HomeMLB RumorsYankees Notes: Judge, Cole, Rotation

Yankees Notes: Judge, Cole, Rotation

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Yankees star Aaron Judge has been slowed a bit by some abdominal discomfort recently, with manager Aaron Boone telling reporters yesterday that the 2022 AL MVP is “mid-spring banged up” while downplaying concerns of a more serious injury. Judge revealed this morning that he underwent an MRI on his abdominal region yesterday to ascertain that there was no significant injury at play (X link via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). That imaging came back clean. Judge says he won’t swing a bat until later this week but is hopeful he’ll be in the Opening Day lineup.

On the one hand, the fact that Judge has avoided any kind of serious injury is an obvious cause for relief. On the other, it’s hardly ideal that the season hasn’t even begun and he’s less than 100 percent. Judge specified that the discomfort he’s felt has been in the middle of his abdominal muscles — not his oblique region. That’s particularly notable given that Judge has had a pair of oblique strains in the past, including a Grade 2 strain in 2019 that cost him two months of the season.

“I think just from swinging from November all the way until now, every single day, it put some wear and tear on it,” said Judge (via Hoch). “Especially coming back after a [right] toe injury when your mechanics are a little messed up and you’re just working on some things.”

Judge, 32 in April, was once again excellent in 2023 — though a hip strain in late April cost him 10 days, while the sprained toe he referenced wound up shelving him for more than a month. In all, he played in 106 games — his fewest in a 162-game season since 2019 — and posting a brilliant .267/.406/.613 slash with 37 home runs in just 458 trips to the plate.

The Yankees are already awaiting MRI results on ace and reigning Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. Coupling that with even minor concern about the team’s best all-around player makes for an uncomfortable few days for the club and its fans. The Yankees indicated yesterday that Cole is expected to receive multiple opinions on his MRI results. An announcement today is not necessarily a given. SNY’s Andy Martino wrote yesterday that club officials have characterized the Cole MRI as “precautionary” and downplayed concern over a potential long-term injury. Time will tell whether that proves to be the case.

In the wake of the Cole news, there’s been a renewed focus on the Yankees’ rotation depth and ample speculation on contingency plans. The remaining pair of high-profile Scott Boras clients — Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery — have been at the forefront of that speculation. Martino reported in his piece that the Yankees haven’t yet circled back to Snell since concerns about Cole arose. Joel Sherman of the New York Post throws some cold water on the idea of the Yankees pivoting to either left-hander.

The luxury tax concerns for the Yankees have been highlighted at length by now. As a reminder, they’re a third-time payor who’s in the fourth and final tier of penalization. Any further additions to the payroll will be taxed at a 110% rate (based on the contract’s AAV) on top of the player’s salary. In the case of Snell, he’d also require forfeiting the team’s second-highest draft pick and surrendering $1MM of pool space in next year’s international free agent bonus pool, because Snell rejected a qualifying offer from the Padres.

Perhaps in part because of that, Sherman reports that the Yankees were more interested in Montgomery earlier in the offseason than in Snell — despite making a reported offer to the latter. The Yankees, per Sherman, “could not get a strong engagement” from Montgomery at the time, however. That lines up with some late-February reporting from The Athletic’s Jim Bowden, wherein he wrote that Montgomery’s hope had been for a return to the Rangers and that it was “believed” he did not “prefer” a Yankees reunion. With Montgomery still lingering on the market and the Rangers seemingly disinclined to spend further, none of that should expressly rule out an eventual match between Montgomery and the Yankees.

Sherman suggests that the likeliest course of action for the Yankees is to stand pat regardless of the news on Cole, though he opines that if they do make a move, they’re likelier to meet the White Sox’ asking price for right-hander Dylan Cease than they are to sign Snell or Montgomery. Cease is making $8MM this season and is controlled through 2025 via arbitration. He’d come with an $8.8MM luxury hit, but that’s a pittance relative to the tax hits it’d take to sign Montgomery or Snell for an AAV of $25-30MM — if not more. Prior reporting has indicated that the ChiSox were insistent on the inclusion of top outfield prospect Spencer Jones in talks regarding Cease, while the Yankees have been loath to consider moving him in any deal.

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