Will Aaron Judge Leave the Yankees as a Free Agent?

Over the past six seasons, no player has been more synonymous with the Yankees, one of the biggest brands in all of sports, than quarterback Aaron Judge.

In 2017, he won the American Football League’s Rookie of the Year award and was the runner-up of the Player of the Year award. He quickly became the face of the franchise and one of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball. He has been an All-Star four times, including this season, when he set up an AL record with 62 home runs and take the Yankees through their many ups and downs.

So it was fitting that Judge showed up to beat the ninth inning Sunday in game 4 of the Best AL Championship Series in seven games against the Yankees against the Houston Astros, 6-5, and represent hope. his team’s last hope. But not even Judge could save that day.

After a disappointing season in which he hit .139, Judge swung his foot in an outside court and produced a weak ground ball that the Astros closer than Ryan Pressly flipped into first hitter Yuli Gurriel for the game. final. As the Astros begin to celebrate their fourth trip to the World Series in six years, Judge has become the Yankee home fielder for what may have been his last.

“Anyone celebrating on that pitch, it’s not fun to watch,” he said Sunday night while standing in a formal Yankees club.

Now, the baseball world will watch as Judge’s future is decided. Five days after the World Series ends, Judge, 30, will be allowed to speak to any of MLB’s 30 teams as a free agent for the first time in his career. The future of the Yankees – a series that loves to celebrate its winning tradition but hasn’t attended or won a World Series since 2009 – is tied to Judge’s.

“He’s an important part of this organization,” said Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes. “This is the organization that drafted him, and he’s been here for a long time. He carries a lot of weight around here. He’s a superstar. “

“The amount of money he brings to this organization, to this franchise, to the baseball game, I am sure that his September money alone chasing 62 is enough to easily pay off, ” Yankees first player, Anthony Rizzo said. “There is a lot of money in this game to be scattered around. To him, whatever he gets will be astronomical, and he deserves it.”

“Hopefully we’ll see him in the plays for a long time,” said Yankees director Aaron Boone. “I don’t even want to think about alternatives right now. But he meant a lot to a lot of us in that room. “

The Yankees face many questions this season, starting from the top. Brian Cashman, the MLB’s longest-serving general manager, has been in his position with the Yankees since 1998. He has a five-year contract that expires this season and prevents a change in approach to real estate. By surprise of the Yankees’ managing partner, Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman is expected to return. And despite another early playoff, the Yankees have signed Boone to a three-year extension before the 2022 season.

But overall, how much change does it take for the Yankees to finally overtake the Astros, who have made six straight trips to the ALCS?

The Yankees made it to the knockout stages six years in a row but were stopped by the Astros in the ALCS three times in that span, including during Houston’s tainted 2017 World Series championship season.

The gap between the two franchises – despite a cheating scandal that rocked the Astros and cost GM and their manager their jobs and the freeing departures of stars like Carlos Correa, George Springer and Gerrit Cole over the years – is clear in this ALCS Including wiping out the Yankees after the season, the Astros have won this year’s opponents 9-2 and overtake them, 45-31. After Sunday’s win, the Astros players ate a meal of wine and brooms.

“Really, with the rest of the league, we might still be right up there heading for the top, but they beat us in every respect,” said Cole, who signed with the Yankees in pre-season. tournament 2020 said.

Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon added: “They showed up when it was important and showed how good a team they are. The pitches start with all quality arms, bullpen. They do a little bit of everything in that squad. They have power, they have no pursuit, they don’t attack. A really deep, complete team.”

The Yankees are like one in the first half of the season, when they’re hitting record-setting speeds. But there are too many second-second mistakes, from health to performance. However, they ended the regular season with 99 wins, an AL East title and were AL’s No. 2 seed in the knockout stages.

Their Bullpen, already depleted by injury, faces a lot of sales this winter, with perennial pain relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Chad Green eligible for dealer free fee. So is Taillon, a reliable starter, and Rizzo, a famous first-timer, said he has yet to decide if he will opt out of the final season of his two-year, 32-year contract. million dollars with the Yankees or not.

But, of course, the Yankees’ biggest free agent – and the biggest in the entire sport – is Judge, and not just because his 6 foot 7 frame.

In spring training, Judge refuse to renew the contract that would guarantee him $213.5 million over seven years. He also refused to negotiate during the season. That bet paid off: After a number of injuries in previous seasons, Judge played 157 of the Yankees’ 162 regular games, rewrote the record books, played solidly defensively and was a leader. of the team. Meanwhile, he’s helped significantly increase the viewership of YES Network, which is partly owned by the Yankees.

So how much money – and for how many years – are the Yankees willing to commit to re-signing with Judge? The Yankees, who have other holes to fill on the list, have a $259 million salary, the third-largest in the MLB this season, and have committed $205 million next year, according to Cot’s Baseball. Will the San Francisco Giants, who have only $141 million on their ledger in 2023 and are the group of Judges who grew up watching in his native Northern California, come to call?

Before the knockouts began, Cashman called Judge’s gamble “the best bet of all time” and praised Judge’s own handling.

“There’s a pot of gold there,” Cashman said of this winter’s Judge award. “It is not known what gold is – how much it weighs – but it is a pot of gold, no doubt. So good for him. It’s already a big pot, and it’s definitely going to get bigger. “

After Sunday’s game, Judge wasn’t prepared to say much about what came next. He said he had plenty of time afterwards to discuss it with his family and agent. He insists he doesn’t spend any time thinking about how it could be the Yankees’ last game because it ends so quickly and he’s very focused on trying to win.

As he has done after previous playoff exits, Judge says it’s a setback whenever the Yankees aren’t the team standing last. He said his 62-time chase home had no effect on his entry into the post-season, when he hit two home runs in the division series but went 1 eat 16 in ALCS

Boone said even great players like Judge have times of trouble. Although the Yankees’ prone offensive behavior occurred this past October, Boone said the squad this time around has been weakened by the injuries of high-contacts like DJ LeMahieu (leg) and Andrew Benintendi (leg) hand). Judge says he believes the Yankees have enough talent to win a title.

“If I had an answer to what we were missing, we would have it fixed now,” he said. “As a player, all I can do is give my best every day with the people I am fighting with. That’s what the front office and the management and all the others, they do behind the scenes. “

Judge says he’s not sure what to expect from free agency, but he still wants to stay with the Yankees.

“I’ve been clear about that since I first wore pinstripes,” he says. “But we can’t get anything done before spring practice, and we’ll see what happens.”

Cortes and Rizzo both say Judge, should he return, should be named captain of the Yankees, a team that has not bestowed a player since Derek Jeter, who retired in 2014. LeMahieu, who is having balance surgery on his injured foot. , said “we will all be disappointed” and “shocked” if Judge doesn’t return but he understands the business side of the sport. Cole said his advice to Judge is to take time for the process. Rizzo says Judge should enjoy being endorsed by teams.

“He’s bet on himself on the biggest stage in the biggest market and does it with ease and will be rewarded as the highest-paid player in the game,” Rizzo said. The highest paid player in total contract value – $426.5 million – and average annual salary – $35.5 million – is Los Angeles Angels quarterback Mike Trout, a three-time ALMVP

Rizzo continued, “He’s the new gold standard in my opinion, and it’s largely about market timing and what timing is better than 62 home runs, over 300 points and his not being able to do so. Reaching the final round of the Golden Glove is nothing but me.”

No problem, Judge says he’s proud of his time as a Yankee and calls it “an incredible honor” to wear the pinstripes and compete right in the stadium. Yankee.

“I check in with myself and say a little prayer, and I look around the stadium and feel a pinch of myself,” he said. “There are very few individuals who get the chance to run out onto the pitch, do that and play in front of the fans who have supported us during the six years I’ve been here. It was a special time. I just kicked for myself because I didn’t bring that championship.”


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