What does Aaron Judge’s stellar play mean for his contract talks?

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Aaron Judge is on pace for a historic offensive season, and it will currently help him in the offseason when he’ll look to ink a new contract. 

The 30-year-old slugger turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million deal just before the season began in April — opting instead to bet on himself and become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 7-year career. 

Barring substantial injury, that gamble looks to be paying off for the outfielder, who is the betting-odds favorite to capture his first AL MVP trophy, according to Vegas Insider.

After sending a bomb over the center field fence on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins, Judge now leads the MLB with 22 home runs (5 ahead of the second-place Yordan Alvarez) — putting him on pace for a whopping 64.8 homers on the season, which would be the fifth-most of all time, behind only Barry Bonds (73) and Mark McGwire (70), Sammy Sosa (66) and McGwire again (65). 

The slugger also leads all big-league baseball players with 46 runs, and tops the MLB stats list with a .685 slugging percentage and a 1.070 OPS. 

That stellar play has propelled the Yankees to a league-best 40–15, and puts them 7 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East. 

How’d we get here? 

Judge doesn’t figure to regret turning down the Pinstripes offer of $30.5 million per season, even though that would have made him the second-highest paid outfielder per year, behind only Mike Trout, who inked a 10-year, $360 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels in 2019. 

After that news was released to the press, Judge said he was “disappointed” with the team’s front office and general manager Brian Cashman for speaking about it publicly. 

“It’s something I felt like was private between my team and the Yankees,” Judge said. “I’m just disappointed because I think I’ve been vocal about wanting to be a Yankee for life. I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here.”

Cashman would later commit to keeping their ongoing negotiations private. 

“We’re not going to talk about it now going forward,” the GM told reporters in May. “Whether that means we’re not going to talk, I’m not saying that, but we’re not going to talk about it [to the media].”

So, negotiations will continue behind closed doors, and while it’s not clear how often the two sides are talking, or how serious those conversations are in the midst of the season, that has not stopped spectators from discussing what while surely be a monster new deal for Judge — whether with the Yankees or another franchise. 

“We’re going to have to be entering those efforts in a new arena, which would be at the end of the season when free agency starts,” Cashman said after the first round of contract talks fell through. “Maybe that will determine what his real market value will be, because we certainly couldn’t agree at this stage on a contract extension.”

What’s Judge worth?

According to Forbes’ valuation of sports franchises, the Bronx Bombers are the most lucrative club in the MLB with a valuation of $6 billion, and boast $482 million in yearly revenue.  

That should make fans eager to keep Judge in a pinstriped uniform as he enters his 30s with the best season start of his career. 

That will be costly, though — as the price will likely enter the $36-million-per-year range.

Judge and his agent, Page Odle, will surely see Trout’s deal as a reference for what the Bronx Bomber will command on the open market, and there is likely a team willing to give him that eye-popping dollar amount, if not more. 

Meanwhile, the Yankees already paid $36 million per year to their ace Gerrit Cole across 9 years — so Judge is fully aware that the team has the money to spend. 

“I would just throw in the towel and give him the $36 million,” said MLB insider Jon Heyman on The Show with Joel Sherman podcast.  “At this point, it’s really hard to argue that he should get less than $36 million. They’ve already paid Cole $36 million…He is the biggest star on the team…arguably the biggest star in the sport at the moment.”