Brian Cashman said it many years ago, and it never changes: desperation leads to freedom of action. A team wants — Needs — a player so badly that he will spend whatever it takes to get him, and the salaries are climbing higher and higher.
Aaron Judge’s new $360 million contract with the Yankees, contingent on a physical, will earn him an average of $40 million per season over the next nine years. It’s the richest deal in Yankees history and the highest salary ever for a position player.
Ticket prices are based on what the market will bear, not what owners need to cover their payroll. Unless you’re worried about how Hal Steinbrenner spends his fortune, you should rejoice if you like the Yankees.
Cashman, the Yankees general manager, revealed on the last opening day that Judge had rejected the team’s contract offer of $30.5 million a year for seven years. Judge then hit 62 home runs, more than Babe Ruth in 1927, more than Roger Maris in 1961, more than any other hitter in American League history.
It was the most adamant “Well, look thisresponse since Ruth pointed to the 1932 World Series stands at Wrigley Field. Except it wasn’t a bunch of loudmouthed Chicago Cubs heckling a hitter who was down the count. It was a front office trying to be pragmatic with a puncher who was in his senior year in pinstripes.
Neither called, not exactly. But it takes a healthy ego and showmanship to absorb a perceived insult, tell the world you’re going to do something about it, and then deliver. That’s what we saw from Judge in 2022.
The garish stats, which included major league bests in on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), runs (133), runs scored in (131) and total bases (391), added up to a $360 million contract. Betting on himself, Judge got a $146.5 million raise — more than 14 teams’ payroll last season — from the Yankees’ April offer.
He also led the Yankees to the AL East title, keeping the team atop the standings when injuries and struggles plagued the rest of the roster. It was just the second division title for the Yankees in 10 seasons since Derek Jeter’s last playoff game, in 2012. Judge is expected to soon become the team’s first captain since Jeter; he’s been the undisputed leader of the club house for years and is now essentially committed to spending his career in the Bronx.
Judge grew up in Linden, California supporting Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. They wanted it badly. So has the San Diego Padres, who have a magnetic pull on all superstars these days. But the Yankees needed Judge the most and translated that need into dollars.
It was always the most logical result. Judge did everything he could to earn the right to be the sport’s highest-paid player and to eclipse Gerrit Cole’s nine-year, $324 million contract, which had been the richest in Yankees history. . So it seemed from the start that the minimum contract would be nine years and $333 million, or $37 million a year.
Factor in open-market competition, the $40 million a year round call, and there you have it: $360 million for nine years, through 2031, when Judge turns 39.
It’s actually reasonable to think that Judge could still be productive at this age. Twenty-one different players have hit at least 25 homers in a season at age 39 or older, including five in the past decade: Raul Ibañez, David Ortiz (twice), Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltrán and Nelson Cruz.
For the Yankees, however, this contract isn’t about Judge’s productivity in the early 2030s. It’s about winning a championship this decade. They missed the World Series in the 2010s for the first calendar decade since the 1910s. It’s desperation.
As the downturns went on, of course, it wasn’t that bad. Since last outing in the 2009 World Series, when they won their last championship, the Yankees have been by far the best team in the AL. They have 1,145 wins in those 13 pennantless seasons, 59 more wins than the Tampa Bay Rays, who are second in the AL Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have more regular season wins in that span .
Judge helped the Yankees reach the playoffs in his six full seasons. In 44 playoff games, he hit .211 with 13 home runs and 66 strikeouts. Basically, he’s hitting a little more and hitting fewer homers than he does in the regular season. He needs to be better at these times, and he yearns for more chances.
“We’ve been one game away from a World Series to get kicked out in the wildcard, at ALCS, ALDS, just all over the board,” Judge said last month, the night he won the player the most useful of the AL. Award.
“So my ultimate and most important thing is that I want to be in a winning culture and a team that is committed to winning – not only for the rest of my playing career, but I want a legacy to live with n’ any organization.”
The Yankees have the culture and the commitment. Judge has the contract confirming his status in the game’s hierarchy. The hardest part continues: the pursuit of an elusive championship and the lofty legacy that comes with it.
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