HERE COMES THE JUDGE
It has been about a week since Aaron Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension from the Yankees, figures provided by general manager Brian Cashman about 90 minutes before the team took the field on Opening Day. This seems like an excellent opportunity to take a deep breath, step back and evaluate the landscape as best we can, so let’s do that.
Judge said that he was “disappointed” that he and the team were unable to agree on an extension, and they also remain headed to an arbitration hearing over a $4 million difference on a 2022 salary ($17 million vs. $21 million) — something that normally would have been settled in the spring, but the lockout sent arbitration cases spilling into the regular season.
So … what does this mean for Judge’s future? One thing that both the team and player agree upon is that they are better together than apart. Judge has repeatedly said that he hopes to play his entire career in a Yankees uniform, and Cashman is on record as saying that he wants to keep Judge in the Bronx. (No surprise there — he’s the face of the franchise and arguably their best offensive player.)
“I’ve been vocal about wanting to be a Yankee for life,” Judge said. “I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here. They’re family. This is home for me, and not getting that done right now, it stinks. But I’ve got a job to do on the field. I’ve got to shift my focus to that and go play some ball.”
The Yankees would have made Judge the team’s highest-paid position player in terms of average annual value at $30.5 million. About 72 hours before Judge’s self-imposed Opening Day deadline, Cashman said he informed agent Page Odle that the Yankees planned to announce their offer to the public.
Asked about that, Judge said: “There’s nothing to be upset about. It’s business.”
Judge’s decision to potentially test free agency is his right, a bold bet that shows how strongly he believes in his talents. Make no mistake: it’s a gamble, considering that Judge played in 242 of a possible 384 regular-season games from 2018-20 due to various injuries. But if Judge has the monster year he expects, then the Yankees (and other clubs) will gladly line up to make their offers.
“He’s been a great Yankee, he’s an impactful player and he’s one of the game’s great players,” Cashman said. “Our hope is that at some point we’ll find that common ground that we both feel comfortable with. We’re happy he’s in pinstripes and we look forward to him leading this team this season.”