Aaron Judge

Since his historic rookie season in 2017, Aaron Judge has been the face of the New York Yankees. Will that continue to be the case after 2022? That’s highly uncertain.

Judge made it known in March (per Bryan Hoch, MLB.com) that he wants to be a Yankee for his entire career. But he also said that he wanted to get a contract extension done before the season. Once Opening Day arrived, he didn’t want to negotiate.

Well, New York opened its season on Friday. And shortly after that thrilling win, Judge said something that Yankees fans may not like — especially if they want to see him play his entire career in the Bronx.

This came hours after a report that detailed how far apart the Yankees and Judge are.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported on Friday (citing general manager Brian Cashman that New York’s offer “was for an extension at $30.5 million a year over seven years on top of the $19M or so they will pay him this year, putting the bid at $233M plus over eight years.”

Heyman added that “Judge, according to multiple sources, countered the Yankees’ offer at nine or 10 years at $36M a year for up to $360M. (Someone close to Judge denied that.)”

Judge has been remarkably productive when he’s been on the field throughout his career. Entering 2022 the season, he had 158 home runs in 2,068 at-bats for a 13.1 at-bats per home run ratio. For reference, Barry Bonds has an AB/HR rate of 12.9. So, Judge is in elite territory there.

Unfortunately for Judge, durability has been an issue.

If there’s a saving grace for Judge regarding the durability issue, it’s that — based on 2021 — he’s trending in the right direction. Judge played 148 games last season. But 2021 and his rookie season of 2017 are the only times he’s played more than 112 games in a season. Including 2020 in that may not seem entirely fair, since it was only a 60-game season. But even with that caveat understood, he still missed more games (32) than he played in (28).

To some extent, any player entering his contract year is betting on staying healthy. But if an otherwise durable player gets hurt in his contract year, he can at least point to the rest of his career and say that the injury-plagued season was an outlier. Judge, meanwhile, will have to prove that 2021’s healthy season was not an outlier.

That’s even more important for Judge, given his age. Judge was a relatively late bloomer. He’ll be 30 on April 26. Now, even if Judge does miss a substantial amount of time in 2022, it isn’t necessarily a doomsday scenario. Judge’s high rate of productivity should get him a deal with a high average annual value.

But if he’s looking for a high AAV and 9-10 years? That’s a much different story. Teams aren’t necessarily lining up to pay big money for a player into his late 30s that only had two healthy seasons in his 20s.

Obviously, we don’t know for a fact that Judge asked for that kind of money. It’s worth re-stating that even Heyman noted “Someone close to Judge denied that.” But — assuming Cashman is being honest about what he offered — we know that Judge didn’t accept those terms. And at the risk of over speculating, Judge’s postgame comments didn’t sound like the two sides were close. Far from it, in fact.

Finally, we can’t help but mention that while Judge may talk to 30 teams, the list of teams that might realistically sign him is far shorter. It’s hard to imagine Judge suiting up for the Pittsburgh Pirates or Oakland Athletics in 2022. Like it or not, the realistic list is probably somewhere in the 5-10 range.

None of this means that Judge made a bad decision — just a risky one. If he has a relatively healthy season in 2022 and remains as productive as he’s been for the rest of his career, he’ll get a big payday. But he’s taking on a far greater risk than many others in his shoes would be willing to take.

[Brendan Kuty, Jon Heyman (New York Post)]

About Michael Dixon

Michael is a writer and editor for The Comeback Media. Fan of most sports, nerd when it comes to sports history. Bay Area based for now. Likely leaving sometime early in 2023.

Other loves include good tacos, pizza and obscure Seinfeld quotes.

Feel free to voice your agreements or disagreements. If you do so respectfully, Michael will gladly respond in kind.

Twitter: @mfdixon1985
Email: mdixon@thecomeback.com