It wasn't too long ago that New York Yankees star Aaron Judge burst onto the scene with a then-rookie-record 52 home runs in 2017. Judge is now one year away from free agency, and if he had his way, he would spent the rest of his career with the Yankees.
"To be honest, there's no better place to play. No other place I'd really ever want to play, just based on how the fans have embraced me, how they brought me in and treated me as one of their own," Judge said recently. "That would be a wish of mine, a goal of mine to finish my career as a Yankee, but you never know what the cards hold. If it was up to me, I'd be a Yankee for the next 10 years."
On Wednesday, Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner called Judge "one of the faces of the franchise" and said he would be willing to discuss a long-term contract with his front office, though those conversations have yet to take place. Here's what Steinbrenner said at the quarterly owners meetings (via the New York Post's Ken Davidoff):
"Look, he's a great Yankee. He's one of the faces of the franchise," Steinbrenner said of Judge. "He's a great leader, great in the clubhouse. It's definitely something I'm willing to talk to (general manager Brian Cashman) about. But nothing formal has happened yet."
For what it's worth, spring training is typically extension season in baseball. Teams handle free agency and the trade market from November through January, then focus on extensions in February and March. There are exceptions --, for example -- though it's not uncommon for extension talks to put on the back burner early in the winter.
Judge turns 30 in April and will be 31 in Year 1 of his free agent contract. George Springer signed his six-year, $150 million contract with the Blue Jays at age 31 and would seem to be a reasonable benchmark for a Judge contract. Of course, another MVP caliber season in 2022 could raise Judge's salary. On the flip side, another injury-riddled year could cost him money.
This past season Judge authored a .287/.373/.533 batting line with 39 home runs in 148 games. He ranked fifth among all American League position players with 6.0 WAR. Judge is not a finalist for the AL MVP award, though he could finish as high as fourth in the voting. One way or the other, his next contract will be a hot topic in Yankeeland the next 14 months.