TAMPA, Fla. — New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner assesses his relationship with slugger Aaron Judge and questions the new captain about a variety of team-related issues, including the team’s spring training renovations. He recently picked Judge’s brain about Anthony Volpe, a dynamic prospect competing to be the team’s shortstop.
“I heard about it from other players, including Aaron Judge [Volpe] “He’s been very professional for someone his age,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday morning, “which is good because he’s going to need all that to play where we play.”
Judge turned down a $213.5 million offer from the Yankees last spring before hitting an AL record 62 homers and having one of the most productive seasons of all time. After the season, Steinbrenner got personally involved in negotiations with Judge — as Judge neared his decision, Steinbrenner increased his offer from $320 million to $360 million during a late-night chat with Judge. And he named Judge as the franchise’s first captain since Derek Jeter.
“The judge and I have a good relationship,” Steinbrenner said. “I asked him about a lot of things. We are getting ready to look at some repairs [the spring training] stadium, he is involved in this. Yes, I ask him about different players.”
Steinbrenner also addressed the team’s recent spate of injuries; Yankee payroll; and salary increases for high-profile free agents. Given the offseason deals for superstar players like Judge, Steinbrenner proposed an amendment to his perennial statement that a $200 million salary is not necessary to win a World Series. A more appropriate context in this era, Steinbrenner said you don’t need a $300 million salary to win a championship with a smile. The Yankees have a projected payroll of less than $300 million.
“Times have changed, I’ll admit that,” Steinbrenner said.
Earlier this spring, Pirates owner Bob Nutting said parts of the new collective bargaining agreement struck a year ago between MLB and the players’ union didn’t work for the Pirates, just the latest indication of unhappiness among some minor leaguers. market teams. Steinbrenner: “Why are we talking about this right now? We’re one year into our labor agreement. We have all these great rule changes that will make the game even better and more exciting. Right in the middle. Spring training, until Opening Day — and I (the CBA) are focused on I did not translate.
The Yankees have lost pitcher Carlos Rodon, center fielder Harrison Bader and catcher Jose Trevino to injuries along with half a dozen others this spring.
“I think I’d rather be glass-half-full and say ‘get them out of the way now’ than deal with what happened last year, July and even August … It was a bad scenario. would love to do it again,” Steinbrenner said.
“The first half of last year we had one of the most dominant teams in baseball,” he continued, “and then the injuries hit us. This team in most cases. Most of them returned. One question we asked ourselves was whether our starting rotation was good enough to beat certain teams in the American League, and we came to a consensus that we needed more — so we got Carlos. [Rodon].
“Do I think we’re good enough to win a championship? Yes. But we have to stay healthy.”
Last week, Rodon was diagnosed with what the team called a “mild” elbow strain that could sideline the left arm for the start of the regular season. Steinbrenner said he spoke with Rodon in the trainer’s room this week and the pitcher’s range of motion has already improved significantly. “I think he’s going to be great for us,” Steinbrenner said.
The Yankees will soon choose who to install at shortstop at the start of the season. Earlier this week, Isiah Keener-Falefa, the regular shortstop on last year’s team, began receiving balls in the outfield, possibly preparing for a move to utility player. Executives at other teams say Keener-Falefa is available in a trade, and some rival evaluators believe the veteran will be dealt soon.
The Yankees appear to be headed for a choice between Oswald Peraza, who made his major league debut last year, or Volpe, who has been one of the team’s top performers this spring, hitting .321 with four doubles, two homers and three steals. The 21-year-old Volpe, the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft, has impressed veterans with his attitude and confidence. The belief in the organization is that if Volpe opens the year in the big leagues and struggles early in his career — which is not uncommon for a young player — he has the mental strength to overcome some setbacks.
In one spring game, Volpe stole second base and then third base in a row — a moment that stunned the owner.
Steinbrenner acknowledged that the team’s staff will evaluate the shortstop competition next week and that Steinbrenner will be involved in those discussions. In recent decades, some teams have chosen to press elite prospects in the minor leagues to manage service time. Steinbrenner said service time was not a factor in the short-term selection. The final decision rests with general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone, Steinbrenner reiterated, but Volpe is “obviously having a great spring. … He’s shown, at least in spring training, that he can handle it, play well and play well. do different things.”
The team’s young players, Steinbrenner said, have stood out to him this spring from Volpe to Peraza in outfielders Osvaldo Cabrera and Jason Dominguez, a strong young outfielder.
“It’s exciting for me because I’ve been watching these kids for years,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s always exciting to me, especially when someone like Volpe has their first spring practice, to perform and perform well and impress guys like Judge, that’s what they’re doing.”
Last year, fans at Yankee Stadium who couldn’t wait for another championship made Steinbrenner nervous. Fourteen years have passed since the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, and when fans criticize Hal, they often invoke the ghost of Hal Steinbrenner’s hyperaggressive father, George Steinbrenner.
Not reaching the World Series, Hal Steinbrenner says, haunts him every year. This haunted my father for 18 years. This is what our fans have been waiting for. , and that’s what we try to do every year.”