Aaron Judge believed in himself this offseason, when he turned down an 8 year, $230.5 million contract extension with the Yankees — and his big bet seems to be paying off.
Set to hit free agency for the first time in his career after this year, Judge has outperformed the already-sky-high expectations for the slugger, as he leads the MLB with 12 home runs, and has posted an impressive .306/.380/.653 stat line through 33 games this season.
His 37 hits in 138 plate appearances leads the Yankees, while he is 2nd on the team with 27 RBIs.
Judge’s stellar season has helped propel the Bronx Bombers to a league-best 24 win heading into their Sunday afternoon contest with the White Sox, and the team is running away with a 4.5 game lead in the AL East.
The 30-year-old slugger is among the betting odds favorites to bring home the AL MVP trophy at the end of this season.
His success is undoubtedly a relief for Yankee fans, but there remains an anxious unease about his uncertain future beyond the year — as he’ll likely command an astronomical contract, and it is not clear the Pinstripes’ front office will cough up with big money to keep him in the Bronx.
Judge expressed his disappointment earlier this year with the two sides’ inability to reach an extension, but committed to focusing on the season in front of him while negotiations remain ongoing.
“I’m disappointed, but we weren’t able to agree on an extension,” said Judge on April 8. “I block it out. I’m not a free agent — I’m not a free agent searching for a job. I know, no matter what, I will be playing here for the Yankees for this whole year.”
Meanwhile, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that he would no longer be discussing Judge’s contract in public after the much-speculated-about talks hit a fever pitch along with the slugger’s outstanding play.
“We’re not going to talk about it now going forward,” Cashman said earlier this month. “Whether that means we’re not going to talk, I’m not saying that, but we’re not going to talk about it [in public].”
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So, while talks progress behind closed doors between Cashman and Judge’s agent Page Odle, fans can only hope that the team secures him to a long-term deal.
But one thing has become abundantly clear: If Judge continues at the pace he’s begun the season with, betting on himself was the right move. Whether it’s in the Bronx, or in another uniform, Judge will doubtlessly ink one of the most lucrative contracts in baseball history for an outfielder — and likely surpass the 28.8 million per year that the Yanks offered him before the season.
As a glimmer of hope for anxious fans, Judge said he would prefer if his next contact kept him in New York longterm.
“I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here,” he said. “This is home for me.”