NEW YORK -- If there's still any chance that superstar free agent Bryce Harper could become a Yankee, another Bronx star is willing to do what it takes to make that possibility a reality.Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge told TMZ Sports on Monday that he would consider moving to center
NEW YORK -- If there's still any chance that superstar free agent Bryce Harper could become a Yankee, another Bronx star is willing to do what it takes to make that possibility a reality.
Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge told TMZ Sports on Monday that he would consider moving to center field to clear a spot for Harper, if that was indeed something that could put New York over the top in the Harper sweepstakes.
"Wherever he wants to play, we'll make it work," Judge told TMZ. "Anytime you can add an MVP to a team, it's going to make it better."
Harper, who wears No. 34 because those digits add up to Mickey Mantle's famous No. 7, has been linked to the Yanks essentially since the Nationals drafted him in 2010, but New York has appeared unwilling to offer him the potentially record contract he's sought on the open market.
In fact, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who was at the Thurman Munson Award Dinner on Tuesday night, believes New York's outfield is already packed with Judge, Aaron Hicks in center field, Brett Gardner in left and Giancarlo Stanton also logging innings there when not serving as the club's designated hitter. New York's payroll is also right up against the $206 million competitive balance tax threshold, per rosterresource.com, which could make the Yankees hesitant to hand out a mega deal.
"I think that was Judgie having some fun at the Super Bowl," Boone said. "Judgie would do a lot of things for the team. ... He was probably pressed in the corner at the Super Bowl and he gave a good answer. I don't think we have to worry about [Judge moving to center field]."
Asked if he wanted Harper on the team, Boone said, "I want everybody. Obviously, he is a great player. Our team is pretty much set. Obviously, things happen. Of course, [general manager] Brian [Cashman] and his staff have pivot on certain things. But I think it's safe to assume we are going to Spring Training with the team we expect to have."
But it's not all that hard to envision the Yanks, facing an intense race with the reigning World Series champion Red Sox this season, making room for Harper if that was indeed a route they suddenly decided to take.
Judge, for his part, has started just one Major League game in center field, and it came in the third game of last season against the Blue Jays. He totaled one Out Above Average (OAA) last season in right field, per Statcast™, and his athleticism has at least some potential to transfer to center. Harper rated as one of MLB's worst outfielders by the same metric in 2018, though his defensive numbers had been strong in the past. Judge also averaged a 28 feet per second sprint speed on the basepaths last year, while Harper came in at 27.5 feet per second.
Judge also lobbied for fellow superstar free agent Manny Machado last spring, and while New York appears to be an unlikely landing spot for Machado at this point, it's too early to count the pinstripes out just yet. If either Machado or Harper joins forces with Judge and Stanton, the Yankees would add a fearsome piece to a lineup that already broke the Major League team home run record in 2018.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. Reporter Bill Ladson contributed to this story.