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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 4/12/22

Judge’s bet on himself; offseason featured no offers to Correa & Freeman, or extension for Chapman; Higashioka a 2022 breakout candidate

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

SI.com | Tom Verducci: Aaron Judge’s upcoming free agency is about as unique a case as one will find. As Verducci notes, no Yankee in his prime has ever meant more to the identity of his own team at the time he hit the market. That’s one of the reasons why Judge is betting on himself after turning down the Yankees’ seven-year extension. There’s intrinsic value to him in the community and fanbase beyond his already-significant production on a baseball field. Judge is rolling the dice a bit based on the history of his body type, but if his worst-case scenario is winding up with a slightly lesser nine-figure contract, can you really blame him for trying to set a new standard?

WFAN | Logan Mullen: Yankees GM Brian Cashman went on WFAN yesterday afternoon, and in addition to revealing that the organization told Judge’s team in advance that they were going to reveal the offer, he confirmed that the Yankees never even made an offer to top free agent Carlos Correa or Freddie Freeman. Both would’ve been huge additions, as the Yankees had gaping holes at shortstop and first base entering the offseason, but evidently, the most valuable team in baseball decided that Correa and Freeman’s talent was too rich for their blood. Womp.

NJ.com | Brendan Kuty: Unlike Judge, soon-to-be free agent Aroldis Chapman has said that the Yankees have not approached him about a possible extension. The closer had his last contract extended by a year after the 2019 season to avoid the possibility of him opting out, but he’ll be 35 in 2023 and while he’s still generally solid, he is not seen as the same shutdown presence out of the bullpen that he was just a few years ago. Walks and homers have gradually become more a part of Chapman’s game, and though he wants to remain a Yankee, he’ll need a bounce-back season to merit a return. (Disclaimer: I would personally have moved on from him years ago, but that’s just me.)

FanGraphs | Dan Szymborski: Kyle Higashioka has a lot of pressure on him in 2022 to at least be mildly competent with the bat rather than the 71 OPS+ guy he showed in 67 games last year. He’s off to a slow start, but due in part to his high career barrel percentage (12.5 percent), ZiPS thinks that he some breakout potential. Higashioka might not hit the ball a ton, but he makes great contact when he does connect.

Even if Higgy just slightly overachieves at the 60th percentile, the system has him at .211/.266/.427 with 13 homers and an 86 OPS+. The 70th percentile has him at .220/.274/.453 with 14 homers and a 94 OPS+. That doesn’t look like much, but for a catcher who provides his quality of defense, it would be! Now, to just translate that into reality...