PITTSBURGH – These days, Hal Steinbrenner’s inbox is not overflowing with critical pinstriped problems to address.
Yet, in the coming weeks, there will be key decisions to make before August. 2 trade deadline.
There is the lingering issue of Aaron Judge’s impending free agency, and the constant reminders that the Yankees have not paraded through the Canyon of Heroes since 2009.
But halfway through the 2022 MLB season, the Yankees (58-23) own baseball’s best record, on pace for 116 regular-season wins.
“I knew we had a team capable of great things,” Steinbrenner said, although he did not envision this historic start.
“This is a special team,” he said.
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Here are the bullet points of the Yankees managing general partner’s Wednesday media session at the season’s midpoint.
Aaron Judge contract talks
No, Steinbrenner won’t provide updates on the status of negotiations to keep his best player in the Bronx beyond 2022.
Yes, “there’s no doubt” Steinbrenner wants Judge to remain on a long-term deal.
“But there’s a lot of discussion to be had,” said Steinbrenner, suggesting that substantive talks would occur after the season.
“I completely agreed with Aaron… that in no way shape or form can this be a distraction,” Steinbrenner said. “The sole focus is winning a championship, that’s all anyone needs to worry about right now.”
No regrets about Judge offer
At the ownership level, there is no second guessing about the “very good” offer Judge rejected hours before Opening Day, nor the club’s decision to make that offer public.
“We just didn’t get a deal done,” said Steinbrenner, who referred to the shorter offseason window due to MLB’s lockout. “We had less time but there are no regrets.”
Based on Judge’s MVP-caliber season, those talks would start with a far higher number than the $30.5 million annually offered by the Yanks through the 2029 season.
“Of course, it’s a possibility. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Steinbrenner, adding that Judge’s performance and leadership has “been phenomenal” this year.
“He’s a guy that’s confident, that believes in his talent and that’s what you’re seeing this year. And we’re all thrilled.”
What will happen at the MLB trade deadline?
Steinbrenner suggested that the Yankees are several weeks away from moving into the War Room at Tampa, Florida, and discussing potential trades.
Would the Yankees seek to exploit their double-digit AL East lead and strike a significant deal for a starting pitcher or a big-name outfielder at the cost of big-time prospects or a payroll spike above the next luxury tax threshold?
Speaking generally, Steinbrenner said that if general manager Brian Cashman presented a deal that might “bring us over the top, (if) we’re not where we need to be yet” in the assessment of his baseball operations staff, “then I I’m going to consider it.
“I am hesitant to give up prospects, I always have been. But we’ve done it in the past and all that will be on the table, too.
Any concerns for Hal Steinbrenner going forward?
Steinbrenner identified the remaining schedule, especially within the division, and “staying healthy” as two items of concern.
“But as far as individual players, individual positions, we just haven’t talked about any of that yet,” Steinbrenner said.
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The Yankees’ overall pitching, improved defense and middle-of-the-order production have allowed them to overcome subpar offensive performances by Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson and the empty production of Joey Gallo.
“He’s grinding it out, he’s got the support of all of us,” Steinbrenner said. “I still expect great things out of him.”
Steinbrenner referred to the organizational reinforcements on the horizon, such as reliever Jonathan Loaisiga. And the Yanks have potential outfield upgrades one level below in Estevan Florial and Miguel Andujar.
What does Hal think of Houston Astros?
Just as in 2017 and 2019, with more controversial clubs, the Houston Astros could be standing in the Yankees’ path towards a pennant.
“We all need to be concerned about Houston, they’re a very good team,” Steinbrenner said of a potential October clash. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a challenge for them, too, make no mistake.”
And what about the first-place, Buck Showalter-led Mets?
Having two good New York teams at the same time is “a good thing, and I think meeting in the postseason – I’m all for it,” Steinbrenner said of a potential Subway World Series.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com. Yankees owner on Aaron Judge contract talks. Discussions to be had: