As Aaron Judge’s revenge tour gains steam, so, too, have the fleet of takes indicating he’s priced himself out of the New York Yankees‘ coffers. It is what it is. Judge remains focused on dominating in the here and now (armed with the knowledge that he’s making his offseason sweeter in the process). Pundits from Buster Olney to Alex Rodriguez (apparently) remain focused on nudging, poking and prodding until somebody spills something about in-season negotiations.
Both Judge and the Yankees are smart enough (now) to know that focusing on the task at hand is all that matters to the fan base and to those inside the clubhouse. Judge is a Yankee now. He is en route to the best record in baseball now. Anything that detracts from that pursuit, as well as the pursuit of the World Series, is a massive mistake.
Again, though, that hasn’t stopped Olney, Rodriguez, and every Red Sox and Mets fan from trying to lead Yankee fans in a midseason and preemptive chorus of “Fire Hal Steinbrenner!” “Weren’t you angry when your record-pursuing team didn’t sign Carlos Correa?” they ask, as Judge rockets another ball into the stratosphere.
“Wouldn’t it be a shame if someone stopped you from enjoying this?”
Days after Rodriguez used the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball KayRod cast to pitch a few unique contract possibilities that might keep Judge in the Bronx ($50 million AAV?), he was back in speculation mode, hinting that Judge’s next contract was a coin flip to be signed with a different franchise.
Yankees, Aaron Judge ’50/50′ headed for a breakup?
As A-Rod stated on Joel Sherman/Jon Heyman’s “The Show” podcast:
"“This is a perfect storm,” Rodriguez said. “The most iconic player in our game today – that’s lacking big, unique, iconic players – and the most iconic franchise in the world in the New York Yankees. There’s a marriage made in heaven, but they both gambled, and I think that it’s gonna cost the New York Yankees a fortune. And I handicap it that there’s about a 50 percent chance that he comes back to the Yankees.”"
OK, so mostly just speculative, sure, but Rodriguez knows a little something about the benefits of a massive star inking a second contract in New York.
A-Rod’s post-2007 MVP contract was signed with George Steinbrenner still at the forefront of the franchise. He was never going to let a centerpiece get away, so he ponied up $275 million over 10 years in a deal that eventually dissolved thanks to suspensions and the Yankees forcing Rodriguez out the door midway through 2016.
Judge? He’s a more humble leader, a Derek Jeter-esque superstar with Rodriguez’s home run power. When Brian Cashman revealed the terms of the deal he passed on prior to the season, that felt like a rare moment of controversy for his Yankee legacy.
Of course, instead of growing dour, he grew more powerful, heating up about a week and a half later and carrying the team’s first-half offense. From here on out, the two sides will most likely work in silence.
Rodriguez said it clearly; the partnership just works.
The odds are only in the 50-50 range because of how likely it is that Judge now merits a massive overpay, and how skittish the younger Steinbrenner has been to take on bad money, an unfortunate necessity in this case.