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The Yankees won a game and snapped the losing streak Wednesday, but predictably sandwiched it between two losses, almost literally performing the definition of one step forward, two steps back. The bats finally showed some life, but a series loss was the result nonetheless.
In our polls this week, fans look toward the future ... namely, the next eight years of Aaron Judge’s new free agent contract. Calls for Austin Wells’ promotion also grow louder as he tears it up in Triple-A. Everson Pereira and Oswald Peraza have taken their lumps so far, but we probably knew that’d be the reality of giving the rookies a shot. Wells could contribute with the bat right away, and Yankees fans value that.
With the team’s playoff odds infinitesimal, it becomes less about wins and more about personnel decisions. The Yankees have a tricky one in Judge. Regardless of the performance as a team as a whole, the fact is Judge has a lengthy injury history and is playing on a compromised toe in the first season of a lucrative nine-year contract. Foot injury, hulking player ... a tale as old as time, just as Yao Ming and other big men before him. Different sport, same principals of biomechanics. A huge house on a compromised foundation will inevitably be a teardown.
As exciting as three-homer games like last night are, playing a nine-toed Judge opens the Yankees up to all sorts of potential disasters stretching over the next decade, and considering the risk, the investment into meaningless September baseball is nonsensical. Thus, considerable majority of Yankees fans voted to shut down the reigning American League MVP.
The other pertinent dynamic at play in the Judge decision is general manager Brian Cashman’s job security. He’s also at the beginning of a four-year contract so he’s essentially a lock to come back under Hal Steinbrenner’s review, but if Cashman believes his only shot to keep his job is to go all-out the rest of the season, Judge will keep playing. If Judge has the final say, he’ll certainly keep playing, too. Cashman is a survivor and a pragmatist if nothing else, but those conversations are happening behind closed doors as we speak. Regardless of whatever Succession-like drama happens in the front office, fans have spoken loud and clear.
Interestingly, Oswald Peraza, perhaps the best prospect of the bunch based on minor-league evaluations, only garnered 12 percent of the vote. The Yankees timed his initial 2022 promotion awkwardly because of injuries, ultimately plopping him at shortstop in the midst of an ALCS manhandling by the Astros. Not exactly a soft landing spot for a young player to get his first MLB action, but he performed admirably in a profoundly difficult assignment. This year, he’s yet to find a foothold in over a hundred at-bats, so that at least probably makes him less of an exciting new name to follow.
Yankees catchers have offered next to nothing offensively this year. Fans, understandably, are frustrated at the ineptitude of the nine-hole in this lineup and dream of a catcher who can handle the bat. Wells is bat-first in the sense that he’s bat, but not much else. A bat-only catcher can be thrilling but also indescribably infuriating, as we saw with a certain Baby Bomber.
Estevan Florial is mostly the forgotten man in this equation, his prospect pedigree stale but his Triple-A numbers absurdly good (strikeout rate notwithstanding). In a meaningless month, his promotion deserves consideration too, even though he’ll be a minor league free agent at year’s end. But once September rolls around, assuming Judge is still in the lineup, there’s just one more roster spot to go around since the other will go to a pitcher, and most fans prefer to see Wells.