Will Aaron Judge Leave the Yankees as a Free Agent?
The Yankees are in a unique position. The team has a big-name ace pitcher coming up, Judge, who makes about $15 million (if he gets a qualifying offer). The team will not have to be concerned about a glut of free agents as long as Judge remains on a big-money contract. The Astros, who have similar contracts, will pay $60 million for Cole Hamels.
As the clock ticks down to July 31, Judge must decide where he wants to play his final days. His agent, Dan Lozan, says, “Aaron Judge’s mind is made up, so the sooner he does it, the better for everybody.” But Judge’s agent is in his first season in New York, and the Yankees are in the midst of a rebuilding project.
The Yankees are trying to find ways to add payroll without sacrificing financial stability. The team has struggled to find a spot for Judge, and I suspect there is another way to fill in the spot for a pitcher like Judge without taking on a massive financial commitment.
Doing their best to get Judge to maximize what he feels he can accomplish in the final three years of his contract (through 2021) would be the best thing for all parties involved.
If Judge plays out his contract, he will be 34 years old by 2021. This is the point in Judge’s career where he looks likely to decline. The more likely outcome is that he will get another contract extension, and will be in his mid-30s next year. He would be eligible for the next phase of free agency, which begins in 2022. The Yankees would probably match the offer of someone like David Price or Bryce Harper. They wouldn’t have to pay a free agent more than $40 million or an arbitration-eligible player more than $25 million.
The Yankees would not be willing to give one of these pitchers a three-year contract worth $130 million. Judge is going to be a free agent, and teams will be looking for starters not just on the open market but in trades for young talent.
If the Yankees were willing to accept the financial burden of Judge’s option year, where Judge would be under team control for six more years, then they would have to find a way to replace