aaron judge yankees
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The Yankees apparently think a decision from free-agent outfielder Aaron Judge is coming soon. That’s good because Judge is probably the first domino that needs to fall for the Hot Stove to start heating up.

From everything we’ve seen, New York is the most likely destination for the reigning American League MVP. But what if he decides to head home and play for the San Francisco Giants? Or, what if there’s a mystery team involved that whisks him away?

Should Judge leave the Bronx, the Yankees are ready to pivot. Two different MLB insiders at ESPN — Jeff Passan and Buster Olney — agree New York would jump right into the shortstop market. This includes four elite players: Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson.

Olney mentioned two players in particular that the Yankees would be interested in: Turner and Bogaerts. They were on the list of players New York recently touched base with as they prepared a contingency plan if the Judge negotiations started going south.

Olney thinks Bogaerts would become the Yankees’ top target should their homegrown outfielder pack his bags and leave town. Here’s some of what he said on Rob Bradford’s “Baseball Isn’t Boring” podcast (quote via WFAN):

If they don’t get Judge, the perception is they’re going to immediately pivot and I don’t think there’s any doubt that that’ll be to the shortstop market

I think Turner’s going to be super expensive. On the other hand, I think another guy who potentially fits for them is Xander Bogaerts because he’s proven in a big market.

He is a guy who’s a terrific professional hitter. He can hold down the position for one year. He could then move to another spot as Volpe, as Peraza graduate into the major leagues at shortstop. He has checked every box for what they’ve been veering toward the last few years: more contact, a guy that can put the ball in play, terrific leadership, great clubhouse guy.

When ESPN polled a number of MLB experts and insiders a couple of weeks ago, Bogaerts’ contract prediction typically fell somewhere between five and seven years for $150-190 million.

That not only is a lot cheaper than Judge’s next contract, but it’d also weaken Boston significantly. But if Brian Cashman and Co. don’t land their biggest offseason priority, why stop there?

The standard in the American League right now is the Houston Astros. Six straight trips to the ALCS and two World Series titles during that time will do it. If New York loses out on Judge and weakens Boston by signing Bogaerts, why not weaken the Astros by making a big splash for Justin Verlander?

The reigning AL Cy Young winner fits on both the Mets and Yankees, but he’d make more sense in the Bronx. Especially if Judge doesn’t re-sign with the club.

Of course, these are all hypotheticals until Judge makes his decision. Passan mentioned in his report that the Yankees made an offer in the vicinity of eight years and $300 million. He suggested they’d also be willing to increase it depending on the outside competition (i.e. what the Giants offer).

All signs are truly pointing to Judge sticking with the Yankees long-term. It makes sense on many levels, and New York is willing to pay the price it wasn’t willing to pay last spring. However, it’s good that the Bombers have contingency plans in place if Judge shocks the industry and heads elsewhere. Pivoting to a top shortstop is great, but they shouldn’t stop there if that’s the situation the Yankees find themselves in.

Matt Musico can be reached at matt.musico@xlmedia.com and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.