Aaron Judge is ready to bet on himself. The Yankees slugger turned down an extension offer before Friday’s Opening Day and seems ready to test the free agent waters once this season is over.
“At the end of the year, when I am a free agent, I can talk to 30 teams, and the Yankees will be one of those 30 teams,” Judge said after the Yankees 6-5, 11-inning win over the Red Sox at the Stadium. “It’s always nice to try to wrap something up sooner, the better. We weren’t able to get it done and how it’s onto baseball.”
Less than two hours before first pitch on the Yankees 2022 season, Brian Cashman came out and announced that the team had failed to reach an agreement with the face of the franchise. He also surprisingly offered the details of the deal that would have paid him at least $230 million over the next eight years.
“It’s concluded unfortunately, we’ll be in a one year setting at a yet to be determined number,” the Yankees GM said Friday morning. “We obviously had an extended conversation over the last three weeks or so with (Judge’s agent) Page Odle and I actually had a conversation with Aaron Judge briefly as well, but we were unsuccessful in concluding a multi year pact. “Obviously our intent is to have Aaron Judge stay as a New York Yankee as we move forward and I know that his intent as well which is a good thing,” Cashman continued. “Obviously entering those efforts in a new arena, which would be at the end of the season when free agency starts and maybe that’ll determine what his real market value would be because we certainly couldn’t agree at this stage on a contract extension.”
The seven years at $30.5 would have made him the highest paid position player per year (or annual average value) in Yankee history and the second highest on the team behind Gerrit Cole. It would have given him the second highest AAV of an outfielder in the game, behind only Mike Trout.
“I don’t want to talk in numbers. I like to keep it private,” Judge said. “It was something I kind of felt like it was private between my team and the Yankees. But I’m not gonna get into that.”
Instead, Judge is going to gamble on himself getting a bigger contract after this season.
“Every day is a gamble. Stepping outside your house is a gamble. But like I said I was very few people get this opportunity to start talking to extension. So me getting this opportunity is something special. And I appreciate the Yankees wanting to do that,” said Judge, who went 2-for-5 with a double Friday. “But I don’t mind going to free agency. It is what it is and I got a job to focus on. I’m not really going to look at all the negatives. ...Some people don’t leave their house if you think of all the things that could happen to them. So I just focus on what I need to do on the field and everything else will take care of itself.”
The three-time All-Star slashed .287/.373/.544 with a .916 OPS, 39 homers and 93 RBI in 148 games in 2021 According to Baseball Savant, Judge was among the league leaders in average exit velocity (95.8 miles per hour), max exit velo (119) and hard-hit percentage (58/4%). He led the Yankees in WAR (5.4) this season.
Overall six-years in the big leagues has been exceptional, averaging 276/.386/.553 and a .940 OPS. He’s the 2017 Rookie of the Year, runner up to Jose Altuve in that same season and a Home Run Derby champion.
Now, the sides head to the arbitration table, because they also can’t agree on a deal for this season. The Yankees offered Judge a contract of $17 million for this season, but his side countered with an ask of $21 million. Cashman said there was a date set for the hearing, but would not share it. The last time the Yankees were scheduled to go to arbitration, Luis Severino walked away with a four-year extension. Cashman was not ruling that out, but said he would respect Judge’s self-imposed deadline of Opening Day.
“I’m just disappointed because I’ve been vocal about (the fact) I want to be a Yankee for life. I want to bring a championship back to New York,” Judge said. “I’m gonna 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 got a job to do on the field and I got to just shift my focus on that now.”