After a long period of doing nothing this offseason, the New York Yankees have awakened after re-signing DJ LeMahieu, their number one offseason priority. They have hired one of the best starting pitchers available in Corey Kluber with the hope that he can return to his 2018 form. He is a two-time Cy Young Award winner. They have traded for Jameson Taillon of the Pittsburgh Pirates and signed one of the best bullpen arms out there in Darren O’Day, among other minor signings. One thing that they have not addressed is a contract extension for slugger Aaron Judge.
Many still wonder what the future will be for the oft-injured judge and are not all that surprised that the Yankees have not acted to tie him up as a career-long Yankee. Many see him as the replacement for Yankees great Derek Jeter as Yankee captain. But still, questions remain.
Dan Federico of Atlantic Communications reports: “Cashman says there have been “no meaningful conversations” between Judge’s camp and the Yankees regarding an extension.”
Here’s what Bryan Hock of MLB.com has to say about the subject:
â€œPardon the expression, but I feel that the jury is still out on a Judge extension, and the team seems to be playing a wait-and-see game. Judge is earning $10.175 million this year, and he could get a nice raise next season, his final year of arbitration before potentially becoming a free agent in 2023. I imagine that they will find common ground, but Judgeâ€™s health over the next two years â€” as well as the unsettled nature of baseballâ€™s Collective Bargaining Agreement â€” could play significant roles in determining how much the Yankees are willing to commit.â€
Aaron Judge burst onto the scene in 2017 after spending four years in the Yankees minor league system. In 2017 he was Rookie of the year and came in second in the MVP voting just behind the Houston Astros Jose Altuve, who was later found to be cheating along with the Astros in the 2017 season. In 2017 Judge hit .284 with 52 home runs. That year he was also an All-Star and a Silver Slugger. He was also the home run derby champion. It was then that Yankee fans pegged him the future Micky Mantle and the Yankee Captain of the future.
However, since then, everything has gone pretty well south for the slugger; he has had injury after injury diminishing his worth to the Yankees. In 2017 Judge played in 155 of the 162 games that season. Since then, Judge has played in just 63% (242 of 384) of the Yankeesâ€™ regular-season games. It seems his 6′ 7″ hulk of a frame can’t stand up to the everyday game that baseball is. Many fans think that it’s his massive size and musculature that causes his injuries.
Last year after just 18 games, Judge hit 9 home runs and led the league. But then he got a calf strain that kept him out for several weeks. When he returned from rehab, he never hit another home run for the rest of the regular season. When considering a contract extension for Judge, this has to be very concerning for the New York Yankees. In an effort to stay healthy, he has been working with Yankees training and strength/conditioning departments headed by Eric Cressey, who is doing everything he can to change that.
This is what the Athletic’s Yankee beat reporter had to say:
“If you’re not a Yankees fan, I want you to know what a big deal it is on Yankees Twitter that Aaron Judge is doing yoga. This is A Thing. We get 7mil tweets every season asking if the players even stretch. A trainer going on TV to talk about yoga is a big deal over here.”
With two more years of arbitration remaining, youâ€™d have to think the New York Yankees want to see longevity and production in 2021 and 2022. Not one or the other but both. The bottom line is the Judge has to remain on the field to be productive and have an impact that will want the Yankees front office to keep him around. Team insiders feel that any contract extension will depend on or hinge on what happens in the next two years. The Yankees already have two huge contracts on the books and will not be willing to put another one on without it being a sure thing.
Hopefully, for Judge, the team, and the fans, this new approach to training will pan out for him. The fans love him and hope he can stay healthy and be the team’s new Yankee Captain and retire a New York Yankee just like the last Captain Derek Jeter did in 2014.