Could Aaron Judge stay with the New York Yankees and re-sign in free agency?
From a record breaking season, to bowing out of the ALCS without a win, Aaron Judge’s future with the Yankees is now the biggest question in need of an answer.
With their post season now over after being swept by the Astros, the New York Yankees must almost immediately turn their attention to one of the biggest questions: Will Aaron Judge re-sign with the team?
Is this goodbye for Aaron Judge?
There was an element of tragic poetry in the final moments of Game 4 of the ALCS on Sunday night. The Yankees were staring the end of their post season in the face and fittingly, the man who had mesmerized so many across this 2022 campaign was their last standing hope. Aaron Judge, the Yankees slugger who had broken the American League’s 61 home run record during the regular season, stood at the plate and prepared to face a Ryan Pressly pitch. In the end, as mighty as he’d been for so long, Judge could only produce a tapper back to Pressly who in turn casually jogged the ball to first base with an underhand flip. It was the final out of the game and with their 6-5 win, the Astros booked their place in the 2022 World Series.
As for Judge, the Yankees star dutifully jogged down the baseline, planted his right foot on first base and then took a quick glance at the Astros beginning to celebrate on his own field. The question is, however, is it still his? As things stand, Judge will become a free agent on November 6th which in theory means, he is for all intents and purposes no longer a Yankees player. Indeed, that notion is something the man himself seemed subtly hint at in his comments, which sounded curiously like those of a man who’s saying goodbye. “Getting a chance to wear the pinstripes and play right field at Yankee Stadium, that’s an incredible honor,” Judge said. “I definitely didn’t take it for granted at any point. I always checked myself pregame when I’d say a little prayer, I’d kind of look around the stadium and pinch myself. There’s very few individuals who get a chance to run on that field and play in front of the fans.”
Where do things stand between Aaron Judge and the Yankees?
Fans will recall that Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension from the Yankees on Opening Day of this season. What he did next, nobody could have forseen. Judge literally turned in a historic season and one we likely won’t see again for some time. Across 157 games, Judge batted .311/.425/.686, leading the Majors in homers, runs (133), RBIs (131), slugging percentage, on-base percentage, OPS+ (211) and total bases (391). Of course, the showpiece of his campaign was the breaking of Roger Maris’ 61-year-old AL record for home runs in a single season; a feat that captivated the sports world. Yet, it has to be said that Judge’s post season was the opposite of the regular season. Whether it was fatigue from the home run chase, or a combination of failures by the team itself, the fact is during nine postseason games, Judge hit .139 (5-for-36) with two homers and three RBIs, going hitless with a walk in the ALCS finale.
Regarding the Yankees themselves and where they stand on Judge’s situation, manager Aaron Boone said that Judge’s 2022 season was “incredible,” before adding that Judge is “someone that I’ve grown close with and just admire and respect and hopefully, we’ll see him in pinstripes for a long time. I don’t even want to think about the alternative right now.” While one can understand Boone’s position, both he and the Yankees won’t have much time before they have no choice.
Is it a question of money for Aaron Judge?
Though there it remains unclear as to what Judge will look for in free agency, one thing that is clear is that he’s not currently the Yankees highest paid player. That honor belongs to Gerrit Cole, who is on a contract worth $36 million per year and then there is Mike Trout, who is the highest-paid position player in at $35.5 million. It’s almost certain that Judge will request more and in truth he should. “Whatever he gets is going to be astronomical, and he deserves it,” Anthony Rizzo said. “He bet on himself on the biggest stage, in the biggest market and did it with ease. He should be rewarded as the highest-paid player in the game. He’s the new gold standard, in my opinion.”
What has Aaron Judge said?
Given the disappointment that he and the team surely feel at this point, it’s understandable that Judge has said he intends to take some time to discuss his coming free agency with his agent Page Odle and his family. Interestingly, he admitted that he has spoken with both Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole about their respective contract pursuits. “I haven’t even thought about the next step yet,” Judge said. “We’ve got time to figure it out. I’ve never been in this spot before.” Where his teammates are concerned, they are all hopeful that Judge will remain with the Yankees. Indeed, Nestor Cortes and Anthony Rizzo have called for him to be named captain if he stays.
For the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any definitive stance in either direction. On the other hand, when we consider Judge’s words on Sunday after the loss to the Astros, we’ve got to ask whether they are the words of a man reflecting on what could have been, or closing a chapter. “It was a special time,” Judge said. “I just kick myself for not bringing home that championship.”
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