Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner spoke to various members of the media today and gave some updates regarding the team. Perhaps most notably, he said that the club plans to engage Aaron Judge and his representatives to talk about a contract extension soon. (Links from Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com and Erik Boland of Newsday.) He says that he instructed general manager Brian Cashman to focus on immediate needs first due to the lockout creating a time crunch for roster building, but that the talks would begin before Opening Day on April 7th.
The slugging right fielder is entering his final year of team control. Since the 2021 season ended, Judge has frequently said that he is open to an extension that would keep him in the Bronx beyond this year. However, the star outfielder indicated yesterday he’s not interested in carrying on negotiations beyond Opening Day.
“If we’re able to talk and get something done in spring training before the season starts, that would be ideal, especially since this is an important year,” Judge told reporters (including Andy Martino of SNY). “We’ve got a lot of things to focus on during the course of the year, winning a division and winning a championship here in New York. I don’t want contract talks or extensions and all that talk to be a distraction throughout the year. So, if we’re able to agree to something here in the spring before we head up to New York, that’s wonderful and it would be an honor. If not, we’ll talk after the season.”
Needless to say, an extension for Judge won’t be cheap. In 572 games to this point in his career, he’s hit 158 home runs and has a slash line of .276/.386/.544, producing a wRC+ of 151 and 24.3 fWAR. The three-time All-Star is coming off one of the best showings of his career. Judge tallied 633 plate appearances last season and hit .287/.373/.544 with 39 home runs. As he has throughout his time in the big leagues, he posted top-of-the-scale exit velocities and rated as a capable defender in right field.
Judge certainly won’t feel any financial pressure to take a below-market deal. Not only is he six months from free agency, he has already banked upwards of $13MM in arbitration earnings. More importantly, he’s in line to more than double that this upcoming season. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Judge for a hefty $17.1MM salary during his final trip through the arbitration process. He’s slated to hit the market next winter in advance of his age-31 campaign, where he could be one of the top players available if he doesn’t sign an extension in the coming weeks.