Aaron Judge Is Giving The Yankees A Lot To Think About This Offseason
This is an Aaron Judge appreciation post. I feel like it has almost gone under the radar, but Aaron Judge is playing a great season of baseball. It's not the flashy 52 home run rookie season in 2017. It's not getting MVP hype because Shohei Ohtani exists. But it's just been a fantastic season of baseball from our 6'7" de facto captain. He's slashing .292/.383/.538 with 29 homers and 72 RBIs in 116 games. He plays solid defense and his 4.9 WAR is the 6th best among position players in the American League.
He has answered every criticism fans have given him through the years. Can't stay healthy and gets hurt too much? He's played in 116 games and avoided the IL entirely outside of his COVID stint which you can't really blame him for. There have been criticisms that he's too much of an "all or nothing" hitter. Well he's hitting .292 which is even more impressive when you consider how much average is down across baseball. People have said he's not clutch and doesn't get the big hit. That was a fair criticism up until even a few months ago. While his playoff numbers are solid, he had never had a walk-off hit and it just felt like he didn't always come through enough in tight, late-inning games. But he's had his fair share of big hits this season (another one Thursday night in Oakland) and is putting that narrative to rest. He strikes out too much? Okay maybe he still does strike out a lot (126 in 116 games) but it's not that bad when you consider he's hitting almost .300. Also his 25.3 K% is the best of his career and isn't one of the worst 25 in baseball. So that's a major improvement.
The big question is now what the hell do the Yankees do with Aaron Judge in the offseason? He'll be a free agent after next year, and it's likely time for a contract extension. He's proven all doubters wrong this season. He's the face of the organization. The team loves him. Fans love him. He's incredibly marketable and a bonafide superstar. After the 2017 season, people probably thought this extension would be something north of $300 million in that Lindor/Tatis/Betts territory.
But I don't think that is still a realistic scenario. He missed significant time due to injuries in the past 3 seasons. The "injury prone" label gets tossed around with him and while it's not totally fair (2018 he got unlucky when he was plunked in the wrist), it's also got some merit to it. He'll also be 31 in the 2023 season, which would be the first of a new contract. He's not getting a 10-year deal at that age. We've seen that mistake made too many times before. But he's also proven this year that he does deserve a big extension of some sort. DJ LeMaheiu got 6 years/$90 million this past offseason at 32 years old. Judge is going to cost significantly more than that.
There's a WIDE range of outcomes for what that contract could be. 5 for 150? 7 for 200? 8 for 250? None of those numbers would really shock me. We'll see how the rest of the season plays out. He has a chance to change his value significantly, in either direction. The 2022 season can obviously change things as well, but you have to assume the Yankees want to lock him up this offseason instead of having it be a storyline hanging over the team all next year and lingering into his free agency. Probably going to be the #1 story of the offseason.
And not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but if they do lock him up to an extension, how quickly do the Yankees start thinking about making him the first team captain since Derek Jeter? It's long made sense to make him that guy, but I can see the hesitation until you know he'll be here long term.
We talked about Aaron Judge's great season and more on today's Short Porch. The win streak is over but we're staying positive. Do we root for the Rays or Red Sox? Corey Kluber is back. Paul Fry is somehow ruining the Yankees season. And the Mets are the Mets which is a beautiful thing. You can listen to the full episode here.
Oh we also tried to do a live reading of that majestic Marty Mush blog.