Yankees, Judge Still Talking As Extension Deadline Approaches

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With the Yankees set to open their season hosting the Red Sox in less than five hours, Aaron Judge’s self-imposed deadline for a a contract extension as he enters his walk year is fast approaching.  The Yankees are willing to offer slugging right fielder Judge a six or seven-year extension, a source tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman of the New York Post report that the Yankees and Judge are still talking, with the team offering to make Judge the highest paid position player in Yankees history by average annual value.  That only represents Alex Rodriguez’s $27.5MM salary on a deal signed more than 14 years ago.  The game’s top players have routinely landed AAVs north of $30MM in recent years, a plateau that has been reached 20 times.

On Wednesday, the Guardians tacked five years and $124MM onto the contract of superstar third baseman Jose Ramirez, also guaranteeing what was already a slam-dunk club option for 2023.  The deal, which represents a steep discount over Ramirez’s market value, runs through his age-35 season.  Sherman feels that what Judge is willing to accept is “not in the same galaxy” as Judge.  Sherman estimated on Wednesday that the Yankees are willing to offer “$240 million-ish over seven or eight years.”  Of the 24 arbitration eligible players currently headed toward a midseason hearing to determine their 2022 salary, Judge’s $5MM gap with the Yankees ($17MM vs. $22MM) represents the largest.  That would likely be settled as part of a long-term contract extension.

Judge has missed significant portions of three of the last five seasons due to injury, which is likely an issue in paying him through age 37 as stars like Corey Seager, Freddie Freeman, Marcus Semien, and Francisco Lindor were.  Seager, at least, had a notable injury history of his own, but his deal was struck on the open market in advance of his age-28 season.  If Judge were to be signed through age 36, that’d mean covering six free agent years, seven in total.  If, as Sherman speculated, the Yankees are willing to offer $240MM over the next seven years, and we include $20MM for 2022, the AAV on the six free agent years would be north of $36.5MM, which would rank second in baseball history behind only Max Scherzer.  That seems unlikely.  Matching Seager’s AAV would mean $32.5MM annually for free agent years, and a total of $215MM over the next seven.

More to come…

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