The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Message to the Yankees and Brian Cashman: Just do it!

As the Nike slogan says, “Just do it!” That’s my advice to Brian Cashman, Yankees GM. Go ahead and re-sign slugger Aaron Judge to a long-term contract at the current market rate. Don’t fall into the trap other teams have when they attempted to reduce their team payroll by avoiding a long-term commitment for record-setting dollars with their superstar.

When teams trade their “face of the franchise,” like Judge is with the Yankees, they often wind up setting up a scenario of future mediocrity. Plus, they’re telling their fans to go pound sand in the process.

Current Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner should take a cue from his late father George, who was famous for shelling out the big dollars to acquire big-name players. In 2022, there was no bigger name in baseball than Judge, who held fans’ attention throughout the season when he put on an assault of Roger Maris’s home run record. An attempt to be frugal with team salaries at this time seems to be futile.

Where would the Yankees have been in 2022 without Judge? With the terrible swoon that befell the team in August and most of September, the Yankees could very well have been left out of the playoff picture if it weren’t for Judge. When the Yankees’ bullpen disappeared and injuries took its toll on some of their veteran position players during the final months, Judge kept them competitive enough to fend off Toronto, Tampa Bay, and upstart Baltimore.

Judge passed on the Yankees’ offer for a contract extension before this season started, when he declined a seven-year deal for $213.5 million. The two sides finally settled on a one-year deal worth $19 million in June, thereby avoiding a salary arbitration situation. Did that become Judge’s motivation to get locked in during the season, resulting in a 62-home run season? His fantastic season couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. It was one of the best offensive seasons of all time.

Back in April, the New York Post reported Judge was asking for 9-10 years at $36 million per year. Judge is likely to get that much or more now. The question is whether it will be the Yankees who pay up or another team. It’s been reported several other teams might be in on the bidding, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, who might be willing to move all-star right fielder Mookie Betts to second base (his original position in the pros) if they secured Judge. (By the way, Judge grew up in California.) The Mets are flush with dollars and are expected to make a run for his services.

Other MLB teams have been in similar situations with decisions on whether to extend their superstars with lucrative contracts or to allow them to be traded, or worse go into free agency. Recent examples have been the Red Sox with Mookie Betts and the Nationals with Bryce Harper and Juan Soto. And what happened to those teams after letting their ‘face of the franchise” go? A couple of years later, those teams are at the bottom of the pack, while their discarded superstars are leading their respective new teams to the playoffs.

Judge is by far the top free agent in the market over the winter. So, if the Yankees aren’t successful in locking him up, who is else available in the free-agent market? Shortstops Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts or Trea Turner? Sure, any one of them would be a huge improvement in the Yankees infield. But they won’t have nearly the offensive production of Judge. Outfielders J. D. Martinez and Brandon Nimmo or first baseman Josh Bell? Again, they are nowhere near being comparable to Judge.

It’s been 13 years since the Yankees won an American League pennant. It ties a period between 1979 and 1994 when they were similarly dormant. And they’ve won only one World Series since 2000. The team has several needs to get back to the point of dominating the American League again, including pitching and the left side of the infield.

But the Yankees have no more important need than to re-sign Judge. Don’t haggle with him. Just do it!

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