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Yankees look toward filling out 2022 roster, answering Judge questions as lockout ends

Yankees Aaron Judge
The Yankees mob right fielder Aaron Judge after a game winning RBI single to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 and clinch a wildcard playoff spot at Yankee Stadium last year.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the MLB lockout has officially ended, the New York Yankees look towards the upcoming season after a disappointing exit in the Wild Card Game last year — though there are still many unanswered questions remaining for the Bronx Bombers. 

The team went 92-70 in the 2021 season, which put them 8 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East, and two wins above the Seattle Mariners to secure the second Wild Card spot. 

Unfortunately for pinstripe fans, the team lost handily to the Boston Red Sox by a 6-2 margin in the sudden-death game on Oct. 5 at Fenway Park, bringing their quasi-promising year to an uneventful close. 

Collectively during the regular season lat year, the team recorded a .237 batting average with a .322 on base percentage, while securing 4.1 RBIs and 1.37 home runs per game. 

Now, the team looks to retool under the newly-agreed-upon rules, and there are multiple free agents the team could pursue to plug some glaring gaps in their lineup. 

Free agency and the Yankees

Perhaps the biggest name free agent on the market is shortstop Carlos Correa, who previously played for the Houston Astros, and was the first pick of the 2012 MLB draft. Since his debut in the majors in 2015, when he won AL Rookie of the Year, Correa has made multiple All-Star appearances, and won the Gold Glove award last season. 

The phenom also boasted a .279 batting average, along with a .366 on base percentage and a .485 slugging percentage. He finished the season with 155 hits and 92 RBIs, with 26 home runs. 

There are few teams who could look to bring the shortstop on board due to his expectedly high salary, but the Yankees are among those teams, and would seemingly be a terrific fit. 

While the team does have promising young prospects at the position, such as 20-year-old Anthony Volpe, Correa would make an immediate impact this upcoming season, and potentially add some much needed help on both sides of the ball. 

[READ ALSO: ​​2022 MLB free agent predictions]

Other free agents the Yankees are reportedly interested in include pitchers Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox, and Yusei Kikuchi, formerly of the Seattle Mariners, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. 

On the flip side, the Yankees may lose free agent first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who played 49 games with the team after being traded from the Cubs. In that span, he performed respectably, with solid defense and a bat that recorded .249/.340/.428 with eight home runs and 21 RBIs. The team may be able to resign Rizzo, but several teams (including the Cubs) have expressed interest in snatching him away from the Bronx. 

The ‘loaded’ Aaron Judge question

Fan-favorite Aaron Judge has still not received a contract extension. 

This year is the final offseason that Judge is eligible for arbitration, and could hit free agency next winter. Speaking with the “R2C2” podcast last month, Judge openly speculated about his future in the Bronx when asked about a potential extension. 

“That’s a loaded question,” Judge said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play in the best organization out of all of them, so who wants to go anywhere else? If we get an extension done before the season starts, that’d be great. I’d be completely honored to wear pinstripes for a couple more years. But if it doesn’t happen, and this is my last year [in the Bronx]… I had a lot of great memories.”

[READ ALSO: Aaron Judge suggests contract extension with Yankees must be done by Opening Day]

Despite approaching age 30, the Yankees have given every indication that they intend to keep Judge in pinstripes for the long-haul — though doing so will require a significant commitment to the elite (and injury-prone) outfielder, in both dollars and years. 

While arbitration will almost-certainly keep him in the Five Boroughs this year, the looming question remains about his future on the Yankees. 

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