Judge or Soto? Who matters more for Yanks in '24? MLB execs decide

April 22nd, 2024

Abbott or Costello? Buzz or Woody? Wayne or Garth? Joey or Chandler?

Dynamic duos have been a part of our culture for generations, and baseball has been no stranger to the concept, particularly in the Bronx.

Ruth and Gehrig. Mantle and Maris. Jeter and Bernie.

The acquisition of this winter created a new powerful pinstriped pair, lining up the three-time All-Star next to 2022 American League Most Valuable Player .

Judge -- who was named captain after he signed a nine-year, $360 million deal prior to the 2023 season -- is undoubtedly the face of the franchise, but which of the two sluggers is the key to the Yankees’ success in 2024?

We polled more than a dozen front-office executives with that exact question: Is Judge or Soto more important to the Yankees this season?

Judge (8 votes)
Soto (6)
Tie (1)

Judge edged his teammate by just two votes, with one executive unable to pick a side in this difficult debate.

“Judge … because he is the Yankees,” one National League executive said. “He’s the guy they know is going to be there forever, and although they hope the same for Soto, they don’t know yet. I think if Judge plays well, that team rolls. When he doesn’t, they don’t. But there are 29 other teams in the league that would love to have that question on their roster!”

“The answer has to be Judge, right?” another NL exec said. “The difference in production from him they got the last two years is a lot bigger than whatever variable outcomes Soto might have.”

Judge is off to a slow start this season, slashing .189/.337/.378 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in his first 20 games. But unlike last year, when the Yankees’ offense went cold after Judge landed on the injured list, this year’s lineup ranks in the top five in nearly every offensive category.

By contrast, Soto has gotten his Yankees career going with a bang, slashing .347/.468/.600 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 20 games, leading the Majors with 18 walks in the process.

“I would go with Soto,” an NL executive said. “He takes the pressure off of everyone else in the lineup -- especially Judge -- by getting on base, but also having the ability to drive in the people that get on in front of him. It also helps that he is in a contract year.”

Soto’s impending free agency was noted by multiple executives, not only for the potential motivation factor, but also because this might be his only year in pinstripes.

“I think Soto might be more important based on the fact that they gave up prospects for him in hopes of securing him beyond this year and into free agency,” an NL executive said. “Ideally, Soto has a great year -- which he’s off to a good start -- develops those relationships and wants to stay, which would be unique for a [Scott] Boras client.”

Another executive said it was “a close call,” ultimately pointing to Soto being left-handed as the tiebreaker, as he balances the Yankees’ lineup and his swing is tailor-made for Yankee Stadium.

A number of execs struggled to come up with a definitive answer, going back and forth before coming to their decision.

“Given their lineup construction, Judge taking advantage of Soto’s walks/on-base will be a primary path to success for them,” an AL exec said. “It’s a 55/45; I could go either way.”

There’s no arguing the impactful offensive profiles both sluggers bring to the plate, but two executives noted that Judge’s ability to play a solid center field is what separates the pair.

“Judge has the ability to provide value on both sides of the ball,” an NL exec said, “whereas Soto’s value comes exclusively at the plate.”

“Judge plays the up-the-middle position,” another NL executive said. “He’s the one who can make the most impact over the course of the season. Though Soto’s continued SO/BB excellence is very impressive.”

Judge has been a force at the plate for the Yankees since his historic rookie season in 2017, and while New York has reached three AL Championship Series in his first seven years in the Majors, the club has yet to reach the World Series during that time. That led one executive to choose Soto as his answer.

“The Yankees have had Judge and that hasn’t been enough,” an AL executive said. “So a normal Judge year needs to be supplemented with a huge Soto year.”

One AL executive wrestled with the choice by asking a rhetorical question of their own.

“Which leg is more important for you to run?” the exec said. “They’re hoping to get at least 10-12 WAR between the two. Both are crazy good and very important. If the Yankees can only choose one, it should be Judge, just because they’re stuck with him for much longer.”

Of all the respondents, only one was unable to decide between the two All-Stars.

“You know what’s delicious? Beer and tacos,” the AL executive said. “Tacos are delicious. Beer is great. But the combo just sings. You lose either one of them, and it’s just not the same. They’re equally important to the overall experience.”