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TAMPA — It’s shaping up to be a drama-filled season for Aaron Judge.
Not only is he entering his final year of arbitration before free agency, it’s also unclear whether the Yankees right fielder will be able to play home games thanks to New York City vaccine rules.
Judge declined to say whether he’d been vaccinated, and as of Tuesday, the same rules that have prevented Kyrie Irving from playing in Brooklyn for the Nets would apply to Yankee home games.
Presuming that gets sorted out, Judge made it clear he wants to spend the rest of his career with the Yankees.
The right fielder added, though, that if he doesn’t get an extension from the Yankees before Opening Day on April 7, any negotiations will be tabled until after the season.
“If we’re able to talk and get something done in spring training before the season starts, that would be ideal, especially since this is an important year,’’ Judge said in his first comments of the spring. “We’ve got a lot of things to focus on during the course of the year, winning a division and winning a championship here in New York. I don’t want contract talks or extensions and all that talk to be a distraction throughout the year. So, if we’re able to agree to something here in the spring before we head up to New York, that’s wonderful and it would be an honor. If not, we’ll talk after the season.”
Judge said he didn’t want to be “a distraction” during the season.
“April 7, we won’t be talking about this anymore,’’ Judge said. “We’ll be talking about the Yankees and focused on winning ballgames for the Yankees. The last thing I want to do is be in the middle of May after a good series and people [ask], ‘Are you gonna sign an extension?’ or after an 0-for 4 [say], ‘You should’ve signed that extension.’ I’ll try to get everything out of the way right now while we’re still prepping for the season.”
That may be easier said than done.
A day after general manager Brian Cashman said he’d yet to engage Judge’s camp on an extension due in part to the mad scramble of putting together a roster with less than four weeks left before the regular season because of the MLB lockout, Judge confirmed he’d yet to hear from the front office.
Judge said he understood the Yankees’ situation on the matter.
“I’m not really too concerned with it because, to be honest, there are so many other holes and positions we’ve got to fill,’’ Judge said. “It’s about 2022. It’s not really about what’s gonna happen five, six or seven years down the road.”
The two sides will have to come together for Judge’s final year of arbitration, during which he’s due to make around $17 million if no new deal is agreed upon.
Giancarlo Stanton, still in the midst of the contract he signed with the Marlins in 2014, said he’s confident the Yankees will find a way to keep Judge as a Yankee — something the slugger hopes happens.
“I’d love that,’’ Stanton said of the possibility of Judge staying with the Yankees for the rest of his time in The Bronx.
“It’s been great playing with him, watching him grow as a player and a person. I hope the rest of our careers are together. I think it’ll get figured out.”
But as he’s done before, Judge left the door open for a potential departure if he and the Yankees can’t come together on a new contract before he hits free agency.
“I’ve been vocal that I want to stay here in pinstripes,’’ Judge said. “If that happens, it happens. But if it comes to it that it doesn’t [happen], like I’ve said before, I’ve enjoyed my memories here and time with … my teammates.”