Before the season, the Yankees offered Aaron Judge a 7-year/$213.5 million deal, which paired with his arbitration salary this season, would’ve guaranteed him 8-years and $230 million. Judge bet on himself. I thought he was dumb for turning it down. After all, from 2018-2020 Judge had only played in 242 of the Yankees 384 regular season games (just over 63%). Then last year he played in 148 games. I marked it up as a fluke. I figured he’d get injured this year, miss a bulk of the season and end up unable to match the $30.5 million annually that the Yankees were offering on an extension. Boy was I wrong.
Judge has played in 143 of the Yankees 147 games so far this season. His slash line is a historic .316/.419/.703. He’s hit 60 home runs with 128 RBI and still has 15 games to go. His OPS+ is 214. Yes, you read that right. He has a 9.7 bWAR and 10.5 fWAR. We haven’t seen a season like this from a hitter since the steroid era. Aside from the shortened 2020 season where Juan Soto posted an OPS+ of 217, the last non-steroid era player to post an OPS+ above 200 for an entire season was George Brett in 1980.
When healthy, Judge is obviously an absolute monster. He’s a top 5 hitter in the game. His only flaw right now is that he’s going to hit free agency entering his age 31 season. But with the universal DH, does that really matter all that much? Probably not. He’s going to end up shattering the 7-year/$213.5 million that the Yankees offered. From an AAV standpoint, the Yankees extension would’ve placed Judge second among MLB outfielders, just ahead of Mookie Betts. But after the season he’s put together, Judge could surpass Mike Trout as the highest paid position player in the league. On top of that, there won’t be a shortage of suitors for Judge’s services and as odd as it sounds, the Yankees might not be the leading contender.
Judge took exception earlier this season to Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, sharing details on the Yankees extension offer. He then called Boston “one of the best places to play”. Now, that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, after all, when you’re heading into free agency, you want to have as many teams interested as possible. Boston would be interested for a multitude of reasons though, including driving the price up on the Yankees if they’re one of the final bidders.
But who else could be interested, and who else has money to spend this offseason? Boston is certainly going to have some money to play with, especially if Xander Bogaerts opts out of his contract as expected. The Cubs, Cardinals, Mariners, Giants and yes, the Orioles are all going to have money to spend too. Would the Orioles pony up the around $300 million it will likely take to land Judge? Who knows, but they were rumored to be quietly in on Carlos Correa even though they knew the price tag was astronomical. It sounds like they’re going to be ready to spend and want to make a splash both in the lineup and in the rotation. And what if the Dodgers and/or Mets decide to get in and bolster their lineups. The Dodgers could non-tender Cody Bellinger this offseason, and if Trea Turner leaves, they’ll have additional money off the books to spend. The Mets on the other hand have Brandon Nimmo slated to hit free agency, so there is already a potential opening in the outfield. Neither the Dodgers nor the Mets need Judge, but when you have owners who are willing to spend anything to win, they can’t be counted out.
So with no shortage of suitors, just how much is Judge going to obliterate the Yankees extension offer by? I personally think he ends up getting somewhere around $39 million per year over 7-years, or $273 million in total. It’s possible that a team goes to 8-years, but it’s risky, especially at that amount of money and Judge’s age. That’s why I think teams will more comfortably try to stay around 7-years and inch closer to a $40 million AAV. Although I don’t have final a prediction yet, I don’t think the team that makes that offer is going to be the Yankees.