After Sunday’s unceremonious exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Astros, the Yankees now need to address the elephant in the room: Will Aaron Judge stay or go?
Judge will be the biggest prize on the free agent market when the season finally comes to a close after the World Series, something which many people predicted the Yankees themselves would be taking part in. Instead, they’ll be re-evaluating every aspect of the season and what went wrong.
But that comes after general manager Brian Cashman tries to prevent one of the biggest superstar departures this town has seen since John Tavares threw on his Leafs jammies and left for Toronto. Even that doesn’t reach the heights that Judge’s exit would should he decide to go westward for San Francisco or the Los Angeles Dodgers or dare we even suggest the crosstown Mets.
Cashman wasn’t wrong when he said a few weeks back that Judge made “the all-time best bet” on himself this season or that there would be a “pot of gold” waiting for Judge after this year. However, there’s no guarantee that the pot with the Yankees logo on it will have enough in for his liking.
Judge was kept quiet for the most part during the postseason, batting a paltry .139 (5-for-36) with two home runs and three RBIs, but his historic regular season earned more than enough credibility to have the pick of the litter during free agency. He slashed .311/.425/.686 during the regular season and set the new benchmark for home runs in the American League with 62, which is more than enough to have teams banging down his door to sign with them.
Time will now tell if he wants to give it a go in free agency or try to work out a deal with the Yankees. Judge has played things close to the vest this year when the topic has come up and even on Sunday after the Yankees had been bounced, it was hard to get a gauge of his intent.
“Getting a chance to wear the pinstripes and play right field at Yankee Stadium, it’s an incredible honor that I definitely didn’t take for granted at any point,” Judge told reporters in the Yankees clubhouse. “I always check myself pregame and I say a little prayer and I kind of look around the stadium and I kind of pinch myself. Very few individuals get a chance to run on that field and do that and play in front of the fans that support us throughout my whole six years here.
“It was a special time, and I just kick myself for not bringing home that championship for them.”
The lengthy answer came in response to a question about if he was proud of what he had accomplished regardless of the offseason outcome. Though, there certainly were enough words used in the past tense there to get Yankees fans to start sweating from nervousness.
In the same breath though, you could argue that he was possibly hinting at staying. During an answer about losing multiple times in the playoffs, it sounded like he was looking forward to getting over that hump in pinstripes.
“It’s never fun, but I think when we finally get there and secure this thing, I think it’ll make it a lot sweeter going through the tough times like this, that’s for sure,” Judge said.
Truth be told, outside of Judge and his immediate circle no one knows where his head is at, but the slugger doesn’t sound interested in rushing a decision. Still, the Yankees didn’t do themselves any favors this year by not getting a deal done and then Cashman revealing the team’s final offer they made publically in a press conference right before opening day.
That decision may come back to haunt them after Judge turned down the seven-year, $213.5 million deal.
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“I’ve been clear about that since I first started wearing the pinstripes,” Judge said, according to Yankee Sports, after Game 4 about his desire to be a Yankee. “We couldn’t get something done before spring training and now we’ll see what happens.”
The Yankees have a small window between now and six days after the World Series concludes to exclusively negotiate with Judge. Whether or not he still holds that desire to remain in the Bronx, only time will tell.