The moment has arrived for the Yankees to talk extension turkey with Aaron Judge, as ownership finally appears motivated by the slugger’s Opening Day deadline to figure out a way to keep him off the open market.
According to Joel Sherman’s sources, Hal Steinbrenner is prepared to present Judge’s camp with an initial offer in the next week or so, getting ahead of the early April line of demarcation — but without the pomp and circumstance-filled “welcome back to Spring Training” extension announcement press conference we foresaw when the lockout was lifted.
Should the Yankees have gotten this done a week ago, immediately in the wake of the Gary Sánchez/Gio Urshela trade? Probably. Can the Yankees stipulate vaccination (or, at least, better answers about it) in the new deal? Probably not.
But here we are. The Yankees and Judge have exchanged arbitration salary figures and didn’t come to terms on an agreement. Now? One of two things will happen.
Either Judge and the Yankees will head to arbitration to determine the slugger’s 2021 salary or the two sides will agree to a long-term extension.
This is a fairly considerable difference, too. Judge filed at $21 million and the Yankees countered at $17 million. That’s not really going to make fans feel good about this.
Judge’s journey to either the captaincy or the Bay Area reportedly begins over the next few days. So, how much cash are we talking about here?
According to Sherman, the Yankees eventually budge and offer Judge a sixth year at $36.1 million per year, effectively taking themselves out of the running for a fourth long-term deal of that nature (exactly what you don’t want to hear, but moving on…).
Will that really be the direction they go? Or will they try to stretch things out for more control, DJ LeMahieu-style?
Predicting Aaron Judge’s contract extension with Yankees
Now, according to Sherman, this is more likely than not going to get done. Steinbrenner reportedly has a similar level of investment here as he did while doggedly pursuing Gerrit Cole and DJ LeMahieu.
This may prompt you to wonder why he hasn’t brought that same doggedness to other pursuits in an effort to fill out a World Series roster, but that’s a story for another day.
Still, it’s difficult not to circle back to the team’s consistent ethos: years over AAV. Judge is about to turn 30, meaning a six-year extension after this season would contain his age 31-36 seasons. That does feel like the upper limit for the Yankees, but we suspect there may be some calculus involved: a classic Brett Gardner-style buyout for a Year 7 option that guarantees Judge an extra $7-10 million.
Maybe … six years, $190 million with an $8 million seventh-year option?
The longer these negotiations take, the more unpleasant they’ll become, and with Giancarlo Stanton going out on a limb this week to advocate for Judge — as well as Judge posting a photo with the present (Stanton) and the future (Volpe) — it’s clear the sentiment is turning in his favor.
The Yankees should look for a balance between placating Judge and remaining flexible.
Sadly, per Sherman’s article, they don’t intend to add another behemoth contract during his upcoming deal. In that case, perhaps flexibility is out the window and a few more dollars should be added to the right fielder’s next contract.