Aaron Judge ready to pick Juan Soto’s brain, do some recruiting on Yankees’ behalf

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TAMPA, Fla. — When Juan Soto made his first comments of the spring on Monday, the Yankees’ newest star said that he would assist Aaron Judge in any way he could.

“I don’t think he needs much” help Soto said of the 2022 MVP, but “I’ll be there for him.”

From the sound of things, Judge is actually going to seek Soto’s help on a regular basis. The captain made sure his new teammate knew that when they connected over the offseason.

“I was already kind of telling him, ‘Hey, get ready. When we get in the cage together, I’m gonna have quite a few questions for you just about approach, how you attack certain pitchers, how you attack this pitch, what do you do in these certain situations?’ ” Judge said Tuesday. “When you got a talent like that, you can’t miss on an opportunity to pick their brain a little bit.”

Judge went on to say that he did the same when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole, and that he still asks for their insights. Judge will do the same with Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham, two more additions to the Yankees’ outfield mix.

But unlike the other newcomers, Soto and Judge have generational talent in common, even if they profile differently as hitters. While the two are six years apart in age, they’re only two apart in major league experience. And while Soto is missing some of the personal accolades that Judge has accumulated, he does have a World Series ring, a batting tile and an exemplary understanding of the strike zone.

The two can certainly learn from one another. Perhaps they can even make each other better while hitting back-to-back.

“You hope to see that manifesting, and just on the margins, allow them to be just a tick better than what they already are,” said Aaron Boone, adding that Judge and Soto speak a language at the plate that few understand. “I do think the relationship factor there can play a role.”

Boone added that he will consider balance when determining who will hit second and who will hit third, though the manager considers Judge and Soto “interchangeable” in those spots. Soto is a lefty swinger; batting him second would provide optimal balance.

While Judge said that he will be “happy anywhere Soto hits,” No. 99 has also made it known that he would like to bat third.

“It might be a little old school thinking on my part,” Judge said, “but some of the guys I watched growing up, the best hitters were hitting third and the run producers were three and four. But I don’t know. I don’t know why it means so much to me. I just want to find a way to help the team any way I can. If that’s me hitting third, it’s me hitting third.”

Added Soto: “It’s gonna be two walks or it’s gonna be two gappers. But it’s gonna be fun. I think it’s gonna be great. Definitely, if I’m hitting in front of him, I’m gonna try to be as much as I can on the bases so he can do his job and drop the hammer to the ball.”

Figuring out where Judge and Soto will hit is a great problem for the Yankees to have. In an ideal world, they will pair the duo in their lineup for years to come.

However, Soto is scheduled to hit free agency after this season. Only 25, he should receive a payday that vastly exceeds the nine-year, $360 million contract the Yankees gave Judge two offseasons ago.

There’s a chance Soto will be one and done in the Bronx. That means the 2024 season will come with pressure. Not just for him, but for the Yankees.

Judge said that his teammates tried to ease that pressure during his walk year in 2022. He will do the same for Soto and a slew of other Yankees on expiring contracts.

As for recruiting Soto, Judge said that he will make his pitch to his fellow slugger. But he’s also hoping to have some help from the home crowd.

“Yeah,” Judge said when asked if he’ll try to convince Soto to stay, “but I think the fans are going to show up April 5 and do a lot of convincing, too. I think we’ll be good.”