It eventually became Derek Jeter or Robinson Cano.
Aaron Judge correctly picked Jeter, agreeing to a nine-year, $360 million free agent deal on Wednesday to become a New York Yankee for life.
That’s what Jeter did, playing all 20 of his Hall-of-Fame seasons in the Da Bronx.
Sure, there’s the temptation to run away, just take the highest offer like Cano did when he went to Seattle for more loot. He took more bread, but it failed.
In that regard, Judge – who is both the face of the Yankees and MLB – has been offered more money to sign the San Francisco Giants, his hometown team or the always splashy San Diego Padres . Reportedly, they offered Judge $400 million over 10 years.
He didn’t choose any.
The judge, 30, made a smart decision. He stayed where he belonged and was paid well for it, signing the biggest free agent contract in baseball history.
Judge will make $40 million a season, $4.5 million more than any other positional player in MLB history. His $360 million package is the third-highest total contract in MLB history.
And he deserves every penny. Last season, he led the Yankees to the American League East championship. He won the AL MVP, hitting a record AL 62 hosts. He beat 0.311, the second best in the tournament, and led the league in RBI with 131.
It’s a season for the ages
“Whatever he gets is going to be astronomical, and he deserves it,” teammate Anthony Rizzo said before the deal was announced. “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 is the gold standard.”
The judge belongs to NYC. He fits the city and the team. He’s on his way to a career in the Hall of Fame and he’s best dressed in plaid and competing on the biggest stage and under the brightest lights in sport.
There’s the Yankees and everyone else.
Not everyone can do this under these circumstances. Judge has proven time and time again that he was made for this concrete jungle, a place that can be tough and harsh when it comes to defeat.
But last season, Judge rang the bell and cleared all doubts about the canvas he cut.
At his age, aging in his baseball years, Judge refused a seven-year, $213.5 million extension. Many assumed he was crazy because of his trauma history.
In 2018 and 2019, he played no more than 112 games in a season. During the shortened 2020 season, Judge played only 28 out of 60 games.
Last season, Judge remained healthy and scored all year.
The Yankees know they have someone special, too. In his first game as a Yankee, Judge hosted at Yankee Stadium. He became a fan favorite almost overnight. In 2017, he won AL’s Rookie of the Year award and set the MLB record for most appearances for a rookie with 52. Yankee fans love long balls and that’s what makes him special. Judge.
He is not only a great player, but also a great human being. He’s the perfect guy you want to build your organization around, the perfect guy you want to put on a uniform. He embraces the city, the fans and most importantly the history of the Yankees.
To him, being linked with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Jeter meant something.
That’s why the Yankees did something for the Judge that they never actually did for an individual player, adding the Judge’s Room in the stands – where fans sit in an area special and wore a white robe and wig in his honor.
Surely, no one would be angry if Judge decided he wanted to return home to the Bay Area and play for the team he grew up on. And recently, the Giants have won more World Series than the Yankees could have imagined.
However, that’s not the Yankees. That’s not Bronx Leather. And, he won’t wear plaid.
Now all that remains is for Judge to officially become the captain of the Yankees, much like Jeter when he was the clear face of the franchise.
Judge made two important decisions in 2022. He was betting on himself. And he knows where he belongs. And in both cases, he wins. He’s the next Jeter and it suits him perfectly.