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On Friday morning as he prepared for his sixth Opening Day with the Yankees, Aaron Judge faced the media throng back in the clubhouse after two years of virtual interviews and the topic mostly centered around talks about a contract extension.
At 9:42 a.m. Judge coyly said “first pitch is 1:08 p.m.” It was as subtle yet veiled reference to when his deadline for negotiating a contract extension would end and the matter would likely be tabled until after the season.
A little over 90 minutes later, GM Brian Cashman walked to the podium in the interview room and got right to the point with an update on the matter that was viewed as the last piece of an offseason many think was underwhelming for the Yankees
“It’s concluded and unfortunately will be on a one-year setting,” Cashman said in. “We obviously had an extended conversation the last three weeks or so but were unsuccessful.”
Cashman then went on the detail what was offered to the right fielder, who homered in his debut and then hit 52 homers in 2017 to break Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 set in 1987 with Oakland. That mark was ultimately broken when Pete Alonso slugged 53 homers for the New York Mets in 2019 and Judge will enter the one-year deal that gets decided in arbitration with 158 homers, including 39 he hit last season when he stayed healthy.
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Cashman said the Yankees offered a seven-year $213.5 million extension, which would not include the 17 million the team offered in arbitration or the 21 million Judge has requested. The deal would have started in 2023 and had an average annual value of $30.5 million.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com it would have ranked 17th in baseball history in terms of average annual value. It also would have taken Judge through age 37, similar to the recent free agent contracts for Corey Seager, Freddie Freeman, Marcus Semien and Francisco Lindor
By all accounts both sides want to continue the relationship. It is a stance both sides have publicly stated in previous comments.
Now the Yankees are in the area of likely being asked for more by Judge, especially if he duplicates what he did last season or even exceeds it.
“We are happy he is in pinstripes,” Cashman said. “We look forward to him leading this team this year”
As for beyond this year, it is a mystery. Publicly Judge has frequently stated his desire to be a Yankee for life similar to previous icons such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera but about an hour after Josh Donaldson’s single gave the Yankees an 11th-inning win, there seemed to be a theme of disappointment and frustration in his words.
“I’m just disappointed because I have been vocal about wanting to be a Yankee for life,” Judge “I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here. This is home for me. And I’m not getting that done right now. It stinks, but I got a job to do on the field. I got to shift my focus to that now and play some ball.”
Judge also seemed less than thrilled Cashman took the tactic of actually announcing to a crowded room what was offered, something that can be viewed as public relations spin to make people side with management or a way to cover yourself given the likelihood of the figure leaking out at some point.
Whatever Cashman’s reasoning for publicly spilling the beans about the proposed terms — which are slightly higher than the 10-year, $189 million deal signed in Feb. 2001 – Judge understood the reasoning even if he did not seem thrilled about it.
“I don’t like talking numbers. I like to keep that private. Something I kind of felt like it was private between my team and the Yankees,” Judge said. “I’m a ballplayer. [Cashman] has a job to do, and I can’t control that
“It didn’t take me by surprise; there’s nothing to get upset about. It’s business. It’s a side of the sport that I love to play. In business, anything can happen, so you got to roll with it.”
The next time this topic comes up will be in November when the World Series ends with Judge helping the Yankees win it or another team celebrating. Then you can expect the financial figures to rise from elsewhere and possibly the Yankees, especially if Judge is as productive as he was last year for a team who struggled its way to 92 wins at times.
Judge is reportedly seeking similar to deals signed by Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout by betting on himself in his age-30 season.
Harper signed a 13-year worth $330 million deal with Philadelphia when he was 26. Betts inked a 12-year, $365 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he was 27 and Trout inked his 12-year, $426.5 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels when he was 27.
It is hard to blame Judge for attempting to pry that kind of money for his next contract, given the potential revenue streams in the sport with the various streaming deals along with new television deals with FOX, ESPN and TBS.
Until then, the Yankees will retain Judge with a figure possibly decided in a courtroom by an arbitrator while the focus turns to baseball.
“At the end of the year, I’m a free agent — will talk to 30 teams, and the Yankees will be one of those 30 teams. It’s always nice to try to wrap something up sooner, the better. But we weren’t able to get it done and it’s on to baseball.”