Aaron Judge entered free agency on the heels of the best platform year we’ve seen in decades, having proven the decision to turn down the Yankees’ seven-year, $213.5MM extension offer back in Spring Training to be a wildly successful bet on himself. Judge, who naturally declined a qualifying offer last week, is now free to field interest from teams throughout the league, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner both voiced hope of getting a deal done and keeping Judge in the Bronx long-term.
Cashman confirmed to reporters last night that the team has already made a new offer to Judge (Twitter link via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com), stating that because Judge’s free agency is playing out “in real time… we’re certainly not going to mess around.” Steinbrenner backed Cashman’s sentiment, stating that he’s met with Judge multiple times since the season ended and “absolutely conveyed” that he wants him “to be a Yankee for the rest of his life” (via Newsday’s David Lennon)
Naturally, because Judge is an active free agent, Cashman didn’t disclose the terms of any new offer(s) — as opposed to his surprisingly candid Spring Training press conference, wherein he publicly announced the financial details of the Yankees’ final extension offer to Judge.
Judge is widely expected to top that spring extension offer handsomely, perhaps establishing a new average annual value record for position players and/or a new free-agent contract record in the process. At present, no position player has topped the $36MM AAV on Mike Trout’s 10-year, $360MM extension with the Angels (though Max Scherzer’s $43.33MM AAV is the overall record among big leaguers). Bryce Harper’s $330MM contract is the largest ever signed in free agency (though not the largest contract ever, as there have been a handful of extensions promising larger total sums).
Even with some form of record payday likely looming for Judge — MLBTR predicted an eight-year, $332MM contract on last week’s Top 50 rankings — Steinbrenner went on to note that he’s made clear to Judge that there’s ample payroll space to not only re-sign the recently crowned AL MVP but also make further additions to supplement the roster (via Lennon).
Even without Judge, the Yankees are projected for a bottom-line payroll north of $206MM, per Roster Resource, and a luxury-tax bill that’s already at nearly $223MM. Judge alone would push the Yankees into the second tier of luxury penalization, and any subsequent moves of note would then likely push the team into the third or possibly even newly created fourth tier of luxury penalties. Of course, those figures assume that the Yankees will tender contracts to and subsequently keep all 14 of their arbitration-eligible players, which seems unlikely. At least some of that group figures to be non-tendered before tonight’s 8pm ET deadline or tendered but subsequently traded, which would obviously alter the calculus.