Aaron Judge has captivated us in the same way that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did in 1998.
Baseball historians are debating where he ranks among the greatest seasons in baseball history.
He transported us to 1961, the year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record with 61. It was the most ever hit in American League history until Judge hit his 62nd home run into the stands at Globe Life Field on Tuesday night.
Now we wait to see if he will release another record in the future.
Of course, we’re talking about his next contract.
When he turned down the New York Yankees’ seven-year, $213.5 million offer on opening day, Judge gambled big, calling their bluff.
Even though baseball is now openly accepting gambling, it may be the most profitable bet in baseball history.
Judge has put on a show for the ages, leading the Yankees to what is arguably their best season since the days of Ruth and Lou Gehrig a century ago, surpassing even Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and, yes, Maris.
So how much is a person worth who is the face of baseball, playing in the world’s media capital for the most historic franchise in sports, producing the greatest season since Ruth?
Are we talking $300,000 or $400,000? 500 million dollars?
The imagination runs wild until you meet owners, baseball executives, and agents who specialize in the cold-hearted business of baseball.
Judge will undoubtedly strike gold, but he will not surpass Mookie Betts’ 12-year, $365 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020 or Mike Trout’s 10-year, $360 million extension with the Angels in 2019.
He will not be able to match Francisco Lindor’s 10-year, $341 million contract or Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 14-year, $340 million contract.
It’s not that Judge isn’t more valuable or would have a greater impact on a team, but his age (30) and the history of long-term deals given to players 30 or older scare too many teams, citing Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols as examples.
The executives wonder if Judge will ever produce this historic season again.
They wonder how long he will be healthy. They are aware that he has played in all but four games this season, but they point out that he missed 110 games due to injuries in 2018-2019 and more than half of the 60-game COVID-shortened season in 2020.
They believe Judge will not receive the 10-year contract but will instead receive at least a seven-year deal, and most likely an eight-year deal.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”und” dir=”ltr”>62! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/AllRise?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#AllRise</a> <a href=”https://t.co/lHv9CSkxDo”>pic.twitter.com/lHv9CSkxDo</a></p>— MLB (@MLB) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MLB/status/1577452420933816321?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 5, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
He should be paid at least $36 million per year, which is the same as Trout’s contract. Trout didn’t have the leverage of free agency because he still had two years left on his contract, but he also has three MVP awards and nine top-five finishes.
The only player who earns more than Trout’s $36 million annual average salary is Mets starter Max Scherzer, who signed a three-year $130 million free agent contract worth $43.3 million per season last winter.
So, how will Judge’s free-agent contract look?
Executives and agents predict $288 million to $304 million in eight years.
And, yes, he will finish his career in Yankee pinstripes.
The Yankees are expected to swallow their pride and give Judge that contract, given what he means to the organization and the money he brings in.
The Yankees will have exclusive negotiating rights with Judge until the end of the World Series, but after that, anyone and everyone can join the bidding.
So, who can afford to participate?
Who can afford not to give it a shot?
Aside from the Yankees, there aren’t expected to be more than three potential suitors for Judge.
The Boston Red Sox could use a lot of help catching the Yankees and would love to take the big guy away from New York. But, if they didn’t bother keeping Mookie Betts and aren’t making much of an effort to keep Xander Bogaerts, what makes you think they’d spend $300 million on Judge?
Mookie Betts, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ former MVP, is already in the right field. They could, however, trade non-tender center fielder Cody Bellinger, and they lack a regular left fielder. The Dodgers, who have won 106 games or more in three consecutive seasons, don’t need Judge, but if they don’t re-sign free agent shortstop Trea Turner, they should have money to burn and could offer a lucrative short-term deal.
Judge, who is hitting his way to immortality, is ideal for one team.
The Yankees of New York.
The game’s biggest and brightest star should be in New York. He belongs on the Yankees’ roster. And he should be paid every penny he is worth.
The Yankees are about to find out exactly what that is.