New York Yankees: Why Aaron Judge should be a Yankee for life

Nick Nielsen
New York Yankees, Aaron Judge
Apr 14, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits an RBI single against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of giving a player a contract that essentially seals their career in one city is an idea that every team has with their generational talent. The players that receive these deals, and thus spend their whole career with one team are those that embody the culture of the team, are involved in the community, and of course, possess the skills that that team looks for and values.

For Aaron Judge, there is no other player on the team that embodies the Yankee way more than he. One of my first articles I wrote for ESM was about how I believe Aaron Judge should be named captain of the team — if there were to be one named. Myself, and countless other fans of not only the Yankees, but baseball in general, see obvious parallels between him and previous longtime Yankee captain, and now Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter.

With that, I figured I’d give an in-depth explanation and reason as to why Aaron Judge should be signed to a contract for life.

Off the Field Lifestyle

Now, one of the biggest things a lot of fans and team personnel look for in a player, to ultimately be given a “contract for life” is what that player is like off the field. More specifically, everyone wants to see if that player is engaged in his community and if he shows a want to be in the city and with that team. Aaron Judge, if there was ever any doubt, loves being in New York and loves being able to suit up in the iconic navy blue pinstripes. However, his being in New York doesn’t just limit him to getting involved in the Big Apple, but back in his home state of California and across the country as well.

Back in January of 2019, Aaron Judge officially launched and announced the “All Rise Foundation” which is a charitable organization aimed toward helping underprivileged children in California. Judge, who’s the son of two teachers, always knew he wanted to get involved in charity work or do something to better the world around him. “I saw a lot of my favorite athletes giving back to their communities or having their own foundations, I always thought that was pretty cool,” said Judge, when talking to Sports Illustrated when asked about how he initially got into wanting to help out. “For me, it was about inspiring [the kids] to be better leaders, put them in a better position than they are now, and hopefully help out their future.”

Judge has since done numerous events and fundraisers for the All Rise Foundation, as well as countless meet and greets, signing sessions, and local events in New York as well. Judge has always been known as a gentle giant, and one that would never turn a kid away for asking for a picture or autograph, and most certainly wouldn’t say no to a game of catch in between innings.

More recently, amidst this COVID-19 lockdown, Aaron Judge and Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Blake Snell agreed to a friendly bet over which players’ respective team will win more games when the season does pick up and resume play. The bet was initially mentioned over an Instagram live chat — on a new source of prime entertainment “The Snell Show”, and there’s a $5,000 donation to the charitable organization of each players’ choice on the line. Judge referred to the bet as “an easy call” as he said “I’ve got faith in my boys. Hey, this is easy.” 

Add to that Aaron Judge has also teamed up with fellow New York star, Julius Randle, to donate headphones to less fortunate kids to help them with their online classes. Many kids are less fortunate, and a simple pair of headphones can be hard to come by for countless families, so what seems like a small act of kindness, benefited thousands of kids.

The point is that Aaron Judge is a philanthropic symbol of what it means to get involved, not for one’s image and benefit, but simply to give back and help out those less fortunate. Aaron has been gifted a tremendous gift of being able to play baseball at an exceptionally high level, and he’s committed to using his platform for good.

Social Media Involvement

In the modern world of sports, every person involved needs to have an active presence on social media. While many people dismiss social media or choose not to get involved in it, Aaron Judge is not one of those people. for hundreds of players, reporters, personnel, and fans, social media is a great way to stay involved and stay engaged with those around you.

Judge’s Twitter is a goldmine of memes about his teammates, “happy birthday” or congratulatory posts for those teammates, and of course more partnerships and involvement posts. Back when I posted the initial article on how Judge should be captain, I talked about Judge’s partnership with Sharpie, and the Players’ Tribune as well, and how Judge is committed to wanting to speak up for those who can’t and use his platform to promote positivity and “erase the negativity”.

He also joins infrequently on different podcasts, shows and various interviews with fellow players, content creators, and team personnel. His name and image have become one of the most renowned in not just baseball, but all of the sports as well. Earlier this past week, Portland Trailblazers superstar Damian Lillard referred to Judge as “the New Derek Jeter”, a compliment that hit Judge hard and made him blush a bit.

His importance to the Yankees and the MLB

When Aaron Judge was drafted back in 2013, there was a consensus opinion that he was going to crack the big leagues and make a dent, whenever that time would come. Fans waited 3 years to see him get called up, and in his first game up both he and Tyler Austin ushered in the new wave of Baby Bombers with solo home runs each. Since then, Judge has become a name-stay in the Yankees organization, and hundreds of thousands of fans come to Yankee Stadium just to see him play.

The Yankees also unveiled “The Judge’s Chambers” in the 2017 season, and it has been a massive draw to fans of all ages wanting to show up and get decked out head-to-toe in the gowns and traditional Victorian Era wig. That alone is a huge marketing point for the New York Yankees, and assuming Judge was to sign a lifetime contract, ideas of it possibly expanding are not out of the cards.

Aaron’s rise in popularity can also be attributed to his abilities on the field, as his giant stature and ability to pummel baseballs like an older brother who finds out who’s been bullying his little bro, definitely draw attention and love from fans of all sports and all ages. The number one jersey in terms of sales numbers, for the 2019 season, was that of Aaron Judge. There’s no reason to believe he couldn’t repeat for 2020 — although with the season on hold I’m not sure about the numbers, especially if he is to stay fully healthy and stay on the field.

After the 2016 season, the Yankees were coming off their first missed postseason in ages, and the new wave of young talent was finally starting to get the reps and attention they deserved. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez led the way offensively, with Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery breaking through on the mound. Judge’s name has always been a marketing tool in its own right, as being dubbed “All Rise” and Jon Sterling’s iconic “All Rise for Aaron Judge” call, gave him a lovable and iconic brand. The number 99 is known throughout sports as Aaron Judge, as when it comes to baseball there are no other players that wear it.

Simply put, what Judge does for the Yankees cannot be expressed in words. He brings in millions of dollars in revenue, sells hundreds of thousands of tickets, and he has helped change the public’s opinion on the Yankees as an organization. There are very few people that hate on Aaron Judge, and they’re the same ones that value Batting Average and RBI’s more than anything. However, to have haters means that one has made it in his or her respective field, and that means that they hate you cause they ain’t you. For Judge, people give him a hard time because of his strikeouts — aaaaand that’s it.

Judge’s future with NYY

Now, there has been a flurry of articles published about why the Yankees SHOULD or SHOULD NOT sign Aaron Judge to a long-term deal, with the major discussion point for those opposed being that he hasn’t been healthy. While arguing against a player who has missed significant time throughout his career due to injuries is difficult, a case can be compiled and presented for Aaron Judge.

For starters, the injuries that Judge has been struck with the past two seasons have been seemingly unrelated to one another, with an insane amount of bad luck seasoned on top. Judge’s wrist fracture in 2018 came off a check swing, thus leaving him off the team for numerous weeks and leading to him missing 45 games. Then, in ’19 it was a serious oblique injury that saw him miss significant time, and only appearing in 102 games. Add to that the loose fragmentation in his shoulder and his rib fracture in ’19, and there has been quite the full slate. However, there’s no denying when he plays, he’s one of the best in the entire sport.

Despite the injuries, Judge became the third-fastest player in MLB history to reach the 100 HR’s mark, as he did so in just 373 games. His total now sits at an astounding 110 across 396 total games. His wRC+ for his career is 152, with a total of 17.8 fWAR. For reference, Cody Bellinger’s career wRC+ sits at 140, and his fWAR is at 15.4 — across 450 games.

Judge is seen by his teammates as the undoubted leader of this team, along with the longest tenured-Yankee, Brett Gardner. Judge’s role in the clubhouse is essentially that of a captain, however, the Yankees have chosen not to reprise the role since vacated by Jeter.

The other discussion point is that Judge will not be eligible for Free Agency until the 2023 offseason, in which he’ll be 30 years old. For Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees, it would be in both parties’ best interest to workout something long-term, thus getting rid of that day that is hovering over like a dark cloud. The only dilemma becomes that the Yankees will also want to likely pay Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, and numerous other pieces as well — over the next 3 years.

A reasonable contract prediction I could safely say would be 8/9 years for $220 million-$250 million. With that, predicting contracts with no foundation or predictive assumptions can be a volatile exercise. However, looking at other contracts for similar players, taking into account the injury history as well, and of course, the hope that Judge may take a discount to stay in NYY — as well as potentially knocking off a few years of arbitration, gets me to my aforementioned prediction.

Not seeing Judge in pinstripes for the rest of his career would be a sight for sore eyes, as I cannot fathom him playing for any other club. He embodies the Yankee way, and as Damian Lillard and so many others have shared, he truly is the new Derek Jeter.