It seems as though teams interested in signing Aaron Judge will have to commit to the slugger for the rest of his 30’s, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that “it appears increasingly likely” that Judge will land nine guaranteed years in his next contract.
It isn’t known if Judge is necessarily prioritizing contract length or a record-setting average annual value, but the reigning MVP might very well have the leverage for both. Mike Trout’s current deal with the Angels is the benchmark ($36MM) in terms of average annual value for position players, so if Judge was looking to top Trout’s record, it would take nine years and more than $324MM.
That isn’t far off MLBTR’s projection of an eight-year, $332MM deal for Judge, which works out to a $41.5MM AAV. If Judge is only looking to top Trout’s average salary whatsoever (rather than by a $5.5MM amount), technically a $332MM deal over nine years would do it. But, it could be that Judge wants to move the goalposts significantly forward for future star free agents.
Going into a ninth guaranteed season (which would be Judge’s age-39 year) might not have much appeal to teams if they’re not getting much or any break on the AAV. That said, Judge is perhaps a unique enough case that any of his big-market suitors might not mind the extra year — if a team is already willing to pay Judge in the $36MM range for his age-38 season, the ninth year might be seen as the cost of doing business.
If a ninth guaranteed season is now the going rate to sign Judge, it could put the Dodgers out of the running. “The Dodgers are believed to want Judge only on a short-term, high-dollar deal,” Rosenthal writes, which matches the club’s general strategy in pursuing any free agents. This isn’t to say that L.A. doesn’t abandon that strategy in certain circumstances, as it was just last winter that Freddie Freeman (heading into his age-32 season) was inked a six-year, $162MM deal. But, with Judge in position to at least double Freeman’s total salary, he might not be a fit for a Dodger team that could devote its resources towards acquiring other star players.
The Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees are the teams publicly linked to Judge’s market, and Rosenthal reports that some other teams have at least checked in on Judge, though it isn’t known if any of these mystery suitors are making a serious push. Last week, reports suggested that New York had made Judge an offer in the range of eight years and $300MM, and the Yankees weren’t viewing that as a final offer. Adding a ninth guaranteed season at the same AAV would result in a nine-year, $337.5MM offer.