TAMPA, Fla. -- The group of 2016-17 “Baby Bombers” that prompted anticipation of an approaching Yankees dynasty is down to two, with Gary Sánchez dealt this week to the Twins. Aaron Judge still intends to make good on his stated goal of delivering a championship to New York, though he’d like to add more time.
Judge’s future was a hot topic at Yankees camp on Tuesday, where the outfielder reiterated his desire to reach a long-term contract extension with the club. Judge said that he hopes a deal can be agreed upon before Opening Day; if not, he is prepared to play out his final year under team control, then resume negotiating with the club as he approaches free agency.
“If we’re able to talk and get something done in Spring Training before the season starts, that would be ideal,” Judge said. “This is an important year, just like every year is an important year. We’ve got a lot of things to focus on during the year -- winning the division, winning the championship here in New York. I don’t want contract extensions or all that stuff to be a distraction throughout the year.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that extension talks have yet to take place with Judge’s representatives, though the sides plan to speak before the club’s scheduled April 7 opener against the Red Sox. Judge is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and is due a raise from the $10.175 million that he earned in 2021.
“Our intent would be -- we’d like to have him back if we can,” Cashman said on Monday. “Like everything else, just like trades and free agency, you have to be on the same page and common ground. The only way to find out is to have some conversations, first and foremost. Those will happen, and we’ll try to keep it as private as we can. … We’re happy he’s a Yankee, and it’d be great if we could make him a Yankee longer.”
Judge, who turns 30 in April, burst onto the scene as part of the Yanks’ 2017-18 shift toward younger talent, alongside players like Sánchez, right-hander Luis Severino and first baseman Greg Bird -- a group that has enjoyed varying levels of success. Of that group, Judge has clearly been the biggest hit.
The unanimous 2017 American League Rookie of the Year and runner-up in the AL MVP chase, Judge has slashed .276/.386/.554 with 158 home runs and 366 RBIs across six Major League seasons from 2016-21. Last year, he paced the Yankees in all three split categories, hitting .287/.373/.544 with 39 homers and 98 RBIs in 148 games.
“There’s no way we get to the playoffs without what those guys were doing for us, especially in the second half of the season,” said manager Aaron Boone, referring to Judge and outfielder/designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton. “With what those guys were doing, we hopped on their backs big time down the stretch.”
Stanton said that he would “hope the rest of our careers are together.” In November 2014, Stanton received a massive 13-year, $325 million contract from the Marlins, one that marked the largest contract in the history of professional sports at the time.
As Judge eyes his own big payday, Stanton said that he would advise Judge not to talk numbers during the season.
“Hopefully we’ll keep the focus on the field for him,” Stanton said. “Obviously, you want to get set. You don’t want to go back and forth throughout the year, I would imagine.”
Judge has repeatedly stated his desire to remain with the Yankees, who drafted him in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2013 MLB Draft.
“As long as I’m playing baseball, I want to be wearing pinstripes,” Judge said. “It’s been an honor and a blessing to be here, getting a chance to play for this franchise, to be surrounded by so many great players and walk in the footsteps of so many other former great players that have played this game.
“There’s no better place to play on this planet. I strongly believe that and I’ve been vocal about that. I want to stay here in pinstripes. If that happens, that happens. But if it comes to it that it doesn’t, I’ll enjoy my memories here.”