What a way to wake up! If the Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole acquisitions taught us anything, it’s that the Yankees save their most pressing business for the weirdest hours of the day, and that trend was no different with Aaron Judge. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Yankees sent shockwaves around the league inking the 2022 AL MVP to the largest free agent contract in MLB history, ensuring that their greatest homegrown player since Derek Jeter if not Mickey Mantle will remain in pinstripes for life.
The two sides finally reached an accord on a nine-year, $360 million deal that makes Judge the highest-paid position player in baseball on a per-year basis and the owner of the largest free agent deal in MLB history.
This spring, Aaron Judge turned down a 7-year, $213.5M ($30.5M AAV) contract extension from the Yankees.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) December 7, 2022
This morning, he signs with them as a free agent for 9 years and $360M ($40M AAV), per @Ken_Rosenthal.
A legendary walk year.
The extent of Aaron Judge’s self-determination is really, truly remarkable. It’s evident in many different ways: In the batter’s box, in his public image, and now, in designing the rest of his career. The dude just doesn’t bend and he keeps creating success for himself that way.— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) December 7, 2022
It’s the remarkable conclusion to the greatest walk year in baseball history if not American sports history. To break Roger Maris’ 61 year old record for the AL’s single-season home run crown and win AL MVP on the cusp of free agency goes beyond a story anyone could have written. He placed the ultimate bet and went on to seize the jackpot with both hands.
Perhaps even crazier than the amount he ended up signing for is the rumors of the contract offers he turned down to remain with the Yankees.
The primary reason why Aaron Judge flew to San Diego on Tuesday was to meet with the San Diego #Padres.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 7, 2022
They offered him $400 million over 10 years.
Judge stays put in New York for $360 million over nine years.
It’s the second time this offseason we’ve seen a free agent turn down $40+ million in additional guaranteed money from the Padres to sign with another team — Trea Turner declined a reported $342 million offer from San Diego before inking an 11-year, $300 million pact with the Phillies. With all the drama surrounding Fernando Tatis Jr. over the last year, it appears something is rotten in the south of California, though perhaps Xander Bogaerts will remedy the mood over there.
But forget about all that, today is about Judge. Over the past year, we’ve repeatedly heard from both sides the desire to make No. 99 a Yankee for life. Judge reiterated this wish whenever asked about his pending free agency and we know it was a significant part of the Yankees’ pitch to their superstar. Despite fears that Judge would go to the highest bidder, that he signed for $40 million less than the top offer finally confirms that alongside securing what he had rightfully earned, remaining in the Bronx was at the forefront of Judge’s decision making process.
All throughout this chaotic past few days, the Giants were believed to be the Yankees’ principal competition for Judge ... that is, until the Padres entered the sweepstakes placing the richest offer on the table. However, it would have been unimaginable for the Bombers to allow a future entrant into Monument Park to walk, not only after the season he just put up, but for what he’s meant to the organization, city, fanbase, and sport.
It was dumb to piss Judge off with negotiations before the season started. But they had to sign him at any cost for a number of reasons. The team would be terrible without him and it would be one of the most embarrassing moments in franchise history if they let Judge walk https://t.co/Fp4Z8RsYvE— Jeremy Schneider (@J_Schneider) December 7, 2022
Yes, it's going to be an albatross of a deal in the later years. Show me a superstar contract where that isn't the case. It's the cost of doing business in today's MLB. A cost a franchise worth $6 billion can afford to pay.— Jeremy Schneider (@J_Schneider) December 7, 2022
As always with a deal that takes a player into his late-30s, many were quick to revive the clichéd complaint about losing value at the end of the contract. For starters, that’s just the nature of the superstar marketplace in baseball — you pay hoping to receive surplus value in the first years of the deal and accept the sunk cost at the end.
But who cares about that? The Yankees really had no other option but to retain Judge in order to continue as perennial playoff contenders — something that would have been made more difficult had they pivoted and spread out Judge’s money across three players as some suggested they should. Oh yeah, and as a Schneider concludes, the Yankees absolutely can afford Judge’s contract, irrespective of potential age-related decline.
Another interesting tidbit concerns the manner in which negotiations shook out.
Sources: Last night that Yankees were at 8/$320MM for Judge. They believed SDP was at $400 and Giants would get there. Hal got on phone w/Judge, asked him if he wanted to be a Yankee. Judge said yes but need 9th year.Hal/Judge closed deal.— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) December 7, 2022
Unlike his father, Hal has always taken a back seat in negotiations, delegating personnel decisions to Brian Cashman. However, since the season ended, comments from both men seemed to indicate that the Yankees owner was more invested in keeping Judge as the face of the franchise than his general manager was. If Martino is to be believed, Steinbrenner stepped in to override Cashman and personally consummated this deal one-on-one with Judge. Not only does this represent a stunning turnaround from the normally cloistered owner, it introduces the specter that the financial restraints placed on the team in recent years originated from Cashman and not Steinbrenner.
But wait, there’s more! Assuming there is smoke behind the rumors, it appears the Yankees are making a 2009-esque push to finally end their World Series drought.
Now that Judge has been secured, what’s next for the Yankees? They have definite interest in Rodon. They feel that Rodon has the mettle to succeed in NY. A tough, talented lefty at the Stadium would be a nice fit.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) December 7, 2022
Keeping Judge AND going hard after the lone remaining ace on the market carries the same vibe as their free agent spending spree to open the new stadium — a winter that saw them hand out close to a half-billion in guarantees to CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett — and is exactly the type of all-in offseason that fans have been calling for during this Baby Bomber window of contention.
It’s been a tense past 48 hours, but it feels like Christmas came early for Aaron Judge and Yankees fans, as we will have the privilege of watching the closest thing to a superhero in the sport play in pinstripes for the next nine years. We can’t wait to see what superhuman feats he does next!