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Where Should The Yankees’ Limit Be On Aaron Judge’s Extension?

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Where Should The Yankees’ Limit Be On Aaron Judge’s Extension?
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Yankees star right fielder Aaron Judge chose to gamble on himself ahead of his final year of arbitration, which is currently heading in the right direction for #99.

Wanting to focus primarily on the season ahead and withhold the constant distractions of negotiations and media questionnaires, Judge gave the Yankees a deadline of Opening Day to put pen to paper. A decision was not met in time, thus leaving the fate of the franchise’s face in jeopardy.

According to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, New York offered Judge a seven-year, $230.5 million deal, which is an AAV of $30.5. As of today, this would be the 15th-highest amount in MLB.

Although Judge did not comment on the reason for passing on this deal, whether it has to do with the AAV or amount of years, it is clear that Judge thinks he can make more either from the Yankees by the end of the year or in free agency.

And considering his numbers so far are on pace to be the best of his seven-year career (211 OPS+, league-lead in home runs), he might just be doing that.

But, will the Yankees be willing to sign another long-term deal that keeps a player on the payroll into their late 30’s?

Currently, the Yankees have five played locked up until at least their age 35 season. 4 of those 5 are retained to age 37 or longer. If 30-year old Judge’s concern was the length of the deal being longer than 7-years, then he will be put into this grouping.

Of this group however (Cole, Stanton, Hicks, LeMahieu, Donaldson) Judge has the best WAR rate per year (7.6 per 162 games). For reference, the best single-season WAR total from a position player this decade was Barry Bonds in 2001, when he produced 11.9 WAR in his 73 home run, 177 walk season.

So, according to Ben Clemens of Fangraph’s, the average rate of money per WAR of 2+ WAR players is $8.5 million. This means that if Judge stays on his current per season pace for WAR (6.4 per 129 games a season*), he is owed $54 million AAV.

That would shatter the mark that Max Scherzer set this past year, which was $43.3 million AAV, so that high of a mark may not be the most logical guess.

However, it shows the magnitude of what Judge has been worth. But with an expected decline to his playing abilities, this is where the years of the contract outweigh the AAV during the remainder of Judge’s prime.

So, if the Yankees were to mimic the AAV of comparable free agents (George Springer, Mookie Betts, etc.) Judge’s extension may have to average out to an AAV over $32 million, while also biting the bullet of 8-9 years guaranteed.

The main factor hurting Judge of really being the top paid position player is his age. The best one-to-one comparison in the league right now, Mookie Betts, received his contract ahead of his age 27 season, thus giving him 12 years of comfort.

George Springer on the other hand did not receive the contract that guaranteed him the later years of his career, as he also debuted at 24-years-old and got his contract at age 30. And with Judge’s career numbers being being a tick above Toronto’s center fielder, he can expect a tick above Springer’s AAV of $25 million.

Even though the point made previously about the Yankees already having aging contracts still owed, some of the biggest Achilles Heels we see with teams today, there are two factors outside of the product on the field that may help push the Yankees’ front office over the hump.

For one, the additional revenue Judge brings in.

Judge has been considered ‘Jeter-esque’ in terms of his public image, thus making plenty of fans across the country. If you need further proof, just look at his jersey sales records, where he led the MLB from 2017-2019 and has been within the top-10 every season since becoming a big leaguer.

Judge has also been steadily growing his personal brand as well, doing such things as partnering with Pepsi and being sponsored by Adidas. He was the number 1 “Most Endorsed Athlete”, according to MLB.

And while that aspect of Judge is comparable to #2 in pinstripes, the second reason for the Yankees ability to push the envelope is to reward the leadership style of Judge and name him the Yankees captain for the first time since Jeter retired.

The extension is the primary reason why the Yankees have yet to do this already, considering Judge’s ability to personify this without the official recognition. But, alongside the assistance he’ll give in the locker room for years to come, referring back to point number one will be even more accessible once Judge is locked in for the expected remainder of his career.

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