When the New York Yankees are again able to talk with players and agents when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached, they will have lots to do to improve the team and fill the holes they are presently experiencing. They need a shortstop, number two type starting pitcher, a first baseman, help in center field, and upgrades for the once-dominant bullpen. But that’s not all; they need to extend star right-fielder Aaron Judge to a contract that will see him retire a Yankee.
Judge has already said that he wants to spend his entire career with the Yankees. That alone should cause the front office to offer him an extension to make that a reality. But, will they, and when?
If they don’t, Judge will become a free agent at the end of the 2022 season.
Judge is coming off a season that is second only to 2017. He remained healthy and basically carried the team on his shoulders throughout the whole season. Judge is a leader and the face of the Yankees and all of MLB, for that matter.
If the Yankees are smart, they won’t want to lose him, as it would cause a complete rebuild of the team. Judge in 2021 had a slash line of .287 with 39 home runs and nearly 100 runs batted in. He had an OPS of .916.
Judge, now 29, will turn 30 in April. If the Yankees extend him, it won’t be a long-term contract with his injury history. Injuries plagued him in the previous three seasons. Most analysts see the Yankees offering him a contract of five or six years, not the ten years that Corey Seager got from the Texas Rangers.
Because of a shorter contract that the Yankees might offer, they will likely have to sweeten the pot on a per annum basis. Both Joel Sherman and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post have suggested a five-year contract in the $189 million range might get the deal done. That’s just over $37 million per annum. If Judge and the Yankees can’t come to an agreement that satisfies both, Judge could walk and test the free-agent market. There are several clubs out there that would love Judge’s services.
The snag in any talks for an extension could arise if Judge’s desire is to make more money over his loyalty and want to be a Yankee. After all, the cross-town rival New York Mets just sprung for a three-year, $130 million contract for 37-year-old pitcher Max Scherzer — over $43 million per annum, and he is a pitcher that fell flat last season when his arm was tired and was unable to help his team.
In addition, Corey Seager got a $327 million contract from the Rangers. Marcus Semien also got a seven-year deal from the Rangers for $175 million, keeping him in that Texas uniform until he was 37-years-old.
The Yankees do have options. If they can’t reach an agreement, they could trade Judge before the trade deadline. They would likely get some key players if they were to pursue that avenue. The Yankees would dump about $9 million of salary with that move. However, they would only be getting a rental player for the receiving team no matter how good of a season Judge was having.
If there are any viable trade candidates out there, the Yankees that would entice the Yankees to make a trade. For sure, they would not entertain a trade within the AL East Division. They certainly would want to face him if they were making a run for the post-season. With Judge’s injury history, it is not likely that any team AL or NL would want to give up many top prospects, especially if they were a contender, with no guarantee that he would remain with the team.
Also, if the Yankees were to trade off Judge, that would leave a hole in right-field. They could use the money saved if outfielders Adam Duvall, Wil Meyers, or Charlie Blackmon if they were still free agents. In some type of trade scenario, they could acquire Sean Manaea, Mike Clevenger, and Chris Bassitt to bolster the starting rotation. They could even get their hands on Jacob deGrom should he not excise his option. The Mets would certainly not like that.
This writer guesses that the Yankees will want to fill the holes they already have before entertaining a contract extension with Judge. The Yankees will scare Judge fans by waiting till the last moment to keep Judge in pinstripes. The alternative is unthinkable.