SAN DIEGO — Aaron Judge’s 63rd homer was his style of trading.
In the spring, Judge turned down seven years at $213.5 million, followed by an AL-record 62 home runs and left for his offseason vacation after signing a nine-year, $360 million deal to stay on. a Yankee.
The judge’s greatest tape measure — two more years and $146.5 million — came from power not just, well, power, but self-confidence and stoicism.
It started with the Yankees not believing their best player would leave, that he needed them more than they needed him. It ended with them as a pleading judge. Their late offerings followed a trajectory that Judge had become familiar with – All Rise.
Hal Steinbrenner decided he needed Judge for his roster, his television network, his presence, his marketing, and – perhaps most vital of all – for the owner’s reputation against growing criticism and boos.
Judge was impassive the entire time. He followed the accepted script of wanting to be a Yankee for life, but never wavered in his belief in his worth. He made it clear that he didn’t like the spring extension offer being made public. He did nothing to dispel stories about his childhood passion for the Giants. He clarified that free will provided the opportunity he had won.
And unlike, say, Derek Jeter, the judge spoke with other organizations. He hired the Giants and, at a late point, the Padres. The Yankees thought the Padres would spend 10 years at $400 million. They thought the Giants would reflect any offer at any time. More importantly, Judge — whether all of this is true or not — tricked the Yankees into believing he would accept an offer elsewhere.
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So Steinbrenner, on vacation in Italy, stayed in constant contact with Judge, who closed the deal after flying to San Diego on Tuesday. The Yankees owner couldn’t imagine his roster without Judge or his daily life to explain it.
And this is how this road was crossed:
In the spring, when they perceived they had the upper hand, the Yankees played the progressive game of offering a $30.5 million annual salary that was slightly above Mookie Betts’ $30.42 million for the second best among outfielders, well below the $35.54 position. Mike Trout file that the judge said he wanted.
On Dec. 7, 2022, Judge actually agreed to slightly less than Betts… in terms of his total $365 million Dodgers package. Judge’s $40 million is far more than Trout’s annual worth. It was a home run for Judge. No. 63. He went from being questioned as to why to reject so much guaranteed money on the brink of the 2022 season to the biggest winning bet in the history of the sport. Regardless of what the Padres or the Giants were willing to do, Judge got what he wanted – to stay a Yankee on his terms.
What did the Yankees get?
A temporary reprieve. Steinbrenner was booed last season at a Derek Jeter ceremony and looked like Mike Tyson against Buster Douglas – stunned by the punches. The criticism only got worse for the boss and the organization with a disappointing second half and ultimately a four-game ALCS extinction against the Astros. Judge carried the Yankees in the second half with a 1.286 OPS when the rest of a struggling team hit a combined .652. He was what the crowd cheered (until the ALCS) and what the Yankees marketed.
That combination seemed irreplaceable for the guy who writes Yankees checks. Could the Yankees have tried a combination of, say, Carlos Correa and Brandon Nimmo to replace Judge? Sure. But it would have cost more overall, and the Yankees knew Judge was working with their team and their fanbase.
But it is now. He’ll play next year starting at age 31, and how many of the 1,458 regular season games he’s signed to Judge will play? How much will he play at star level? Judge bet on himself, and now the Yankees are betting that generational wealth won’t change the man’s motives. They need Judge to remain as dedicated to his conditioning and his craft as he has been thus far. They need him healthy and as an MVP-caliber player at least until his mid-30s, if not beyond.
It’s the Yankees, so there’s still enough financial headroom to pursue more, especially if they’re really going to plug minimum-wage Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe in top roles. They want a left fielder (a reunion with Andrew Benintendi’s left-handed contact bat is their preference) and to add to their rotation (they’re drawn to Carlos Rodon’s high-end stuff).
If they think DJ LeMahieu is healthy – and they might have a better idea by next month – then trading Gleyber Torres and/or Isiah Kiner-Falefa becomes more likely as they try to deepen their relationship. pitch in particular.
But they now feel like they’ve kept their keystone in Judge, making it easier to build in the short term. They will worry about 2030 and 2031 when those years come. Those are two seasons the Yankees didn’t offer in the spring with their extension offer. However, the judge hit 62 homers and convinced the Yankees he could go, go, go.
His 63rd home run required the Yankees – rightly so – to go deep into their wallets, far deeper than they had imagined.
New York Post