Hal Steinbrenner expects Yankees to begin contract talks with Aaron Judge 'soon'
TAMPA, Fla. – Aaron Judge made clear Tuesday any talks regarding an extension need to take place before the start of the regular season, which is April 7 at the Stadium against the Red Sox.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said on Wednesday not only is he fine with that, he expects those talks to take place "soon."
"I think that's a pretty normal thing," Steinbrenner said. "He's got things to focus on. We've been talking about it. Yes, it's going to happen."
Judge said he wasn’t "concerned" no talks had taken place since the end of last season, when he said he wanted to be "a Yankee for life," minutes after the loss to the Red Sox in the AL wild-card game. Steinbrenner said it wasn’t personal and indicated those talks might have taken place if not for the recently-ended 99-day lockout, which began, at the behest of commissioner Rob Manfred, on Dec. 2.
"Judge is a very special player and a great Yankee and we will be having conversations, I have no doubt, in the weeks to come" Steinbrenner said. "Not as much time per usual to figure out the needs we have [on the roster] and figure out how to address them, so my directive to Cash [general manager Brian Cashman] when the lockout ended [was] let's focus on the needs. We’ve got Aaron this year, let's focus on the needs on who we need to bring in to make this team better."
Even if the sides do get together before the start of the regular season, a long-term deal being worked out so quickly on the surface seems unlikely. With Judge’s injury history – his 2021 was the outfielder’s first year in which he was mostly healthy since 2017, Judge’s AL Rookie of the Year season – the Yankees may be inclined to let the season play out instead of offering a megadeal. Judge, meanwhile, won’t be providing any hometown discounts and, should he get through 2022 healthy and produce the kind of numbers that are expected of one of the sport’s best all-around players when he is on the field, he would hit the free-agent market in prime position to score a huge deal.
"Our intent probably would be we’d like to have him back if we can, but like anything else, just like trades and free agency, you have to be on the same page and [find] common ground, and the only way to find that out is to have some conversations first and foremost," Cashman said earlier in the week. "Those will happen, we’d like to have them, but saying we’d like to have them and actually being able to complete something is a big difference."
LHP Manny Banuelos, once among the top pitching prospects in the game who had an electric spring training here in 2011, one year before his career essentially began getting derailed by injury, signed a minor league deal with the Yankees in January. After looking sharp in a simulated game Wednesday, the 31-year-old said he is "completely healthy." He’s expected to make his spring debut Sunday or Monday.
The Yankees invited INF/OF Phillip Evans, INF Ronald Guzman and OF Ryan LaMarre to major-league camp.