SAN DIEGO — Aaron Judge isn’t going anywhere after all and now appears certain to accomplish a stated goal since his breakout rookie season of 2017: Remain a Yankee “for life.”
The outfielder, who as of Tuesday night have seemed at least halfway out the door as his hometown San Francisco Giants pursued him hard — with the San Diego Padres a late entrant to the sweepstakes offering their own megadeal that some reports estimated was in the range of $400 million — agreed to a nine-year, $360 million contract to remain with the Yankees, a source confirmed.
MLB Network first reported the deal.
The signing won’t become official until after Judge passes a physical and was the reason general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone were limited in what they were allowed to say late Wednesday morning while meeting with reporters.
Judge himself, however, confirmed the agreement earlier Wednesday morning when his All Rise Foundation tweeted: “The Judge has rendered a verdict. Back to New York.”
It is not clear when the organization will hold a news conference welcoming back Judge, but it won’t be this week as the outfielder as of Wednesday morning was headed to Hawaii for vacation.
Though Cashman spoke primarily in generalities, he heaped praise on managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
“I can say our owner spearheaded the efforts, as he stated he would do everything in his power to try to make sure that we could retain Aaron Judge,” Cashman said. “Rest assured, he is putting his money where his mouth is in those efforts. I can acknowledge that . . . the hope is he’s [Steinbrenner] the Mariano Rivera of these negotiations and was able to close something out to put us in a great position. I can’t officially say that’s happened just yet but we’re in a good spot.”
The news culminated a roller-coaster 24 hours for the Yankees. The club was rocked Tuesday afternoon by a report saying Judge seemed “headed” to the Giants and as of late Tuesday night the franchise was in the dark — and in a borderline panic — regarding Judge’s thoughts and believed there was a very real possibility of him playing elsewhere in 2023 and beyond.
“They’ve done a good job of holding their cards close to the vest without [saying] who they’re seeing, what their intentions are,” Cashman said. “They’ve said they want to be here with the New York Yankees, but they’ve also been very open to exploring what their true market value is.”
But the parties worked through the night and the result was a record-setting deal that is likely to keep him in pinstripes for the rest of his career. Judge did indeed fly into San Diego Tuesday night, but by all accounts had not yet made a final decision when he arrived here and Cashman admitted Wednesday morning, “I haven’t had any sleep."
Judge will make $40 million per season, which gives him the highest average annual payout for a position player.
“I don't even want to go there yet,” Boone said Tuesday afternoon of a possible Judge departure as rumors swirled. “I always feel like he certainly belongs in pinstripes, and a guy of his stature and his greatness hopefully spends his entire career [getting] into Monument Park and into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. That would be the hope.”
Wednesday’s news culminated an overall remarkable 2022 for Judge, who bet big on himself in the spring when he turned down the Yankees’ seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer and then proceeded to draw up a winning lottery ticket for himself during a regular season in which he hit an American League-record 62 homers en route to winning his first MVP.
Judge, who will turn 31 in April, broke Roger Maris' 61-year-old AL home run record and captivated the baseball world amid the Yankees' playoff push. He also made a simultaneous push for the Triple Crown but fell just short, finishing second to the Twins' Luis Arraez in batting average. Judge finished the season with a .311 average, 131 RBIs, 111 walks, a .425 on-base percentage, .686 slugging percentage and 1.111 OPS in 157 games.
“He’s a great player who bet on himself, and it’s the all-time best bet, right?” Cashman said a few days after the regular season ended. “There’s a pot of gold there. It’s yet to be determined what the gold [will be], how much it weighs, but it’s a pot of gold, no doubt about it. So good for him. It was already a big pot, and, obviously, it’ll be bigger [than the pre-Opening Day offer], but he’s put himself in an amazing position to have a lot of choices.”
Judge, much to the relief of the Yankees and their fan base, gave his verdict at last Wednesday.
BREAKING THE BANK
Highest-paid position players in MLB history, by average annual value:
Player AAV Seasons
1. Aaron Judge $40M 2023-32*
2. Mike Trout $35.54M 2019-30
3. Carlos Correa $35.1M 2022
4. Anthony Rendon $35M 2020-26
5. Francisco Lindor $34.1M 2022-31
*Contract has not been finalized