Judge's trip to World Series has him eyeing '24 Fall Classic

November 6th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

beamed this past week as he accepted the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, traveling to Phoenix for a presentation of Major League Baseball’s top honor for community service.

Yet there was an uncomfortable reality for the Yankees' captain as he hustled through the hallways of Chase Field. Judge was dressed sharply, in a light blue suit with a navy tie, but this wasn’t how he envisioned reaching the World Series. That night, he would have much rather been wearing his uniform and spikes.

"We haven’t made it to the big dance in quite a few years, so we have got some work to do," Judge told reporters. "Especially even on the players’ side; we have got a lot of work to do on the players’ side. I am looking forward to, hopefully, getting us back to the promised land with some good ones."

As the Rangers and D-backs limbered up on the field, set to play Game 3 of the World Series, Judge needed no reminder that his club fell far short of expectations in 2023. With a record of 82-80, the Yankees narrowly avoided their first losing season since 1992, yet no one in the pinstriped world considered that a success.

Judge indicated that he has spoken with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner about changes that need to be made, noting that those alterations could include "philosophies, players, coaches, everything."

"I think they are working on that," Judge said at the time. "It’s a tough time, especially with the World Series going on, but I think once we get past this, through the offseason is when we’re going to see bigger moves.

"We have still got a lot of time, but I know they are busy working. Literally, since our season ended, I know they have been working down there in Tampa. They are working hard, and I am looking forward to getting some updates."

What might that look like? We’ll find out more on Tuesday, when Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman are both scheduled to speak with the media -- Steinbrenner on Zoom, and Cashman at the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. Steinbrenner said recently that there will be changes, but that "some may be more subtle than others."

While a bid for Shohei Ohtani appears unlikely, it’s difficult not to be excited about the possibility of Juan Soto hitting in Yankee Stadium amid buzz that the Padres might move the outfielder before he reaches free agency. Would the Yankees part with the necessary prospect capital for a one-year rental, with the intention of keeping Soto longer?

Cody Bellinger is a compelling outfield option who would also add a much-needed lefty bat to the lineup, and the Yankees are expected to be among the bidders for Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto. With No. 2 prospect Jasson Domínguez expected to miss the first half of the season, four-time Gold Glove Award winner Kevin Kiermaier could provide a veteran presence in center field.

Aaron Boone is expected to return for a seventh season as manager, but the Yankees are in the market for a new hitting coach after Sean Casey recently said that he will not return due to family concerns.

Indeed, Judge certainly seems to be on alert for pending moves. He’d been visiting his parents in Linden, Calif., recently, working out with his wife, Samantha, when his phone buzzed. It was Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ director of media relations, asking: "You got a minute? This is very important."

"I’m like, ‘Is there a trade going on or something? Something happening?'" Judge said.

It was the notification that Judge had won the Clemente Award, which rendered him "speechless." He placed a FaceTime call to his mother, Patty, who has been instrumental to the ALL RISE Foundation. Patty was driving at the time of the call, but not for long.

"She had to pull the car over, because when she heard the news, she didn’t want to get in a crash," Judge said. "It was just a special moment that I definitely won’t forget."