Steinbrenner: No Judge contract talks until after season

July 6th, 2022

Don’t expect the Yankees to extend slugger during their spectacular 2022 season.

That was the crux of Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner’s comments over Zoom on Wednesday, as questions swirl about the future of the Yanks’ biggest star, who is a pending free agent.

"No matter what happens during the season, we're not going to give any updates,” Steinbrenner said. “We're just not going to do it. I mean, I completely agree with Aaron that in no way, shape or form can this be a distraction."

Judge and his camp negotiated with the Yankees over a potential extension in the offseason, with a deadline set by Judge’s team on Opening Day. The talks came up short and left Judge, in his own words, “disappointed.”

“I've been vocal about wanting to be a Yankee for life," Judge said in April. "I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here. They're family. This is home for me, and not getting that done right now, it stinks. But I've got a job to do on the field. I've got to shift my focus to that and go play some ball."

General manager Brian Cashman told reporters the deal Judge rejected was for seven years, $213.5 million. It’s rare for clubs to announce the terms of a deal that is not completed, but Steinbrenner said the information would have gotten out anyway and the club wanted to be “as transparent as possible.”

The two sides eventually agreed to a one-year deal valued at $19 million just before they were set to enter an arbitration hearing.

In the midst of a historic start that has the Yankees on a 116-win pace at the halfway point of the season, Judge has been in the middle of it all. Entering Wednesday, the 30-year-old outfielder leads the Majors with 29 home runs, he is one of four players with a slugging percentage over .600 and he ranks sixth in the Majors in fWAR (3.9). Steinbrenner called Judge’s season so far “phenomenal,” both from on-field production and clubhouse leadership perspectives.

And it’s not just 2022 that’s been stellar; in the four full seasons before this season, Judge never posted an OPS under .900. The Yankees’ lineup is a very balanced one, but there’s no doubt that Judge is far and away the most valuable player on the 2022 team.

With as much effect as Judge has had on making this a championship-caliber team, does Steinbrenner look back on the offseason negotiations with any regrets?

“Not at all. We made an offer that I feel was a very good one,” Steinbrenner said. “It was based on the numbers, of course, but it was also based in part on what he means to this organization. It was a combination of both, and we just didn’t get a deal done. … There are no regrets, and we’re going to be having discussions at some point.”

Waiting until the offseason to negotiate a deal is sure to be nerve-wracking for fans, as free agency increases the anxiety surrounding any potential deal. But it makes sense for both sides in different ways. For Judge, he can limit distractions and focus all his efforts on winning a championship. For the Yankees, on top of focusing on the World Series push, they will get even more of a recent sample size of performance to draw on.

A cold period in negotiations is sure to draw concern from outside the organization, yet the Yankees are still optimistic that they will have Judge in pinstripes for the rest of his career.

‘There's no doubt we're hopeful,” Steinbrenner said. “That is the case, but there's a lot of discussion to be had. And I'm always willing to talk, of course, and we're going to be doing that at one point or another.

“If and when that happens, we're not going to be talking about anything until the season's over.”