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Yankees need help with left fielder and bullpen

Before star outfielder Aaron Judge agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal with the Yankees, he wanted to make sure team owner Hal Steinbrenner knew there was still room for improvement. work to do. Not just this offseason, but for the duration of the judge’s tenure in the Bronx.

“That was one of the big questions I asked him,” Judge said at a Wednesday news conference at Yankee Stadium where he was named team captain. “If I come back here for more than nine years, I want to be in the running every year. I don’t just want to get into the playoffs. I want to be the driving force behind the team to beat in the playoffs.

Judge, who won the 2022 American League Most Valuable Player award, believes Steinbrenner has “sustained his commitment” so far this offseason. He cited the six-year, $162 million contract the team awarded to left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodón, whom the judge called “a bulldog.”

The judge also noted New York’s $40 million guarantee to first baseman Anthony Rizzo and the two-year, $11.5 million deal with Tommy Kahnle, a right-handed reliever who pitched for the Yankees from 2017 to 2020.

“He wants to win, just like his dad,” Judge said of Steinbrenner and his father, George, the team’s longtime owner who died in 2010. “What the Steinbrenner family built here and does here with the Yankees is something special.. I think he wants to continue to build on that legacy.

Spending doesn’t guarantee championships, but Steinbrenner has been criticized by some Yankees fans for failing to maximize his team’s financial might amid a World Series drought that dates back to 2009 – a long wait by Yankees standards. . But Steinbrenner has dished out about $573.5 million this offseason while retaining local superstar Judge and putting his starting rotation on top with the addition of Rodón.

That lump sum looks less impressive compared to the more than $700 million that Steven A. Cohen and the Crosstown Mets rival have announced in recent weeks, but Steinbrenner knows there’s still work to be done.

“I’m not going to talk about specifics, but I kind of have a place where I want to land,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday when asked about his payroll goals. “Whether we’re there or not, I won’t get into that. But all I can tell you is that we’re not done yet.

One obvious position the Yankees can improve is left field, although general manager Brian Cashman said the team will evaluate any possible improvements in the future. The rotation, however, seems set with Rodón, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas.

The club has missed a handful of free agents in left field, including Andrew Benintendi, who New York acquired in a forward trade from the Kansas City Royals last summer. He played 33 games with the Yankees before breaking a wrist in early September. Benintendi recently agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract with the Chicago White Sox — a length the Yankees were unwilling to reach with Benintendi, a left-handed, contact-oriented swinger.

With many of the top free agents now off the board, one remaining option is 29-year-old Michael Conforto, a former Mets mainstay who missed the entire 2022 season after shoulder surgery and carries with him a sense of ‘uncertainty. Outfielders who have been the subject of trade rumors include Bryan Reynolds, 27, a star center back for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a group of three young Diamondbacks players: Daulton Varsho, 26 – who can also play catcher – Alek Thomas, 22, and Jake McCarthy, 25.

All of these players hit from the left side or are switch-hitters. The same goes for the three internal candidates mentioned by Cashman: Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial. However, Hicks is coming off a poor campaign and is injury-prone, while Cabrera, who made his major league debut in 2022, has limited experience on the court and could be better served in a utility role. Florial, 25, has never enjoyed league success, although his chances are limited.

“It’s an area we’d like to improve if we can, but if we can’t, we’ll go with what we have,” Cashman said Wednesday. He has made similar comments in the past, only to cause a stir later.

“We’re one bat left-handed, which would go into left field,” Cashman continued, noting the loss to Benintendi. “So that would be something we prefer. But at the same time, you can’t have everything you want all the time. So we continue to patiently assess opportunities and when something realistic comes into play that we’re comfortable trying to shoot down, we’ll make recommendations to Hal. But today is December 21 and it has been more difficult to solve this problem. So we will continue to work.

Left field is clearly at the top of the to-do list, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Yankees added another reliever this offseason. The team could also consider trading Hicks or third baseman Josh Donaldson, although it may be difficult to find takers for the expensive veterans coming out of the unproductive 2022 seasons.

Whatever happens between now and spring training, Judge, the Yankees’ new clubhouse chief, is confident the team will address, if not reinforce, all areas of concern. With his new contract in place, Judge expects the organization to be in full swing.

“There could be a few more moves down the road,” he said with Steinbrenner seated next to him. “I’m not too sure. But I know they’re still working on something to try and improve this team day by day, so I think we’re definitely in good hands on that front.

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