For a player as dynamic as Aaron Judge, there’s been a lot of criticism hurled his way during his career. The two primary complaints? Injuries and strikeouts, which have been cited when considering whether or not he should be a member of the New York Yankees for the majority of his career.
However, his 2021 campaign should leave no doubt that there should be a contract extension waiting for him in the offseason.
This year, Judge leads the Yankees in batting average, OPS, home runs, and RBI. While his peers like DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, and Joey Gallo have floundered, Judge has been the driving factor dragging this team into the playoff discussion.
In regard to the complain about his strikeouts, Judge has managed to cut his K% this season to a career-low 25.6%. During his historic 2017 season, his strikeout rate was over 30%.
Many critics like to point to that historic rookie season in 2017 as having carried his overall performance so far in his career. While it’s true he has not reached those heights since, he’s become a consistent MVP-caliber player. From 2018 to 2021, Judge has an OPS over .900 while being worth an average of 7.0 WAR per 650 at-bats.
Simply put, every time Judge takes the field, he’s an elite player.
In addition to his work at the plate, Judge is an excellent outfielder and an underrated base runner. Despite his size, he’s not a prototypical hulking slugger.
With all of this evidence suggesting Judge is the type of player the Yankees could use more of, why is a long-term extension not seen as an obvious decision among some fans? The only real concern with Judge is his age which makes a commitment potentially an issue a few years from now. Judge will be entering his age-30 season next year.
But it’s more complicated than that. The Yankees probably need to act now to avoid further troubles. If Judge puts up another fantastic season in 2022 and the Yankees have not already signed him, then his price tag goes up and general manager Brian Cashman will have other suitors to out-bid next offseason.
The only “advantage” — if you can even call it that — is waiting it out through 2022 in the event injuries hamper him yet again, which was the case from 2018-2020 … but why even put that on the radar? This team is not going far without Judge leading the way.
Letting Judge walk (or getting into a tense negotiation battle) is simply not an option if the Yankees hope to remain competitive going forward. He’s the lone constant during the regular season and has already delivered numerous clutch hits in October. When you look at the rest of the dead weight on this roster, it’s even harder to justify not making Judge a part of the team’s future.
What really makes this an easy decision for management is the marketing potential Judge brings to the table … meaning, he’s the face of the franchise and among the faces of Major League Baseball. Whatever the Yankees pay him will come back around in advertisements, ticket sales, and national exposure.
Judge is a nationally-recognized name, an elite talent, a homegrown success story, and the most popular player on the roster among Yankees fans. What more evidence does the front office need?