Will Yankees actually pay Aaron Judge what he wants if this play continues?

TORONTO, ON - MAY 4: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees bats during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 4, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 4: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees bats during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 4, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Yeah, this sort of sounds like a dumb question, but there’s another layer to it that New York Yankees fans still definitely need to address.

When the Yankees and Aaron Judge couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension before Opening Day, with general manager Brian Cashman revealing Judge was presented with a seven-year, $213.5 million extension ($30.5 million AAV), a few things became clear.

  1. Judge was betting on himself to make even more money
  2. The Yankees’ offer was fair, taking into account his time on the field with his production
  3. The Yankees had no plans to out-bid themselves before they absolutely needed to
  4. Judge is very aware of the amount of money he makes for the Yankees

This situation was (and still kind of is!) frustrating, but the Yankees’ blistering hot start to the season has conveniently helped us forget about the drama. But it’s also complicated things even further.

Judge is playing outside his mind right now. He leads the league with 10 homers (he hit his first walk-off of his career on Tuesday night!) and is among the tops in the AL with 67 total bases. He’s hitting .290 with a .982 OPS (188 OPS+), 21 runs scored, 22 RBI,11 walks and 2 stolen bases. He’s already played 10 games in center field.

If this play continues and Judge, say, wins an AL MVP award, will the Yankees pay him what he wants? Or did their final offer indicate they weren’t willing to go beyond seven years or higher than $30.5 million because of Judge’s age and the eventual decline that comes with it?

Will Aaron Judge win the contract battle with the New York Yankees?

According to reports, Judge and his camp wanted a 10-year, $360 million contract. That’s a $36 million per year deal that would take Judge into his age-40 season. For the average franchise, this makes zero sense from a payroll standpoint given how many other positions that need to be filled/addressed over the course of a decade.

But for the Yankees? It should theoretically be medium-lifting/doable if the circumstances are right. Judge is one of the faces of MLB. He’s clearly the face of the Yankees’ franchise at the moment, and is widely considered the de facto captain. He without a doubt leads the way in merchandise sales (he had the seventh-highest selling jersey in 2021) and has the literal Judge’s Chambers in right field at Yankee Stadium. Throw in the countless ads helping provide the Yankees more exposure, and you can see how much money he’s bringing in off the field.

It’s just a matter of how much the Yankees actually value that. Because something tells us the Yankees’ best and final offer about a month ago suggested they didn’t need another full, MVP-like season from Judge. They know that’s who he is. All of MLB knows that’s who he is when he’s healthy. We could be wrong, of course, but Judge dominating in his age-30 season and not dealing with injury issues for two years in a row doesn’t seem like it’ll convince the Yankees to pay him for three more years and $5.5 million in additional AAV.

Then the discourse might become “how dumb will the Yankees look if they don’t give Judge whatever contract he wants after an MVP-like season or deep playoff run?,” which might play into the team’s decision because Hal Steinbrenner definitely doesn’t like endlessly getting grilled by the New York media.

Maybe it’s all simpler than this, and the Yankees will pay Judge if he performs well. Or maybe Judge just wants to test free agency for the experience and will eventually return to New York. But it’s usually never that easy when it comes to the Yankees, which is why all of this is worth considering over the next seven months.