By: COOPER ALBERS / STAFF REPORTER
After a stressful few weeks, Yankee fans can finally rest as Aaron Judge has reportedly agreed to stay in the Bronx.
The news broke early Wednesday morning that Judge has agreed to stay with the Yankees on a nine-year $360 million deal. With this contract, Judge now holds the highest annual salary of any position player in history, earning a whopping $40 Million per season.
Since hitting a home run in his first Major League at-bat in 2016, Aaron Judge has established himself as one of the most dominant players in baseball. In his rookie year, Judge posted a record-breaking 52 home-run season that earned him the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
Judge has continued his spectacular play through the course of his storied career. Entering the 2022 season, Judge was a three-time all-star starter and finished second in the 2017 AL MVP voting.
In April 2022, the Yankees aimed to extend their star with a seven-year $213.5 million extension. However, Judge rejected the offer without countering, making him a free agent after the 2022 season.
The decision of Judge to bet on himself paid off massively, as he went on to have one of the most impressive seasons in the history of baseball. In the 2022 season, he bolstered a .311 AVG, 131 RBIs, and an unheard-of 10.6 WAR.
Most notably, Judge hit an incredible 62 home runs, surpassing Roger Maris as the AL single season home-run leader. Following his record-breaking season, he took home the 2022 AL MVP Award.
(Aaron Judge hits his record-breaking 62nd home run of the season. October 4th, 2022. Photo: NPR)
Following his historic season, it was inevitable that Judge would become the highest-paid player in baseball. However, entering free agency, it was unclear what team he would be playing for come opening day.
The 2022 season ended on a sour note for Judge and the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers were swept in the ALCS by the Houston Astros, a series in which Judge received boos from the home crowd after entering a hitting slump.
In addition, Judge recently noted in an interview with Time Magazine that he was upset with the decision of the Yankees to publicize his early extension offer. Disappointedly, he said:
"I was a little upset that the numbers came out. I understand it’s a negotiation tactic. Put pressure on me. Turn the fans against me, turn the media on me. That part of it I didn’t like" (via Time).
These factors led many to speculate that Judge wanted out of New York. Moreover, many concluded the home-grown Yankee would leave the Bronx and join the San Francisco Giants.
Judge, a California native, lived just 100 miles from San Francisco and grew up a massive Giants fan. A return to the Bay would have marked a homecoming for the slugger.
In his interview with Time, Judge even recalled a prediction he made in his senior year of high school to his then-girlfriend, Samantha Bracksieck. He noted:
"I said, in 10 years, I’ll be married to Sam and playing for the San Francisco Giants" (via Time).
Whether it was his dissatisfaction with the Yankees, or the opportunity to rejoin his family in San Francisco, all signs pointed to Judge joining the Giants.
Judge began discussions with San Francisco over Thanksgiving Weekend. According to the President of Baseball Operations for the Giants, Farhan Zaidi, negotiations were incredibly productive and were ongoing into Winter Meetings.
To make matters worse, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman spoke at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on Monday, explaining that Judge's camp had not indicated the Yankees would have the opportunity to match a final offer. Moreover, Cashman was unaware that Judge intended to attend Winter Meetings and had no plans to meet with him in person.
On Tuesday morning, reports showed that the San Francisco Giants offered Judge $360 million to join them for nine years. Upon his arrival in San Diego on Tuesday night, Judge surprised many by meeting with the San Diego Padres, who offered him a whopping $400 million over ten years.
On Tuesday night, the Yankees had $320 million for eight years on the table for Judge. However, after hearing the word of the monster contracts offered from San Francisco and San Diego, Yankees Owner Hal Steinbrenner took matters into his own hands.
Reportedly, Steinbrenner called the star directly, asking him, "Do you want to be a Yankee?"
Judge assured the owner that he wanted to remain in pinstripes but needed the ninth year on his contract. Not wanting to lose his star, Steinbrenner agreed, bumping the offer to match the Giants at $360 million.
The new contract for Judge is nearly 70% larger than the contract offered by the Yankees in April, reflecting his immeasurable value to the team as the anchor and franchise leader. The reigning AL MVP will likely take on the mantle of team captain, an honor last received by Derek Jeter.