The New York Yankees will enter the MLB offseason with one prime objective; re-sign Aaron Judge. After Judge's record-breaking 2022 campaign, in which he broke the American League home run record by smashing 62 dingers last season, Judge is set to earn a huge contract in free agency. The Yankees are going to do everything they can to ensure they are the team handing Judge his new deal.
The problem is that Judge's monster season has ensured that he will receive a ton of attention across the league this offseason, which will likely make it much more difficult for the Yankees to retain him. With that in mind, New York is going to have to come up with a creative plan to lure Judge back to the Bronx and ensure he doesn't take off in free agency.
One potential plan for the Yankees would be to bring in some other big name free agents to convince Judge they are committed to building a winner around him. They already did this to an extent by re-signing Anthony Rizzo, who is one of Judge's closest friends on the Yankees. So with that in mind, let's take a look at three big name free agents the Yankees could pursue in an attempt to lure Judge back to New York.
The Yankees, like many other teams in the MLB, could use some help at the catcher position. That's why Willson Contreras is set to cash out in a big way this offseason. Contreras is arguably the best hitting catcher in the game right now, and he's hitting free agency at the perfect time.
Contreras had a strong 2022 season with the Chicago Cubs (.243 BA, 22 HR, 55 RBI, .815 OPS) despite the fact that the rest of the team around him was awful. Contreras was surprisingly not dealt by the Cubs at the trade deadline, and now appears likely to depart Chicago without giving them anything in return, which is a less than ideal scenario for the rebuilding Cubs.
The Yankees didn't get much support at catcher in 2022, although Jose Trevino did emerge from out of nowhere to become an All-Star last season. Still, Contreras is an upgrade at the plate over Trevino, and they could feature both in the lineup by playing Contreras at designated hitter from time to time and putting Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield. The Yankees may not need Contreras as much as other teams, but he'd be a clear upgrade at the catcher position for New York.
2. Trea Turner
The Yankees infield could use a makeover as a whole, which is why Trea Turner should be one of New York's top free agent targets, regardless of what happens with Judge. New York received mediocre play at best at shortstop from Isiah Kiner-Falefa in 2022, and it seems like now is the time to upgrade the shortstop position considering how many top tier options are available on the market.
Turner is coming off a very strong season with the Los Angeles Dodgers (.298 BA, 21 HR, 100 RBI, 27 SB, .809 OPS) who are likely moving on from him as they try to sign Judge for themselves this offseason. With Turner seemingly up for grabs as the Dodgers plan to move on, the Yankees should seriously consider making a push to bring him to New York.
Turner is a strong fielder at shortstop, and can also set the table as a leadoff hitter who can do some damage on the basepaths. Turner has some injury concerns, but he's only 29, and a long-term deal for him could end up playing out quite well. There are a lot of good shortstops available in free agency, but Turner may be the best of the bunch, and it makes a lot of sense for the Yankees to pursue him.
Judge put together a very strong contract year in 2022, but so did Justin Verlander, who looks set to earn himself a huge deal despite the fact he will be 40 years old in 2023. The Yankees starting rotation could use some help, and there isn't a better way to address the rotation than by going out and adding the best starter from the 2022 season in Verlander.
Despite missing pretty much all of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Verlander didn't miss a beat in his return to the hill in 2022. Verlander's stats (18-4, 1.75 ERA, 185 K, 0.83 WHIP) were unreal, and even though he was playing in his age 39 season and hadn't pitched in nearly two years, Verlander turned in arguably the best season of his career.
Verlander wants to get paid this offseason, and the Yankees could pair him up with his old teammate in Gerrit Cole if they were to hand him a big new deal. Even though he's going to be 40, Verlander seems like a safe bet to continue pitching at a high level for the next few seasons, and if the Yankees want to prove to Judge that they mean business, they should go out and sign Verlander in free agency.