Aaron Judge Still ‘More Important’ Than Juan Soto to These Yankees: MLB Execs

Aaron Judge

Getty New York Yankees captain Aaron Judge has struggled from the plate in 2024

The New York Yankees were poised to have one of the best-hitting duos in all of MLB this season after they acquired Juan Soto in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres. But that promise has only turned out to be half true in the early going as Yankees captain Aaron Judge hasn’t been able to keep pace with Soto’s slugging.

While the newest Yankee is off to a .337/.456/.578 start with five homers and 20 RBI in an 83 at bats, Judge, who bats just after Soto at third in the order, is slashing a mere .183/.320/.354 with three homers and 11 RBI in 82 at bats. Judge’s struggles at the plate have been so pronounced that the Yankees crowd booed him on his own bobblehead day.

But leaders from across the majors still believe Judge is the leader of this Yankees team, despite the disparity between his production and Soto’s. A recent MLB.com poll found that front-office executives think Judge is “more important to the Yankees this season,” with eight voting for him while just six picked Soto and one saying it was a tie.

“He’s the guy they know is going to be there forever, and although they hope the same for Soto, they don’t know yet,” one National League executive said, referring to the fact that Judge signed a nine-year, $360 million deal with the Yankees in 2019 while Soto is on a one-year deal before hitting free agency. “I think if Judge plays well, that team rolls. When he doesn’t, they don’t.”

The New York Yankees Need Aaron Judge to Improve at the Plate

Indeed, the Yankees got off to a hot start this season behind Soto’s bat and some surprisingly-strong performances from teammates not named Judge, like Anthony Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera. But that start has cooled, with Judge’s struggles singled out as one primary factor.

“Soto was expected to co-star with Judge in a long lineup that grinded opponents. But too often it has been Juan Soto and The Pips,” Joel Sherman wrote for the New York Post. “But Judge because of the size of his talent, contract, track record and, well, size draws the most attention for the offensive downturn… So when he struck out in the ninth against Jason Adam when one Judge-ian blast could have sent 47,629 home happy, he was booed by a segment of the crowd.”

Juan Soto Might Return to the New York Yankees for 2025 and Beyond

This early into the season, it still seems probable that the dreams of a hot-hitting Judge and Soto duo will materialize. But the early returns for 2024 suggest Soto has a legitimate case to emerge as the leader of a Yankees team that anointed Judge its captain for the future years ago.

“I think Soto might be more important based on the fact that they gave up prospects for him in hopes of securing him beyond this year and into free agency,” another NL executive told MLB.com. “Ideally, Soto has a great year — which he’s off to a good start — develops those relationships and wants to stay, which would be unique for a (Scott) Broas client.” 

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