SAN DIEGO - You'd think the New York Yankees have some clear advantages toward their stated goal of signing Aaron Judge.
The history bit. The lights of Broadway. The Yankee brand.
Oh, and the ability to outspend anyone in the game, if they choose.
But as good as GM Brian Cashman is at this card game, Judge has proven himself a shark - leaving the Yankees' executive team guessing whether he'd really bolt for San Francisco, if all things are even.
And here was an interesting take from Cashman here at the winter meetings:
"Listen, if Aaron Judge signs somewhere else, do we pivot and do something else? Do we remake ourselves completely? I've got no idea.''
Cashman quickly followed that comment with this: "That's not what we want to do.''
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Reading the tealeaves on Judge's decision wherever possible, Time Magazine - in naming Judge its Athlete of the Year - revealed the slugger's annoyance about the Yankees' late March decision to make public the $213.5 million, seven-year extension he rejected.
"I was a little upset that the numbers came out,'' Judge told Time in its cover story. "I understand, that's a negotiating tactic. Put pressure on me. Turn the fans against me. Turn the media on me.
"That part of it I didn't like.''
Asked about that decision recently, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner echoed the organization's talking point that the figures would have been reported anyway, so why not be transparent about their effort? (Though the Yanks have rarely, if ever, operated this way in the Hal Steinbrenner era).
"It's something I approved when Cash brought (the idea) to me,'' Steinbrenner said last month of revealing their bid. "Aaron and I have not discussed that, but it's something I definitely approved - I approve everything that comes down the pike.''
Steinbrenner added that he would explain to Judge, if the subject came up, that it was "my call, be mad at me. But here are the reasons why.''
In the same Time article, Judge was reminded by his wife Sam, of something he told her when they were Linden, Calif. high school sweethearts 12 years ago - that he'd be "married to Sam and playing for the San Francisco Giants.''
"I was like, 'That'd better not get out,' '' Judge told Time.
Trying to avoid Plan B
Any of the Plan B scenarios aren't as appealing as putting Judge back at Yankee Stadium.
Yet, the Yankees are forced to confront three scenarios as they negotiate with the signature slugger on the free agent market.
How do we improve around Judge?
How do we pivot if Judge leaves?
How do we proceed if Judge delays his decision?
On the No. 3 scenario, Judge has already stated his preference to sign sooner than later, allowing his team to build a contender around him.
But what if Team Judge must sort through late offers from Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, or some other "mystery'' team?
There's a reason the Yankees couldn't act boldly on Justin Verlander, long an intriguing pinstriped target, who agreed to join the Mets on Monday.
"Clearly, with the amount of commitment it would take to retain an Aaron Judge type, it's put us a little bit on hold, obviously,'' Cashman said, speaking generally about doing business while Judge is in limbo.
"The way this winter is going,'' Cashman said, "it could take us a lot of different roads we didn't expect.''
That could mean playing on the remaining elite shortstops market (Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa) despite the high-end youngsters on the horizon.
And if Carlos Rodon is still on the board, the Yanks could take an expensive flyer on a lefty starter reportedly seeking a six-year deal.
Exploring all options, including Brandon Nimmo
Among the free-agent outfielders, Brandon Nimmo might expect a full-court press from the runner-up in the Judge sweepstakes.
The Yanks also need to fill left field with a lefty hitter, and Andrew Benintendi is "a player we'd love to have back,'' said Cashman, though Benintendi has a healthy list of suitors, including the Houston Astros.
Japan's Masataka Yoshida would be among the "players we would have to consider'' once he joins the free-agent market, Cashman said.
Bryan Reynolds has long interested the Yanks, and his reported trade request from Pittsburgh has put the switch-hitting outfielder back into focus.
At this point, the Yanks don't feel they've missed out on opportunities. On Tuesday, they agreed to a two-year deal to bring back free-agent reliever Tommy Kahnle.
"I understand the longer things go, the more at-risk you are,'' Cashman said Monday night of waiting on Judge.
"I just don't want to play the game of 'take this, I need to know now,' and risk what comes from that.''
Aaron Boone checked in with Judge by phone late last week, nudging him with a playful 'let's go.' (Judge merely chuckled in response).
The manager has "spoken to a couple'' of other Yankees free agent targets but had no plans to meet with any in person.
Rodon was not one of the free agents on Boone's recent call list. Boone said he texted with Benintendi around Thanksgiving. "A lot revolves around Aaron and that resolution,'' Boone said of the Yanks' winter plan.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: New York Yankees' options if they don't re-sign Aaron Judge