If the season ended today, the New York Yankees would be the top seed in the AL playoffs and Aaron Judge would be the MVP. This could be a reality even when the season ends in September, but make no mistake about it, Aaron Judge is the AL’s MVP right now.
Judge has played to a WAR of 6.1 so far this season. He’s hit 43 homers, driven in 93 RBIs, and he’s hitting .298 on the season. Oh, he’s also played gold glove level defense in centerfield as well as right field. Did I mention that the 6’8 Judge has also stolen 10 bases?
Aaron Judge is the face of the Yankees and he’s well on pace to win his first MVP award. Judge is set to become a free agent after the season is over. The Yankees and Judge tried to reach an agreement on an extension before the season started, but they couldn’t close the deal.
New York offered Judge a seven-year $213.5 million extension before the season started. That coupled with a $17 million arbitration year this year would bring the total of the deal to eight-years at $230.5 million. The AAV of the extension would have been $30.5 million a season.
Many people thought Judge was a little crazy rejecting the Yankees offer. Judge is one of the best players in baseball, but he’s 30-years old and he’s had three years that were hindered by injuries. Granted, a couple of the injuries were unavoidable like his hand being broken by a hit-by-pitch.
Nevertheless, Judge rejected the deal and told the Yankees they would talk after the season. He bet on himself and boy is that bet paying off. Judge is having the best year of his career and he’s on pace to break Roger Maris’ AL Home Run record of 61 in a season.
Couldn’t ask for a better year heading into free agency. With the way he’s playing, you have fans (including myself), telling the Yankees to pay him whatever he wants. However, if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Yankees are not emotional and they won’t budge.
Brian Cashman and his front office are extremely calculated. You always hear about players giving teams hometown discounts, well the Yankees are also a team that are not going to overpay regardless of the history between them and a particular player.
We’ve seen this play out before and I was reminded of that watching The Captain last night. After the 2010 season, Derek Jeter became a free agent. The Yankees’ captain and he was vocal that he didn’t want to play anywhere else.
Things became very tense between New York and Jeter as the Yankees weren’t going to pay Jeter based on his history and name. They wanted to pay based on what he could do on the field. In the negotiations, Brian Cashman even told Jeter of other players who are better shortstops than him.
A couple of years later, Robinson Cano became a free agent. Cano was the best player on the Yankees and one of the best players in baseball. New York had their limits on where they were willing to go and they were not going to budge despite his history with them.
Is Judge different?
To me, Judge is a hybrid of these situations. From a production standpoint, he aligns more with Robinson Cano. Cano was the same age as Judge when he hit the open market. The Yankees had their line in the sand with him, and they didn’t move which led to Cano ending up in Seattle.
However, from an optics standpoint, Judge is more like Derek Jeter. You never looked at Robinson Cano as the face of the Yankees because while he was here, Derek Jeter was still playing. It was Jeter’s team and Cano was the best player.
Aaron Judge is the best player and this is his team. He’s like Derek Jeter but hitting the market like Robinson Cano hit the market. With that in mind, New York will extend themselves to a point to bring back the face of their franchise who is also the best player in baseball this year.
All that being said, they will still have their limits. They will not do whatever it takes to bring him back. If one team comes to Judge and offers him 10-years at $360 million, Aaron Judge is not going to be wearing pinstripes next year.
However, if the prices stay where the Yankees are comfortable, they will bring him back. This is not going to be something that resolves itself right away. Judge and his team will field offers. The Yankees will make their stance known and it will all come down to how other teams approach the negotiations.
One thing for sure is that the Yankees will not bend. They will not break to the will of the fans. Cashman and Steinbrenner will say what they are comfortable with and they will live with the consequences. It’s going to be fascinating to watch.