Aaron Judge does not offer any two-headed equivocations when asked about his desire to remain with the Yankees long-term. Per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, Judge was pretty clear about his intentions, saying, “That would be a wish of mine, a goal of mine, to finish my career as a Yankee. If it was up to me, I would be a Yankee for the next 10 years, for sure.”
Of course, we’ve heard this sort of thing from players before. We’re not six months removed from Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez offering similar pull quotes about their time with the Cubs, and they’ve all now played home games outside of the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. As we learned from those Cubbies, the decision to stay in one uniform long-term isn’t strictly up to the player.
Granted, there’s no reason to think the Yankees would be in a position to deal Judge the way the Cubs sloughed off their stars, but he could be heading into his final season in the Bronx regardless. Judge will enter free agency after the 2022 season. And while the Yankees do not have any financial issues that should seriously threaten their ability to keep Judge, they do have a couple of hefty contracts on the books.
Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton have guaranteed contract for at least five years apiece beyond 2022, and if the winter plays out as expected, there may be another $100MM-to-$200MM deal on the books by the time spring training begins. It is largely assumed that, now that they’ve finally moved Gleyber Torres to the keystone, the Yankees will come away with one of the the winter’s top free agent shortstops,
Theoretically, reaching a long-term accord with the Yankees should be easy, though we know that’s hardly ever the case. The Yankees haven’t stayed successful by giving money away to every player that likes the cut of their jib in pinstripes.
Of course, Judge is a star by just about any measure. The 6’7″ outfielder has posted no worse than a 140 wRC+ in any season of the last five, including a 148 wRC+ mark last season. Sure, he has yet to replicate his 52 home run, 174 wRC+, 8.3 fWAR Rookie of the Year campaign that put him on the map in 2017, but in the four seasons since that breakout, Judge ranks 19th among all batters in total fWAR and tied for sixth by measure of wRC+.
Judge is also an underrated defender, an unequivocal plus in right field as well as a bit of an optical illusion because of his size. He racked up 11 defensive runs saved as a right fielder in 2021 while proving himself capable of manning the middle in a pinch. Judge played 158 innings in center, though with a mark of -2 defensive runs saved and -0.8 UZR.
The other drawback to a long-term deal for Judge is that the California native will turn 31 in April of the first year of any new deal that he signs. Judge has been durable in that he’s been a significant contributor in every season of his career. On the flip side, 2021 was just the second time Judge appeared in at least 70% of New York’s regular season games. There is risk, therefore, in signing Judge to a long-term pact, though if Judge is as enthusiastic as he seems, that calculation will certainly be part of GM Brian Cashman’s winter planning.