By Friday afternoon, Judge and the Yankees were poised to celebrate another victory of sorts, as the two sides agreed on a contract for 2022, avoiding an arbitration hearing. Speaking after the Yanks’ 3-1 loss to Houston, Judge said that he was relieved to have the matter settled.
“Now we can get back to focusing on baseball games and trying to bring a championship back here to New York,” Judge said. “I’m glad we were able to get through that process. It took a little longer than expected, but thankfully we’re past it. Time to focus on winning some games.”
The deal is for $19 million and contains incentives that include $250,000 if Judge is voted the American League MVP, in addition to $250,000 if he is named World Series MVP, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
“I’m pleased getting that news today,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Friday’s game. “I was excited about it. I spoke to him briefly on the phone a couple of hours ago. I’m excited that’s behind us and we can leave that portion of the show alone.”
Judge and the Yankees had been $4 million apart. Judge and his agent, Page Odle, were prepared to argue his value at $21 million, while the club filed at $17 million.
There was no discussion of a new contract extension, Judge said. Asked if Friday’s events gave him confidence about reaching his next deal, Judge replied: “No. We got this one done. I was happy about that.”
The 30-year-old Judge is enjoying an MVP-caliber campaign, owning a .299/.374/.648 slash line, with a Major League-leading 27 home runs and 58 runs scored in 69 games.
In his latest heroics, Judge's walk-off hit capped a Yankees comeback in their 7-6 victory over Houston on Thursday night. However, a potential arbitration hearing would not have incorporated arguments from this season, only focusing on Judge’s performance from 2021 and earlier.
Avoiding the hearing seems to be a prudent decision for both sides. Judge had planned to dress in a sharp suit and log on for a Zoom meeting scheduled to begin around noon on Friday.
Judge would have participated from the MLBPA’s Manhattan headquarters. He said that if the hearing had gone forward, he probably would have missed Friday’s game due to timing constraints.
“That didn’t really sit too well with me,” Judge said. “I valued playing this game tonight with my teammates more than trying to battle it out in that hearing.”
On Opening Day, Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension that would have set his 2022 salary at $17 million.
Judge has said that he hopes to be a “Yankee for life,” and the club remains interested in signing Judge to a long-term extension, though the Yankees are believed to be abiding by the outfielder's request to hold all talks until after the season when he can field offers as a free agent.
Judge has said that he does not believe his contract situation has impacted his play.
“I’m not really motivated by that kind of stuff,” Judge said. “I’m more motivated by the type of team we’ve got, the special talent we have here and the opportunity we have ahead of us. I try to just keep focusing on that, and it makes it pretty easy to block this other stuff with the business side out.”
Added Boone: “I actually think it’s easy for him to separate. He loves, as much as anyone, to compete between the lines with his teammates. It’s why he’s so revered in there. He’s about winning. He understands there’s a business side of this, but when he comes and puts his uniform on in that clubhouse with those guys, it’s about winning.”
The Yankees have not participated in an arbitration hearing since 2017, when they were victorious over reliever Dellin Betances, who sought $5 million and received $3 million. Before that, their most recent case was in 2008, when they won against right-hander Chien-Ming Wang.
“I knew it would work out one way or the other,” Judge said. “I really wasn’t too concerned about what it was going to be. I was happy we were able to agree on a number, settle this thing and not have to go into court.”