According to Aaron Judge himself, the Yankees have not approached him about a contract extension. He says the team has ‘other priorities,’ like building this year’s roster, but maybe the Yankees just don’t trust his health?
Aaron Judge says he and the #Yankees have not spoken about a contract extension yet.— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) February 23, 2021
He recognized that the organization had other important things to focus on this offseason to be a better team this year.
When Judge plays, he’s arguably the best right fielder in baseball. The problem for the star (and the entire Yankees roster, really) is that he can’t stay healthy. In 2017, he played in 155 games and mashed 52 homers. But take a look at the number of games he has played (“G”) since 2018:
Doing the math, Judge participated in just 63% of games the Yankees have played since Opening Day 2018. Not that it’s easy to stay healthy or that Judge isn’t playing elite baseball (because he is), but you can’t pay a player who isn’t consistently available.
To be cliché, the best ability is availability.
So for right now, the Yankees are doing exactly what they should be doing — delaying contract negotiations. Prioritize spending on pitching, re-signing star second baseman DJ LeMahieu, and bolstering that bullpen. If Aaron Judge can prove he can maintain production for more than half a season, then the Yankees can re-open negotiations for a mega-contract.
And lastly, it should be clear that Yankees GM Brian Cashman would love to partner with Judge long term. However, it would be irresponsible for him to fork over $200-350 million for a player who may or may not be there.
Eventually you run out of paid time off. So pay attention not just to how Judge plays this year, but how often he plays. If he’s on the field–don’t be surprised if the Yankees quickly pivot towards the negotiating table.