SAN DIEGO — All Rise! Aaron Judge is keeping his Yankees pinstripes, the Judge’s Chambers will remain open for business and the captaincy could be on deck.
The 2022 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner has agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal with the Yankees, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on Wednesday. The contract, which is pending a physical, has not been confirmed by the club.
It would be the largest contract awarded to a free agent in Major League history, surpassing Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies in 2019. Judge flew to San Diego on Tuesday to decide, selecting the Yankees over competitive offers from the Giants and the Padres, who were a surprise late entry to the bidding.
A bleary-eyed Brian Cashman said on Wednesday morning that he had not yet slept, having spent the previous hours communicating with Judge and agent Page Odle. Ultimately, the decision to match San Francisco’s offer was made by managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who called Judge directly and asked, “Do you want to be a Yankee?”
“Hal Steinbrenner would be the Mariano Rivera of these negotiations,” Cashman said. “I can’t officially say that’s happened yet, but hopefully we’re in a good spot.”
From the first day after the Yankees’ postseason exit, Steinbrenner prioritized retaining Judge, meeting with the slugger face to face on at least one occasion in Tampa, Fla., where he told him that he and his family hoped Judge remained “a Yankee for life.” Steinbrenner has also said naming Judge as the Yankees’ first captain since Derek Jeter (2003-14) will be on the table.
“Clearly, in Aaron Judge’s case, he is spectacular,” Cashman said. “Ultimately, if that’s something the Steinbrenner family wants to discuss, that will be coming from their chair, just like when we retire numbers. Any time that’s a decision they want to make, I support that decision 110 percent.”
The Yankees’ confidence in retaining their biggest star could not have been helped by a TIME article published on Tuesday. In it, Judge commented on his displeasure with the April 8 news conference that saw Cashman volunteer Judge’s decision to turn down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension days prior.
“We kind of said, ‘Hey, let’s keep this between us,’” Judge told the magazine. “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.”
Cashman said that the quote caught him off guard, but manager Aaron Boone noted that Judge discussed the topic in a closed-door meeting held in the manager’s office the night of the Yankees’ season-ending AL Championship Series loss to the Astros.
“I knew that he was a little disappointed about that,” Boone said. “We talked at length that night. I don’t think it was intended to be a tactic or anything like that. We knew it was going to be constantly speculated on and out there. We kind of wanted to run to the situation. I don’t think it’s a factor in anything going on.”
There was some panic in the hallways of the Grand Hyatt around mid-day on Tuesday, when an erroneous report suggested that Judge seemed to be ready to choose the Giants. Boone had just exited the shower and, half-dressed, called Cashman to ask what had happened. When Cashman replied, “Nothing,” Boone exhaled and hurried to the Yankees’ suite.
“I feel like he certainly belongs in pinstripes,” Boone said. “A guy of his stature and his greatness, hopefully he spends his entire career [in New York], goes into Monument Park and into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. That would be the hope.”
Judge exceeded all expectations after turning down the extension; it was, as Cashman called it, “the all-time best bet.” Judge responded with a season for the ages, batting .311/.425/.686 in 157 games while leading the Majors in homers (62), runs (133), RBIs (131), slugging percentage, on-base percentage, OPS+ (211) and total bases (391).
“He’s an amazing player and an amazing person that certainly has the respect of everyone in that room,” Boone said. “Guys look to him, look up to him. When you have a player of that caliber that is as beloved and important as he is on a daily basis, you want to do your best to hang on to that.”