Opinion: It’s time to pay the Judge
|Photo credit: USA Today|
Aaron Judge is successfully betting on himself in 2022.
Once the MLB lockout ended, fans were waiting with baited breath for Hal Steinbrenner to offer a contract extension to Judge, which would take effect next year once his current contract expired. And, that contract extension came down from on high. The Yankees offered Judge $30.5 million per year, beginning in 2023, which he promptly turned down.
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci makes a great point: this moment in Judge’s career, as he’ll be age 31 as of April 26 of next year, is the only moment that he will have with this level of leverage. Going forward, at the next time that his contract is up for debate, he’ll be too old -- especially at 6”7 and over 250 lbs with a number of injuries on his career resume.
At the rate that the Yankees are playing during this season (as of June 16 they are 46-16) coupled with the expanded MLB playoff format, it’s reasonable to assume that at the very least, the Yankees will go on a postseason run. With yet another postseason run for Judge, and with the potential for the best case scenario in his first-ever World Series appearance, his value will only increase. The Yankees already should realize how much Judge has brought to the team, but they would be downright foolish to not realize the magnitude of Judge’s contributions as he enters free agency if the best case scenario indeed occurs.
Judge is right to bet on himself; he’s having a MVP-level season both at the plate and in the field. It’s difficult to talk about the Yankees at all without his name coming up in the conversation in some aspect. As far as the field, on the June 12th episode of Jomboy Media’s Talkin’ Yanks Podcast, Jomboy points out how Judge is not only playing right field, but is also starting games in center field. The fact that he can play both positions only increases his value to a team AND his dollar value.
At the plate, Judge requires no introduction. He’s hit a MLB-leading 25 home runs. He’s logged 49 RBIs. He’s 72-for-230 and batting .313 with a 1.067 OPS. With RISP (a historic Yankee problem that is overall less of an issue this year), he’s 14-for-50 with three home runs.
Moving away from stats and into additional factors, Judge puts asses in seats to the point that he has an entire section of Yankee Stadium seats named for him. He’s hitting lead-off more often. And fans have called for him to be named the next Yankees Captain long before this season filled with the possibility for Judge to accumulate a plethora of career highs.
If the Yankees end up signing Aaron Judge to a long-term contract, he will be named captain - Michael Kay— Dan Rourke (@DanAlanRourke) January 15, 2021
Not to mention, Judge is staying healthy, a novelty compared to previous years; in 2019 he appeared in 102 games, and in the 60-game COVID season in 2020, Judge only appeared in 28 of those 60 games. He improved in 2021 to 148 games and we’re seeing him in the lineup every night in 2022.
In looking to the rest of the season, Judge is on pace to hit 67 home runs. If he continues at this level and stays healthy, he’ll be a serious MVP contender.
And the Yankees should pay him.