The Aaron Judge Question: The Time Is Now To Decide
by Paul Semendinger
October 17, 2021
Aaron Judge is the best player on the Yankees.
Aaron Judge is, for all intents and purposes, the face of the Yankees franchise today.
At his best, Aaron Judge is an MVP talent and one of the best players in the game.
He is a superstar. He is the Yankees’ superstar.
At the end of the 2022 season, Aaron Judge will become a free agent.
Aaron Judge will be 31-years-old heading into the first year of his free agent contract (2023).
The time is now for the Yankees to make a decision on what they plan to do with Aaron Judge.
The problem is, the decision is not easy.
To begin, while he has superstar talent, and has had superstar-like seasons, Aaron Judge has also demonstrated an inability to stay on the field in most seasons.
A great player isn’t helping the team if he isn’t in the lineup.
In his career, Aaron Judge has played in 80% of his team’s games in just two seasons (2017, when he played in 155 games and 2021, when he played in 148 games). In his other seasons, he has missed a ton of time:
2018: played in 112 games (69.1%)
2019: played in 102 games (62.9%)
2020: played in 28 games in a shortened season (46.6%)
One of the big question regarding Aaron Judge is his long-term health and durability. As he now enters his thirties, will he be a player that can stay healthy, as he did in 2021, or will he be more like the player who missed significant time in each of the previous three seasons?
As he comes close to Free Agency, it is clear that Aaron Judge deserves to be paid like a star, because he is a star. Even in the years he has been injured and missed significant time, he has been a 5+ WAR player:
Aaron Judge WAR By Year (not including 2020)
2017 – 8.0 (led the league)
2018 – 5.9 (9th in the league)
2019 – 5.6 (8th in the league)
2021 – 5.9 (6th in the league)
In each of those four seasons, if judging by WAR, Aaron Judge was one of the top players in the American League.
The question the Yankees have to decide now is how to project Judge’s performance and value going forward.
To do this one could look at the salaries of all the other players who were in the Top-10 in their league in WAR in each season since 2017 (not counting 2020’s shortened season).
Here is the complete list:
The above was not a typo.
Aaron Judge is the only player to do this.
An argument can be made that Aaron Judge deserves to be paid on par with the greatest players in the league today. He is one of those players.
A counter argument could be made that Judge is about to enter his decline years, or will during the length of a long contract, and will not command the top dollars that his contemporaries have earned – especially those that hit free agency or were given an extension while they were in their twenties.
How the Yankees recon with these facts will be very telling.
Of all the questions facing the immediate and long term fate of the Yankees, the Aaron Judge question is the biggest.
What should the Yankees do with Aaron Judge?
A collection of our writers will answer this question on Tuesday in the Tuesday Discussion (which goes live at 10:00 a.m.).