The Tuesday Discussion: What Should the Yankees Do With Aaron Judge?
October 19, 2021
This week, we asked our writers to respond to this question:
What should the Yankees do with Aaron Judge?
The question comes, in part, from this article from a few days ago:
Here are the responses:
Paul Semendinger – Being that the question is based off an article I wrote, I should respond first.
As I wrote, the Yankees are in a tough spot. They have a superstar who is the face of the franchise. They have a superstar who is the face of the franchise, but is often hurt, and will be in his early thirties when he becomes a free agent. His free agent contract would certainly include his decline years.
One could argue that Judge’s decline will come fast. A huge long contract could set the Yankees back for years.
The dilemma the Yankees face is huge.
My solution is simple, straight forward, and (I believe) very logical, sound, and fair to Judge and the Yankees.
What the Yankees need to do, now, this autumn, is make a fair offer to Aaron Judge with the understanding that this is the offer he’ll get from the team. It’s a take it or leave it offer to extend his contract to buy out his free agent years, but one that will not be a super long term deal so the Yankees are not paying for his seasons when he is in his late thirties.
I would offer Judge a five year deal at an annual value of about $30m per year. $150m for five years. I’d be willing to go a little higher, maybe to $33m ($165m total value), but that’s it. His age and his injury history would prevent me from paying more annually and extending the deal for more years.
I make that offer soon. Again, it’s a take-it-or-leave it offer. I would tell Aaron Judge that if he isn’t happy with the deal that I wish him well in free agency. I would not go to $35m and I would not go longer than five years. (I would be happy to put in additional option years that would automatically trigger if certain thresholds are met (140 games played for the last two or three seasons before the end of the deal, or something like that).)
If Judge turns down my offer, and I’d give a December 1 deadline so it comes before the winter meetings, I would trade him rather than losing him to free agency after the 2022 season.
This would be fair to Judge – he’d be getting a substantial offer, and should he stay healthy, he’d have an opportunity for another big contract.
The would also be fair to the Yankees – if Judge wants a long term deal (longer than five years), they can at least trade him and get something of value for him. Of course, if they do this, the fan outrage will be tremendous.
I feel the time is now for the Yankees to have that conversation with Aaron Judge and to make a determination on the direction the team will be heading.
Cary Greene – Great question and probably the most important personnel decision the Yankees will face as they attempt to reset.
I’m personally in the camp that Aaron Judge is the face of the franchise. Sure there are concerns about his health and ability to stay on the field. There are also legitimate concerns about how Judge will age given that he’s a larger athlete.
The evil empire’s fan base is not actually feeling warm and fuzzy right now. The death Star was just blown up yet again in the postseason and once again the Red Sox played the role of Luke Skywalker.
I can’t imagine the Yankee fan base would be too happy if the Yankees failed to extend Aaron Judge. Certainly we can look at what Boston did with Mookie Betts and we could start getting behind the concept of trying to win today while we are playing for tomorrow.
However, Judge simply doesn’t have the injury track record necessary to capture a massive prospect haul. Certainly the Yankees could get a decent prospect but I’m not sure it would be worth it to move the cornerstone of the team, a player who came close to having an MVP season.
Given these factors I would hope that the Yankees come to their senses and extend Aaron Judge. Judge is a player to build around and the Yankees do have the resources to make this happen, contrary to what ownership would like fans to buy into and believe.
Ethan Semendinger – There are a lot of important considerations to be made about a potential contract extension for Aaron Judge. One-by-one lets highlight what these would be:
Aaron Judge has played over 120 games just twice in his career (2017 and 2021). Since his rookie 2017 season, Judge has played in 545 of the Yankees 708 games. That’s 77%. Is it worth it to extend a hitter who is going to play on average 124 of your teams 162 games?
During this same stretch, Aaron Judge has recorded 26.6 bWAR and 24.5 fWAR. According to Baseball-Reference, he’s been the 3rd best hitter (behind only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout), and for Fangraphs he’s 4th across all hitters (adding Jose Ramirez to the list). Even with limited playing time, he’s been unquestionably a top player in the MLB.
The CBA between the MLB and MLBPA is expiring at the end of the World Series and it’s hard to know what changes there will be made to team salaries. Is there going to be a cap? A minimum? It’s very hard to say, but to commit a lot of money to another player (in addition to Cole and Stanton) is risky before that’s all been worked out.
The Yankees have more than enough money to get a deal for Aaron Judge done. We’ve harp on this each year, but the Yankees organization continues to bring in more and more money while spending less and less (as a percentage) back on the team.
Aaron Judge is the face of the Yankees. While the Red Sox traded away their face of the franchise who was in a similar spot (Mookie Betts), the Yankees are a much more sentimental team and allowing the face of the franchise to walk away is a HORRIBLE look.
Aaron Judge is going to be entering his age-30 season for 2022 and players of his stature do not often age very well into their 30’s.
So, what to do about Judge? Well, I think my Dad was on the right track. A 5-year/$150M deal is a very fair place for payment to Judge. However, I would want to add a little bit of money and be little clearer about how I would do that deal:
A guaranteed 5/$155M deal that starts with the 2022 season (so it buys out his final year of arbitration) that would include a 6th year vesting option (for 2027, Judge’s age 35 season) at $35M provided that Judge played in 75% of his teams games between 2025 and 2026. (Other bonuses for MVP’s, Silver Sluggers, Gold Gloves, etc. would also be worked out in the deal, adding more potential value to be gained).
It would be a deal that would make Judge the 10th highest paid player (by AAV) in the MLB, and with a total contract that could pay up to $190M over 6 years it could be the 24th largest contract in MLB history. Is that fair? I think it’d be close.
Patrick Gunn – The Yankees have to pay this man. This would be an obvious move if Cashman had not acquired Giancarlo Stanton. However, the misconception is that Judge and Stanton together for too long puts two similar players at the same position together. That could create a redundancy, but having two elite right-handed hitters only helps. Judge and Stanton did not cause the Yankees offense to struggle this year. Imagine how many runs this team scores with these two sluggers gone? Elite production always matters, and Judge has the patience and the hard contact to be phenomenal for a long time. Yes, he has gotten injured a lot, but he is too good of a player to let walk. The Yankees need to keep Aaron Judge, plain and simple.
Mike Whiteman – I think the Yankees need to sign/retain Aaron Judge because he’s a star and the Yanks need to hang on to their star. Letting him walk would be a terrible look, especially in light of their recent frugal (for the Yankees) ways. How do they market the team if they let their best player over the past five seasons leave over a contract dispute?
They don’t need to rush this process though, and I think they can let next season play out before settling on a deal. A healthy 2022 Judge gets a better contract, it’s pretty simple. It was a good approach for Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter, and can work for Aaron Judge.
Tim Kabel – I believe the Yankees should sign Aaron judge to a long-term contract now. Look at it this way, if he were a free agent from another team would we all be clamoring for the Yankees to sign him? Yes, we would. He is one of the best players in the game and he has proven that he can play in New York. He said he wants to stay in New York. He stated he wants to be a Yankee for life. He’s beloved by the fans and when he is healthy, he puts up tremendous numbers. He worked very hard to stay on the field for most of the games last year.
Combined with Giancarlo Stanton, Judge creates an offensive juggernaut in the middle of the Yankees lineup. The big question is, if you don’t sign Judge, who replaces him? Where on earth would the Yankees find someone to put up his numbers. They should sign him to a long-term contract and name him the team captain. Is there a risk involved,? Yes, there is but the reward will be worth it, I truly believe.
Lincoln Mitchell – The question of what the Yankees should do about Aaron Judge after next season is not so much a question about Judge, but about whether the Yankees are willing to go above the salary cap. If their goal is to be competitive, but avoid the salary cap-a nonsensical approach for a team as wealthy as the Yankees-then they should probably let him go. If however, they are going to go all in and try to win sometime between say 2023 and 2028, they should sign Judge to a deal of around seven years $200 million and then surround him with better players and a management team that understands how to win baseball games in the third decade of the 21st century.
Ed Botti – Of all of the “Baby Bombers” we saw in this last wave of players one has lived up to the expectations placed on him. We have seen the likes of Tyler Austin get traded, Greg Bird fall flat, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres regress. Miguel Andújar lose his job and Clint Frazier has one odd or unexplained condition after another.
Aaron Judge on the other hand has held up his end of the bargain. Yes, he had some injuries, including one at the end of 2019 that wasn’t diagnosed until spring training 2020, so I chalk up his 2020 season to a poor medical and training staff blunder. It still boggles my mind!
Never a distraction. Never disrespects the game or his opponents. He is what the Yankee stand for, and does it as well as anyone we have seen since Jeter.
Judge proved this season that he is a legitimate star on both sides of the ball. He will turn 30 during the first month of the 2022 season, and I believe has several great seasons in front of him.
The Yankees are not the Tampa Bay Rays or Oakland A’s. They can afford to keep their stars.
A 10 year deal is unreasonable at 30, but I easily offer him 7 years at a very competitive salary. I don’t view him as an egotistical player that has to be the highest paid. His Agent, David Matranga is not a megalomaniac like Scott Boros, so I see him being reasonable and staying where he wants to stay and being paid extremely well for doing so.
Judge should finish his career as a Yankee.
Chris O’Connor – I would look to sign Judge to a 6 or 7 year contract worth around $30-35 million per year. I can understand the argument for trading him: he will turn 30 next season, is seemingly nearing the end of his physical prime, and has struggled to stay healthy over the years. My counter would be despite his age and unprecedented size, Judge is a phenomenal athlete in great shape. He is also an incredibly hard-working, respected figure in the clubhouse and the organization, so betting on Judge to keep himself in shape seems pretty safe. And even despite his injuries, per Fangraphs, here are his seasonal values since 2017, in millions (not including 2020): $66.5, $41.0, $36.7, and $43.9. Even while missing time, Judge has been a top 10, top 15 player in the game value-wise over the last five years. As one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball, I would feel comfortable giving him a big contract through his age 36 or 37 season. Judge is the kind of player you build around, especially if you are the New York Yankees. ***
Andy Singer – Quite simply: yes. Aaron Judge is an inner circle player in the biggest media market in sports. No matter what the Steinbrenners say, they have money coming out of their ears, even if the later years don’t provide surplus value.
If the Yankees extend him, it’ll have to go beyond age 33, but I think it’s possible to put something together that makes both sides happy.
Let’s, for the purposes of this exercise, assume that nothing changes with the financial structure of baseball in the next CBA (it will, of course, but we have no idea how and I don’t feel comfortable projecting the outcome right now). An extension for Judge would buyout his final year of arbitration, his age-30 season. I would make an offer that takes Judge through age-35, with a mutual option on the backside at age-36 structured the following way:
Age 30 (last year of arb.): $20 mil Age 31-35: $30 mil Age 36 (mutual option): $15 mil
That totals 6 years at $170 million ($28.33 AAV), 7/$185 million at the max. Both sides get something out of it. What do you think?