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Will the Yankees lock up Aaron Judge?

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

Photo Credit: Pinstripe Alley

The Yankees star outfielder Aaron Judge is coming to a critical point in his career. He's entering his final year of arbitration before free agency. While he's had arbitration hearings to get an annual raise, this is the critical year where the Yankees and Aaron Judge need to figure out how they want to pay him long-term. Aaron Judge is the face of the Yankees franchise but do the Yankees pay him as the face of the franchise?

There's no question that Aaron Judge is the most valuable player on the Yankees. He has a career .279 batting average with 158 home runs, while collecting Rookie of the Year, two All-Star selections, and two Silver Slugger Awards for the Bombers. He is their leader and will be, if he remains a Yankee, the next captain of the Yankees. He will be in a storied line of captains that include Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter. The Yankees can't afford to let him walk and test the free agent waters. But the off-season is almost over and the Yankees and Aaron Judge have yet to come to financial terms on an extension to lock him up as a Yankee for the rest of his career.

From the Yankees perspective it would be foolish to even begin to have these conversations before the MLB collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon. While the Yankees probably are desperate to bring him back, the CBA needs to be fleshed out first. The Yankees need to understand what the luxury tax implications are by signing Aaron judge to a monster deal. One of the big sticking points in the CBA agreement is the second year of luxury tax payments. The owners are pushing for a 20% tax on teams over the salary cap. That essentially makes it a hard cap and the Yankees don't want to pay that for any player. As of Friday writing this article, the MLB and MLBPA met for 15 minutes on Thursday before the meeting was over. The Yankees have been slow to make deals for big free agents like Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, while watching big names come off the board. The Mets inked big contracts this offseason while the Yankees have remained silent with the CBA negotiations on going. Last offseason the Yankees waited almost the full offseason to come to terms with DJ LeMahieu on a "team friendly" deal to keep the teams nimble for the Judge and Torres deals.

Photo Credit: Newsday

Aaron Judge, on the other hand, knows that he's worth the money that he's owed. Aaron Judge shouldn’t have to give a hometown discount, and if I was his agent I would advise against it. It was rumored that Juan Santo turned down a 13-year / $350MM deal with the Nationals. Judge should be looking for a 10-year deal around $300-$350MM. The Post’s Joel Sherman floated the idea of handing out a 5-year / $189MM deal for Judge, which breaks down to $37.5MM per season. For reference, star pitcher Gerrit Cole earns around $36MM per season. But 5 years is nowhere near what Judge can get on the open market. Judge should be getting close to $17MM in arbitration this season and will be looking for a big raise. But the Yankees have yet to get the ball rolling on locking up their star player. In November at the end of the season, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he hadn’t talked to Judge’s agent about an extension. Cashman stated that the Yankees front office typically doesn’t extend current players before they become free agents, but Judge could be the exception to the rule.

Aaron Judge appeared on the R2C2 podcast and opened up about his current contract situation. Judge bluntly talked about how the possible lockout shortened 2022 season could possibly be his last in pinstripes. Judge highlighted how he wants a long-term extension, and playing for New York is the goal. “You know… you want to be a free agent, test the market a little bit and see what’s out there. But that’s one thing, I’ve been lucky enough to play in the best organization out of all of them, so who wants to go anywhere else? If we get an extension done before the season starts, that’d be great. I’d be completely honored to wear Pinstripes for a couple more years. But if it doesn’t happen and this is my last year [as a Yankee], I had a lot of great memories.” Judge understands that this is a business and seemingly has come to terms with the idea that he might have to look for a deal elsewhere. It sounds like he wants to be here, but he knows he has to be prepared for the worse. Judge wants to let his agents handle the contract, but he will go out and play hard for his team and fans.

Photo Credit: NY Post

The Yankees have their financial issues as they have struggled to operate while coming under the luxury tax. They have big money and years locked up in Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole. The Yankees can't give Judge a 10-year contract that will take him to 39 years old. If the Yankees had locked them up a few years ago they wouldn't have that worry but now they have a problem on their hands, all stemming from luxury cap issues. Giving Aaron Judge 6-8 years might make sense, but not for Aaron Judge. But the Yankees can't allow him to walk like they allowed Robinson Cano to walk years ago. They have to lock up their star and face of the franchise. Company to deal will get done but one side will have to cave, and Aaron Judge doesn't have to cave for anyone. If Judge goes out and has another great year like last year, the Yankees will just have to pay up and bite the bullet.

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