The Yankees' Aaron Judge signs autographs for fans before a...

The Yankees' Aaron Judge signs autographs for fans before a spring training game against the Phillies on Friday  in Clearwater, Fla. Credit: Lynne Sladky

TAMPA, Fla. — Tick-tock, tick-tock.

With Aaron Judge having set April 7 as a deadline to talk about a contract extension, the Yankees’ hierarchy is on the clock.

Judge did soften that stance somewhat — though not completely — after going 1-for-3 with a run in the Yankees’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday  afternoon at Steinbrenner Field.  

“I’m pretty sure [on the Opening Day deadline], but if there are negotiations [after that], I won’t be talking to you guys about it at all,” Judge said. “We haven’t decided yet, but right now, that’s what we’ve got.”

General manager Brian Cashman indicated late Saturday morning that he hasn’t yet made a multiyear offer to Judge’s representatives, but that will be coming sooner rather than later.

“Between now and Opening Day [April 7], we’ve said we’ll make an offer and he’ll, obviously, receive an offer and all conversations will have taken place and it’ll either resolve into a multiyear deal or it won’t,” Cashman said, operating under the impression that the April 7 season opener against the Red Sox at the Stadium is the deadline for talking about an extension because that was what Judge said to the media on March 15. “I’m not going to say when or how it’s going or keep people updated. Again, restate what we said before — we’ll make an offer and hear what he has to say in response and then it will be pencils down before Opening Day.”

The Yankees reached one-year agreements with 11 of their 12 arbitration-eligible players last week, with Judge the lone holdout. The Yankees filed at $17 million while Judge, who made just over $10 million last season, filed at $21 million.

The parties have expressed an interest in working out an extension. Judge has consistently said he wants to be “a Yankee for life,”  and  Cashman and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier in spring training that is  the franchise’s desire as well.

Steinbrenner, speaking March 16, called Judge “a very special player and a great Yankee,” adding, “We’ll be having conversations, I have no doubt, in the weeks to come” about a multiyear deal.

Given the contracts some of the biggest names in the sport have gotten in recent years, anything that doesn’t have an annual average value of at least $25 million — and probably a bit higher — likely isn’t going to get it done regardless of the years offered. With Judge set to turn 30 on April 26 and already with a checkered past when it comes to injuries, the Yankees are not likely to offer more than five years, six maximum.  

Cashman declined to say whether he, his baseball operations staff and ownership have crafted the offer they plan to make. “I’m not going to comment,” he said when asked if the specifics of an offer had been settled upon. “I’m just going to continue to acknowledge that all business on this subject matter will have been completed by Opening Day. Whether that resolves in an extension or dealing with a one-year [deal] through arbitration, that’s what remains to be seen.”

It is in both sides’ interest to avoid an arbitration hearing room. The Yankees rarely end up there — just two times in the last two decades — but the previous time caused hard feelings on both ends, particularly the player’s. That was in 2017, when reliever Dellin Betances filed at $5 million and the Yankees filed at $3 million. An arbitration panel ruled in the Yankees’ favor and Betances never completely got over his bitterness about the process, which included team president Randy Levine eviscerating the pitcher’s representation — and by extension the pitcher — during an ill-advised conference call with reporters after the decision.

Chien-Ming Wang and the Yankees also had a hearing in 2008.

“I think our position’s always been — we wind up in a hearing only if we’re dragged there, that’s our position,” Cashman said Saturday. “We don’t handle arbitration where we’re trying to get over on anybody. We go only when forced to go. Obviously, not something we’re afraid of going to, but our history shows we stay out of that arena unless we’re compelled to get there. And that’s fine too. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

Said Judge: “Arbitration-wise, that’s just how things go. We weren’t able to settle. It’ll all go back and forth until we maybe can settle on something before the court date [arbitration hearing]. And if not, we’ll see each other in court, I guess. We’ll see.”

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