the league’s more active teams this winter. After dipping below the luxury tax threshold to reset their penalties in 2021, it seems the club is poised for a big offseason.

Early comments from general manager Brian Cashman have stoked that fire, with the baseball ops leader telling reporters at last week’s GM Meetings the front office has some financial leeway. Owner Hal Steinbrenner echoed that sentiment, telling David Lennon of Newsday that Cashman’s suggestion is “accurate.” The New York chairman declined to delve into specifics about where the club’s budgetary limit might land, but he didn’t downplay the possibility of some noteworthy moves.

The most straightforward path to a big winter would seem to be dipping into the free agent shortstop market. Not only has Cashman already professed a desire to upgrade the position, he’s confirmed the club has been in contact with the reps for multiple free agents. Jon Heyman of the MLB Network tweeted this week that the Yankees and incumbent Dodgers were among the clubs with interest in Corey Seager, while Yankees’ brass has expressed a willingness to consider Carlos Correa despite his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

It remains to be seen whether the Yankees will be willing to commit anywhere in the neighborhood of the $300+MM guarantees it could take to land Seager or Correa though. The club has two of the game’s most promising shortstop prospects — Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe — rising up the minor league ranks. Matthew Roberson of the New York Daily News reported yesterday that the Yankees were more likely to pursue a stopgap option than to play at the top of the market at the position based on the belief that Peraza and/or Volpe could take the reins in the not too distant future. If the Yankees were to eschew the star free agents at the top of the market, Andrelton Simmons or Freddy Galvis could profile as short-term options to stabilize the infield defense.

Whether the Yankees should be willing to sit out this offseason’s shortstop class is up for debate, but doing so could allow them to allocate more funds towards locking up star outfielder Aaron Judge on a long-term deal. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Judge to command a salary in the $17.1MM range in 2022, his final season of arbitration eligibility. The three-time All-Star is slated to reach free agency next offseason.

Judge has already expressed openness to an extension. Cashman told reporters (including Bryan Hoch of MLB.com) this evening the club was willing to talk about a long-term deal with Judge’s representatives but hasn’t yet opened talks. Locking up Judge at this stage of his career would no doubt require a massive investment. The 29-year-old has already banked a significant amount during his run through arbitration, and he’s coming off a stellar .287/.373/.544 showing across 633 plate appearances.

A reunion with Brett Gardner would require a far smaller outlay but could eventually be on the to-do list. The Yankees have continued to bring the fourteen-year veteran back in recent seasons, but the 38-year-old is currently a free agent after both sides declined their ends of a 2022 option. The Yankees haven’t discussed a potential reunion with Gardner’s reps in the early stages of the offseason, Cashman said (via Hoch), but the GM said his belief is the career-long Yankee intends to continue playing.

In non-player news, Cashman also expressed a desire to expand the coaching staff. The Yankees are planning to hire three hitting coaches and an additional pitching instructor (Hoch link). That’s become an increasingly common approach, particularly this offseason. We’ve already seen teams like the Brewers and Orioles hire two hitting instructors as co-hitting coaches, with an assistant working underneath that top duo. The Yankees parted ways with previous hitting coach Marcus Thames at the end of the season.

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