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Yankees Mailbag: Aaron Hicks’ future, Judge extension possibilities, and Severino’s status

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The mailbag is looking ahead to 2022, with the first of many offseason questions.

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Good afternoon everyone, it’s arrived faster than anyone hoped but the offseason editions of the mailbag have arrived. From here on out, the mailbag will be running every two weeks, due to a slower amount of information trickling in and a lack of action going on. Without further ado, let’s open up the mailbag for more of your Yankees questions. Remember to send in your questions for our (bi)weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

MSP Giant asks: What is reasonable to expect from Hicks and Severino in 2022?

I’ll have more on Severino in a minute, but the short of it is that the talent is clearly still there after a long layoff, and so long as he remains healthy he should be in the middle of the rotation. Hicks is an interesting player to consider for 2022, and there’s a lot that could factor in that hasn’t happened yet. As it stands, Hicks could slot back into center field flanked by Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge. Brett Gardner got the lion’s share of the starts with him out, and despite heating up for a while in the second half, there’s no way the plan is to have Gardner start. He may not even be the backup on the roster, or even playing baseball anymore depending on how decisions go with his option year.

There’s a fair amount of risk in penciling in Hicks to return, however. Hicks has been sidelined with a long list of injuries himself, and his absence threw the Yankees’ lineup into a bit of disarray. Speaking of the lineup, its expected that the roster will get shaken up a bit this offseason, and one insurance that could be made to prevent such a disastrous performance again is getting some real outfield depth. Whether that’s an understudy to Hicks, direct competition for the starting spot, or an outright replacement remains to be seen, but his playing time is up in the air at the moment.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: The Yankees are going to work out a Judge extension this offseason, right? I find it hard to believe they won’t at least try, considering he’s going into his last year of arbitration eligibility. Coming off the 2021 season he just put up, what kind of deal are we looking at? And, do they actually get the deal done?

It would certainly make sense for them to reach out to Judge’s camp, especially after the strong comments Judge made post-Wild Card Game that he wants to be a Yankee for life. Judge’s open market value will be tough to gauge thanks to his injury history and the fact that he would be 30-years-old when hitting free agency — typically not a demographic that front offices like shelling out for. His MVP-caliber play when he is on the field and the fact that he just reinforced his status with a season where he was almost always available means that nobody is getting his services for cheap.

There actually haven’t been many big outfielder extensions handed out in the past decade or so, and the only gargantuan deals are the infamous one that Judge’s teammate Giancarlo Stanton signed and Mike Trout’s latest contract. One of the most recent ones, and one that could serve as a baseline, is Christian Yelich’s deal with the Brewers, which was good for seven years and $188.5 million. Yelich is only a few months older than Judge is, and signed his deal following an MVP season that was backed up by a top-two finish in the MVP running the next year. Yelich was also in the league for longer than Judge has been, but Judge’s camp would almost certainly use this contract as a baseline with the hopes of crossing the $200 million line. Do the Yankees bite at that high of a commitment price? My gut leans towards no, but hopefully Brian Cashman and company’s price would be somewhere in the ballpark and keep negotiating.

Stephen M. asks: Jordan Montgomery made a huge step forward this year, and Severino looked great in his limited starts at the end of the season. Who ya got as the No. 2 starter behind Cole next year?

Like many people, I’m bullish on getting a healthy Luis Severino back for a full season after seeing him look sharp in his return as a reliever. We know that Severino has ace potential, so a one-two punch of Cole and Severino to open a postseason series is the ideal scenario, but entering the year I’d imagine that Montgomery enters as the No. 2 starter. Severino missed nearly three entire years, and his rehab adventures made it look as if he wasn’t going to return this year either — I wouldn’t fault the Yankees for going extremely slow in easing Severino back as a starter. Montgomery’s rise this year was an encouraging sign for a rotation that needed depth at the beginning of the season, and building on that foundation by going deeper into games would solidify his place as a frontline starter.