Mailbag: Aaron Judge extension, Hicks in center, Gardner rumors

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It doesn’t feel like baseball season in New York this morning, but Opening Day is merely ten days away. Exciting stuff! But seriously, I thought we were done with winter weather. This cold spurt will be long gone come April 7th, which currently has a forecast in the low 60s (yay) with showers (gulp).

Today marks the return of the mailbag from a long hiatus. As always, you can send your mailbag questions to viewsfrom314@gmail.com. We’ll [try] to answer them every Monday. Now, let’s get to this week’s edition:

Dan asks: Seeing how ownership and the front office operates now, is extending Judge a wise decision? Look at how this offseason went. They passed on every top free agent and it looks as though that’s because the plan all along was to extend Judge. If Judge’s potential extension, along with Cole and Stanton’s contracts, precludes the Yanks from being in notable FAs in the future (especially in scenarios where the team has an obvious area of need and the best player at the position is available), wouldn’t it be smart to either trade Judge or let him walk?

Yes, it still makes sense to extend him. It’s been frustrating to watch the Yankees not pursue and/or sign this offseason’s top free agents, but thinking about future free agents can’t be a reason to move on from Judge. Now’s not the time to be concerned about, say, Juan Soto’s free agency after the 2024 season. The Yankees are going to need Judge beyond 2022, and it’s hard to imagine them being a better team in 2023 without him around.

Judge is an incredible player and one we’d all want the team to pursue if he was a free agent from another team, regardless of positional need. Among qualified hitters, only Mike Trout (180 wRC+) and the aforementioned Soto (156 wRC+) have been better than Judge (154 wRC+) since 2017. Not to mention that Judge is elite defensively, too. He’s the type of player any team should add regardless of positional “fit”.

Are there concerns about signing Judge to a long term deal into his mid-thirties? Yes, of course. If there’s anything that should worry you about a Judge extension, it’s his aging curve and future health. Not how it would affect the organization’s pursuit of future free agents.

One more thing to keep in mind is that future free agents we have our eyes on (again, Soto) could always be extended by their current teams. What happens if the Yankees lose Judge only to see players they’ve had their eyes on not actually hit the market? It’s just not a sound strategy. Remember all those rumors about the team waiting on Nolan Arenado, only to see him traded and extended?

So, keep Judge around for the next half decade or so. It’s best for the team right now, even if there are potentially better free agents on the horizon. Yes, even if it means Hal Steinbrenner won’t want to issue another big contract in a couple seasons. Judge is just too good to let go.

Hornick asks: Why is Aaron Hicks’ lack of arm strength post-TJS and declining speed being ignored? Shouldn’t the ideal OF be Hicks in LF, and Gallo in CF?

I don’t know that those two items are necessarily being ignored, it’s just that I don’t think they’re the top concerns when it comes to Hicks. First and foremost: he needs to stay on the field. He hasn’t been (mostly) healthy for a 162 game season since 2018.

Now, in terms of who is the best fit in center? Begrudgingly, I’d still pick Hicks because of experience out there. Yes, he is slowing down (per Statcast sprint speed) and he’s well below average in terms of outfield jump (again, per Statcast), which is a very poor combination. I haven’t seen any quantification of Hicks’ arm strength, though. In any event, he still has an edge in terms of experience out there over the other starting alternatives.

Aside from history in center, keeping Judge and Gallo healthy is paramount. Playing center is much more rigorous than the corners (although left field at Yankee Stadium isn’t easy, either). Even if Judge or Gallo truly are comparable or better than Hicks in center, I’d still want to minimize the wear and tear for the two middle of the order sluggers.

All that said, the Yankees are playing a dangerous game with center field. I had hoped the front office would acquire a center fielder over the winter so Hicks could transition into Brett Gardner’s old role. Hicks’ trouble staying healthy was the main driver of that desire, but his apparent decline defensively was a secondary reason. For now, he’s still the best option the team has at the position on an everyday basis. Let’s just hope he stays healthy.

Mr. Rogers asks: Gardner rumors have been silent, what are your thoughts on him returning again? 

I think it might be time to count him out, though I still am not ctotally onvinced. For what it’s worth, here’s what Brian Cashman said over the weekend:

If you take that literally, it sounds like Cashman’s ready to move on from Gardner. On the flip side, that he’s still in touch with Gardy’s agent could be interpreted as meaningful.

The only other team rumored to have interest in Gardner (at least of late) is Toronto. That was before they acquired Raimel Tapia, though. And yet, it’s no secret that Gardner wants to come back to the Bronx.

From my perspective, I’d bring him back, especially at this stage of spring. It’s getting late in camp and I don’t envision any center field trade happening. There are no better free agent center fielder alternatives. Players in the clubhouse want him back. I know he’ll be 39 this year and there are obvious signs of decline, but I can’t imagine that the Yankees would regret giving Gardner a bench spot over Tim Locastro. Sure, Locastro’s projections are comparable to Gardner, meaning it seems possible to have a seamless on field transition, but I also don’t think one should lose sleep over blocking Locastro, who has a minor league option anyway.

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18 Comments

  1. Nothing indicates the sad state of the Yankees more than people saying that this team would be better with him on it.

  2. Kevin

    For the Gardner naysayers: There are sites that give his numbers regarding speed, jump, etc. I suggest you take the time to look them up before you go spouting off. And the notion that he can’t score for second is borderline idiocy. People have this idea that after 27 speed starts to decline, which is true. But when you are very fast to begin with you can retain speed that is still above average for a long time, barring serious injury. For you “older” fans, remember Darrell Green torching much younger players in NFL competitions when he was approaching forty? A great quote from him, “yeah, I’ve lost a few steps, but then, I had a few to give away”. And for you Tim Locastro lovers, yeah he looked very exciting on the bases last year. What did the Yankees give to get him? Well, that ought to squelch your irrational exuberance.

  3. Frank Maggipinto

    Regarding Hick and Gallo – it’s beyond me that this is the best we can field in 2022! Hicks, notwithstanding being a switch hitter has a lifetime BA of .233 with an OBP of .330. Gallo with a BA of .206, OBS of .333 and strikes out 44% of the time! We need contact hitters with speed. Can’t believe that management can’t understand this!

  4. 12Kevin Harper

    Well guys when it comes to Garner it’s plain to me that the team is better with the old man in the dugout. And over the past handful of years we have needed him and he is streaky but he also ends up with clutch hits down the stretch. And no matter how powerful you build a motor it’s that little spark that sets everything in motion. Garner is that spark. He nails and barbed wire and we need that.

  5. Carol Nordstrom

    Need to bring Brett back, he is just a strong force on the team and a great clutch player.

  6. Vincent DiGaetano

    5 reasons bringing Gardner back makes no sense. (1) He’ll be 39 years old, and has no value as a hitter. (2) His speed is eroded, and he can’t be counted on to steal based or score from 2st base. (3) Judge and/or Gallo can fill in for Hicks if he goes down. (4).Stanton proved last year that he hits better when he plays the field occasionally. (5/ Marwin Gonzalez should be allowed to make the team. He can play every infield and outfield position plus DH. I can come up with a dozen more reasons, but the.btom line is THEY DON’T NEED BRETT GSRDNET

    • Frankie

      Hey Vince
      Not sure what you do for a living just hope everyone devalues you in whatever occupation you are in when it comes your time to move on. Yanks would have passed on Babe Ruth after 1930 with your reckoning.

      • Ryan

        Hey Frankie,
        Just wanna stop and take a second to agree with you. Whatever Vincent is doing, he’s being compensated far too much.

    • Pete Marr

      Stanton should play in the outfield a lot. He is an excellent fielder who hits much much better when also in the field.

    • John

      I agree with everything you said. i don’t understand the love affair with Gardner. He should know when it’s time to gracefully walk away.

  7. Tim Loceddardstro

    Dan asks: Seeing how ownership and the front office operates now, is extending Judge a wise decision? Look at how this offseason went. They passed on every top free agent and it looks as though that’s because the plan all along was to extend Judge. If Judge’s potential extension, along with Cole and Stanton’s contracts, precludes the Yanks from being in notable FAs in the future (especially in scenarios where the team has an obvious area of need and the best player at the position is available), wouldn’t it be smart to either trade Judge or let him walk?

    Absolutely not, Dan. And to even suggest a thing might be tantamount to treason. Judge is our best player and if he’s traded or allowed to let walk then we’re basically the Tampa Rays or the Atlanta Braves. The problem was extending Hicks and spending $40 million on two relievers, one of which is a nut case and the other is always injured. But Judge needs to be extended. He’s only 29. That’s when you extend these guys, not when they’re 35. And now we know Judge can play home games. Randy Levine came through. The only issue will be the games in Toronto. Hopefully he and Rizzo just got vaccinated and this doesn’t cost us games.

    Hornick asks: Why is Aaron Hicks’ lack of arm strength post-TJS and declining speed being ignored? Shouldn’t the ideal OF be Hicks in LF, and Gallo in CF?

    It isn’t, Hornick, and that’s what the Locastro signing was for. I think Locastro will eventually be the every day CFer once Hicks gets hurt, and he will get hurt. I’d rather see Joey in CF too but they seem reluctant to play him there for some reason. They play Judge out there which I don’t like. But this will all become moot once Hicks gets injured. This is going to be the Pavano contract all over again.

    Mr. Rogers asks: Gardner rumors have been silent, what are your thoughts on him returning again?

    He needs to be back, Mr. Rogers. After CC retired we don’t really have that other guy that gives us passion and fire. Gardy was the only one left in that mold. I love what Will Smith did last night because it sent a message that needed to be sent. He didn’t hit Rock too hard, just hard enough to send a message. And then he was rewarded with the best actor oscar. And that’s what we need on our ballclub. I love Aaron Judge but he’s not that guy for some reason. Stanton isn’t either, DJ is too quiet, Cole is too big of a baby. We need that guy who can send a message once in a while like Will Smith and that’s the biggest reason why Gardy needs to return. Plus as I mentioned before Hicks will eventually get hurt but I guess Florial is ready to fill that spot too. I’d just hate to see Toronto, Tampa or Boston get their hands on Gardy.

    • Eddard making a play for a Views staff position.

    • Matt from Jersey

      Wait. Did you just highjack the Views blog by answering the same mailbag questions in a comment? That is bold, my friend!

      ps – I’m not sure they’re hiring, but even if they are that may not be the most tactful way to submit a writing sample. I’m just sayin’

    • 12Kevin Harper

      Aman buddy exactly we need that spark

  8. Lanny Woodward

    I think Big George would be very disappointed with what has been going on with our Yankees. Judge might be the only pinstriper on the team. Please don’t let them kneel this year. Very disrespectful. ( 83 year old Life time Yankee fan.

    • Joey

      Brett Gardner isn’t coming back because he called out our 30 million dollar a year pitcher last year for using a substance tack. And basically joking on him

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