New York Yankees' Aaron Judge acknowledges fans after his game-winning,...

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge acknowledges fans after his game-winning, wild-card clinching single against the Tampa Bay Rays to end an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Aaron Judge made his preference clear in the minutes after the Yankees’ loss to the Red Sox in this year’s American League wild-card game at Fenway Park.

"I want to be a Yankee for life. I want to wear these pinstripes the rest of my career and represent this great organization and bring a championship back to the city," Judge said, indicating he would like there to be discussions this off-season regarding some kind of a long-term deal. "But you never know what the future holds for you. That's kind of out of my hands."

It very much is in the hands of general manager Brian Cashman, who made no commitment along those lines.

The 29-year-old Judge, entering his final year of being arbitration eligible, is due to hit the free agency after next season. Coming off his best season since his breakout rookie campaign of 2017, Judge will likely get a significant bump from the $10.175 million he made in 2021. But Judge’s preference, as he said in early October, is for an extension of some kind to be worked out.

"We have not," Cashman said Tuesday, asked if he had sat down with Judge’s representatives. "But, obviously, there’s a lot of time. Right now, I’ve been in human resource mode for the most part dealing with coaching interviews…and stuff like that. But all in due time we’ll clearly have to have a conversation with Aaron Judge’s agent, whether it’s on a one-year arbitration [agreement] or whether it’s a multiyear [deal]. We’ll have to just work through it all."

The Yankees in general prefer to let contracts expire rather than doing extensions, though exceptions can be made. Most recently, Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino each agreed to extensions prior to the 2019 season – Hicks seven years and $70 million and Severino four years and $40 million.

If Judge, who hit .287 with 39 homers and a .916 OPS in 148 games this season, signs an extension it, obviously, would blow those deals out of the water, with a baseline of $200 million not an unrealistic starting point. Judge stayed healthy this season, but that marked the outfielder’s first relatively healthy year since 2017. Durability might concern the Yankees, but Judge is the franchise’s most popular player – by far – since Derek Jeter, no small point when it comes to PR.

"He’s a special player so it’s definitely a special case," Cashman said. "I just can’t predict or tell you how it plays out or what happens next. But I just know we’re happy we have him right now, no doubt about it."

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