Inbox: Will Judge wear a 'C' on his uniform?

January 17th, 2023

There are less than 30 days until Yankees pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Tampa, Fla. It’s a new year, and it’s time to dig in for a fresh look into the Yankees Inbox and see what you, the fans, are asking about:

Will Aaron Judge be sporting a captain patch on either the home or away jerseys this year?
-- Pauly, via Twitter

The short answer is no. When Judge walked in to meet with the print media on the day of his news conference, I pointed at the Nike swoosh on his right chest and said, “No C?” He laughed and said: “No, we don’t do that here.” And it’s true: Derek Jeter never wore a "C," nor did Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson or any of the previous Yankees captains.

Generally speaking, that’s been more of a designation for other sports, though it’s happened a few times in baseball. I recall John Franco opting to wear one when he became the Mets’ captain in 2001, and Jason Varitek wearing the letter with the Red Sox from 2005-11. There’s an interesting Uni Watch article on the topic here.

And in the course of searching about this, I also stumbled across this quote that Jeter once gave me: "I'm no different than anyone else on the team," he said in 2008. "I understand that I have that title. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with anybody that's wearing it, but for me, it was never an issue."

Do you think Josh Donaldson will be the Yankees' regular third baseman?
-- Mike S., Ellettsville, Ind.

Yes. General manager Brian Cashman confirmed as much in December, saying that Donaldson will “definitely” be the starter at the hot corner in 2023. The Yanks are banking on a bounceback offensive performance from the 37-year-old, who slashed .222/.308/.374 with 15 homers and 62 RBIs in 132 games (94 OPS+). Both Cashman and manager Aaron Boone believe that Donaldson should have been prominently involved in the Gold Glove conversation at third base, so it appears that the "Bringer of Rain" will have more chances to impact the Yanks’ lineup.

“I do think he’s got another offensive bang in him. I really believe that,” Boone said. “We saw how good he was defensively. He just never kind of got on track offensively last year. It was like he’d put together a couple of days, and then hitting becomes hard when you’re constantly searching for that good roll. But I think he’s got another big offensive season in him, I really do. This offseason will be important for him.”

What is the current landscape for an Opening Day shortstop?
-- Evan P., Wichita, Kan.

It depends on who you speak to, but my sense of the spring competition is that Oswald Peraza will come in as the frontrunner to win the job, with the organization looking for Peraza to continue the promising development that he showed late last season at the big league level. Top prospect Anthony Volpe will also be in camp and should receive plenty of playing time, but considering it’s Volpe’s first big league camp and he has only had 99 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, he’d need a sensational spring to convince the Yanks to jump him past beginning the year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Isiah Kiner-Falefa agreed to a $6 million contract in November, which seems pricy for a utility infielder. Kiner-Falefa could be viewed as a fallback if Peraza isn’t ready or sustains an injury, and certainly the Yanks could consider a trade as they aim to create breathing room underneath the top luxury tax threshold.

Do you think Gleyber Torres will be traded?
-- Tyler, via Twitter

It’s possible, but not absolutely necessary. The Yankees did consider moving Torres to the Marlins for right-hander Pablo López at last year’s Trade Deadline, so we know that mentioning Torres to Cashman’s baseball operations team wouldn’t prompt an immediate hang-up. It’s not thought that the Yanks are actively shopping Torres, but they’d listen to offers. The infield logjam hasn’t cleared much from this time last year, when we wondered how or where DJ LeMahieu would get his at-bats.

Torres and the Yankees landed $500,000 apart in their contract talks for 2023, with Torres filing at $10.3 million and the club at $9.7 million. Torres has value, coming off a year in which he slashed .257/.310/.451 with 24 homers and 76 RBIs (114 OPS+), even though his numbers aren’t quite where they were as an All-Star in 2018 and ’19. He’s also not eligible for free agency until 2025, which would be appealing on the trade market.

Do you believe the Yankees are still in on Bryan Reynolds? I believe he makes this a complete team and is built for Yankee Stadium.
-- Nick M., via e-mail

Everything we’ve heard to this point is that those talks have stalled; the Pirates’ asking price is sky-high for Reynolds, a switch-hitter who turns 28 later this month and slashed .262/.345/.461 with 27 homers and 62 RBIs (126 OPS+) in 145 games last year. Even though Reynolds requested a trade in December, Pittsburgh has shown no inclination to offload him for anything less than a huge return.

The New York Post reported that the Pirates asked the Yankees for multiple players from a group that included Volpe, Peraza and Jasson Domínguez. If that’s the case, it seems likely that Reynolds will begin the ’23 season in Pittsburgh.

Do you think LeMahieu will be healthy this year, and if so, do you see him batting leadoff?
-- Shawn C., via e-mail

The Yanks’ most recent updates on LeMahieu are promising, as it appears the conservative course of treatment will permit him to avoid surgery and begin the spring on time. LeMahieu was unavailable during the postseason due to a broken sesamoid bone in his right big toe that led to ligament damage in his second toe. It’s a complicated injury, but LeMahieu has been working out at the team’s complex in Tampa, Fla., where he has been hitting, throwing, performing agility work and running.