Back in the nascent days of the leadup to the memorable 2022 season, Aaron Judge decided to head to arbitration with the Yankees over his contract for this season. The two sides were unable to come to terms on either that or a long-term extension, pre-Opening Day, so for now, all that had to be settled was his 2022 contract.
It ultimately took until the actual day of the planned arbitration hearing, which would have been the Yankees’ first since their contentious case with former bullpen ace Dellin Betances in 2017. Based on the strength of his terrific 39-homer 2021 campaign that earned him a fourth-place finish in MVP voting, Judge filed at $21 million, while the Yankees filed at $17 million. But mere minutes after ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Judge had declined a settlement down the middle at $19 million, New York Post columnist Jon Heyman tweeted that the two sides had, in fact, settled:
No hearing for Yankees and Judge. Very positive development. https://t.co/pJShv8yVIN— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 24, 2022
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that Judge’s 2022 contract will indeed be for $19 million, but will feature incentives as well. Among them will be that Judge that could garner some extra change for winning MVP or World Series MVP:
Judge can earn $250,000 for 1st place MVP and $250,000 for World Series MVP.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) June 24, 2022
So it’s still a $19 million contract, but one that gives Judge a solid shot for more, particularly given the fact that at least through June, he’s arguably the MVP of the American League. The fact that the 52-18 Yankees are playing like they belong in a World Series where Judge could win the Willie Mays Award is even better.
Despite Judge’s absurdly dominant start to 2022 — one that includes a memorable walk-off from just last night — those numbers would not have factored into any arbitration hearings because in normal, non-lockout offseasons, this hearing would have happened months and months ago. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Yankees fan who was OK with the team trying to nickel-and-dime him out of an extra couple million for 2022.
Thankfully, a hearing as potentially contentious as Betances’ was dodged. Judge probably wouldn’t have held it against the Yankees in free agency or future negotiations since normally, both sides have eyes on top dollar, but it’s obviously good to not trash your most beloved player’s previous season to his face (or at least his face over Zoom). Both Judge and the Yankees seem to want to be together for the long haul, and while the offseason free agency pursuit could get dicey given just how incredible Judge has been in 2022, avoiding this hearing was a promising first step.