The New York Yankees have a difficult offseason question to answer immediately: should they bring back their centerpiece/American League MVP for 2023?
In reality, it’s more nuanced than that, but without Aaron Judge, the Yankees won’t be nearly as potent next year unless they pair Judge’s departure with three or four very high-impact moves to rework their entire offense. That sounds impossible, so the team will inevitably take a step back if they can’t agree on a new deal for Judge, who bet on himself very successfully this season.
So successfully, in fact, that his running mate, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, took to the microphone and advocated for an historic payday moments after the Yankees’ elimination at the hands of the Astros.
Rizzo — who also has a contract opt-out and might not be here next season — did the hype-man work Judge was unwilling to do himself, stating that Judge’s “bet on himself on the biggest stage” should net him the “gold standard” of player contracts this offseason.
In other words … sorry, Yankees. No matter how many times Judge says it’d be an honor to wear the pinstripes forever, you’ll still have to pay up.
Yankees probably won’t make Aaron Judge baseball’s highest-paid player
If Judge is insistent on being the game’s highest-paid player, in terms of total salary, the Yankees will not re-sign him.
If he’s willing to alter those demands and settle for the game’s highest AAV on a shorter-term deal, the Yankees … will also probably not re-sign him. After all, they’ve been much more willing to stretch out a player’s contract in recent years to lower their AAV (DJ LeMahieu’s six-year contract) as opposed to going the other way.
In his post-mortem, Yankees beat writer Brendan Kuty predicted Judge will re-sign in the Bronx on a six-year deal with an inflated $45 million AAV. That would be a fairly impressive result of the slugger betting on himself, and wouldn’t break the Yankees’ bank.
Again, though, it would be out of character for them to agree to such a deal.
Rizzo is right on the money here — Judge’s money, in fact. The overall sentiment in the locker room seems to be that he’s earned not just a raise, but a massive one.
Combine that with Nestor Cortes suggesting the captaincy, and it’s obvious Judge’s Yankees teammates want to see him collect a king’s ransom, and they want him to do it here.
Now, it’s time to see if those two ideas conflict.