Yankees must lock up Aaron Judge long-term by next winter

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The New York Yankees avoided arbitration again this year. Star right fielder Aaron Judge got a one year, $8.5M contract. It’s time to consider giving him a long-term deal.

The New York Yankees avoided arbitration with Aaron Judge by coming to an agreement with the All-Star on a one-year, $8.5M contract. It’s a huge increase from the $684K bargain deal he played on last year. An $8M raise is actually pretty good for a first-time arbitration-eligible player. On the other hand, it feels as if General Manager Brian Cashman is kicking the can down the road.

Aaron Judge has been everything the Bronx Bombers could have asked for and more. He has picked up the torch from Derek Jeter and become a symbol of excellence in pinstripes. The lanky right fielder is the Yankees leader on and off the field. Additionally, he has been an exemplary representative for the organization out in the community.

Since breaking through as a full-timer in 2017, the 27-year old has been a two-time All-Star, 2017 American League Rookie of the Year and MVP runner up, and most importantly the New York Yankees have made the postseason in all three seasons.

How about some numbers? In an injury-riddled 2019 season, he came to the plate 378 times and slashed .272/.381/.540/.921 with 27 home runs. Which were on par with his outstanding career numbers. His 5.4 WAR in only 102 regular-season games was outstanding and placed him ninth among AL position players.

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Obviously no team wants to pay more than it has to, but what else does Judge have to do to prove himself worthy of a long-term investment by the New York Yankees? He loves the team. The team loves him. And of course, the Bronx faithful love him as well. That’s easily seen by the amount #99 jerseys in the crowd at every home game.

Next winter, Judge will come up for arbitration again. If he plays anywhere near the level he has during his career, “The Judge” will pull in $20M. By then Cashman needs to step in and get some cost certainty. He must tread carefully because it looks like the Yankees will be over the 2020 Luxury Tax threshold. That makes two straight years. The team will be balancing on the high wire to avoid a 40% tax in 2021.

Fortunately, Masahiro Tanaka $22.14M and DJ LeMahieu $12M come off the books at that time, so the Bombers will have room to work with. Judge won’t get Mike Trout money (no one should get Trout money) but seven-years, between $225-250M, isn’t out of the question at that point. It will only get more expensive if the sides head toward arbitration for the third time in January of 2022.

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