Those of you waiting for the Yankees to cool off might be in for a long summer of chafing, as the best team in baseball keeps churning along with the Dark Side theme, increasing in volume after every towering Aaron Judge home run. As we know, Palpatine is never truly dead, and as soon as you think the Sith have been vanquished, Darth Judge shows up in Obi-Wan Kenobi and starts Force-snapping people’s necks.
The new hope for people who are still scarred from the Empire’s reign is Judge’s pending, ever-increasing contract. The face of the Yankees opted to bet on himself, and Brian Cashman’s contract offer of $213.5 million over seven years before the season looks extremely laughable. The right fielder leads the league in home runs (21), slugging (.677), and OPS (1.059). He’s smashing the ball by every metric BaseballSavant can track. He’s hitting 34 points (.313) above his career batting average (.279), and is going scorched earth in his contract year while leading the most visible team in the league to the best mark in the MLB.
As far as what he could earn, it’s unclear. In an article by Just Baseball — “Is Aaron Judge on Pace for the Greatest Contract Year Ever?” — that looked at the 10 greatest contract years in baseball, half of them received deals in excess of what New York offered Judge, and only two of those free agents came after 2010. The Rangers sadly but correctly didn’t want to give Josh Hamilton that kind of money. (They did, however, pay Marcus Semien $175 million, and he’s hitting .196 with three home runs in the first year of that seven-year deal.) Even Prince Fielder’s 38 home run, .299 BA season earned him more ($214 million) than what Cashman could shake out of the Steinbrenner’s couch cushions.
If Bryce Harper and Mike Trout can make north of $300 and $400 million, what’s Judge worth to a team? Playing in pinstripes comes at an inflated price already, and whoever floats the numbers out to the media should whisper more than $350 million, and hopefully that’s enough to make the front office spin the next time Judge and his agent are in it for negotiations.
The “if healthy” caveat is there, and that’ll be the Yankees only reason for not handing Judge more money than Alex Rodriguez made when he signed a $275 million, 10-year deal with the team in 2007. Hell, even young A-Rod got a bigger number 22 years ago when he re-upped with the Rangers for $252 million. (More depressing than the Yankees blasting off in first place is A-Rod made more than half a billion dollars in two contracts.)
Is a player who’s only surpassed 120 games in a season twice in his career worth $300 million over the next decade? When you consider teammates Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole each signed for $320 million or higher, the beloved leader of the team with his own section at the ballpark would surely get more money based off of locker room hierarchy alone.
He’s 30-years-old, and as much as I think the team was fair in its offer prior to the season, it’s not about what you’re worth, it’s what you can get. Whenever you can pay a guy $25-$30 million per year when he’s in his 40s, you have to just hope the revenue from the retirement tour merch offsets the burdensome contract.
There’s no problem with someone getting paid, and if any team can take that kind of risk, it’s the Yankees, but your least favorite team having a bunch of bad contracts keeps the nightmares at bay for a smidge longer than normal.
The ideal scenario is they get to the World Series and lose, despite a great showing/season from Judge. The opening number would make LIV’s most cash-crazed golfer blush. However, like the cost of a ticket to Yankee Stadium, New Yorkers will talk themselves into the price tag for Judge, and applaud every time the Death Star was operational that one time.
It’s this kind of petty joy that guides jaded fans through the darkest of times — or just adds injury to World Series drought.
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