By all accounts, Aaron Judge has enjoyed the free-agent process thus far, fielding a substantial offer from the Yankees before boarding a flight to field interest from the West Coast. Sales pitches can be fun, but in making his decision, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player has voiced one concern above all.
"For me, I want to win," Judge said. "I've come pretty close with the Yankees. We've been one game away from a World Series [in 2017] to getting kicked out in the Wild Card to ALCS, ALDS, just kind of all around the board. So my ultimate most important thing is, I want to be in a winning culture and be on a team that's committed to winning. Not only for the remainder of my playing career, but I want a legacy to live on with any organization. First and foremost is just about being in a winning culture and a winning future."
The Yankees wasted little time reiterating their desire to keep Judge in the Bronx for the better part of the next decade, extending a proposal to the slugger's camp that -- according to ESPN's Jeff Passan -- clocked in at eight years and approximately $300 million.
That came after managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner spoke to Judge on several occasions, including at least once face-to-face, telling Judge, "I want you to be a Yankee for life.
"He's a very important part of this team," Steinbrenner said. "He became an even better leader this year, I think, in the clubhouse. People gravitate toward him; the young players gravitate toward him. Obviously, he's very important to our fanbase and very important to my family and the organization."
Three years ago, the Yankees rattled the baseball landscape during the Winter Meetings by agreeing to a massive deal with ace Gerrit Cole. Next week, general manager Brian Cashman and his baseball operations staff will return to the hallways of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, hoping to learn that Judge will accept their invitation to continue playing in the Bronx.
"There's still work to be done, and we'd like to do that together with him," Cashman said. "He's put himself in a great position to have a lot of choices, so we've got to give him the time to play that out. He'll do what's best for him and for his family."
Judge led the Majors in runs (133), home runs (62), RBIs (131), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.111), OPS+ (211) and total bases (391) this past season. If he returns, several Yankees -- including first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Nestor Cortes -- have said that they believe Judge should be named the team's first captain since Derek Jeter.
"I hope Judge stays, just for the sake of the game," Rizzo said. "You see a lot of franchise icons not getting what they deserve for the team they have done so much for. But I think with the Yankees team in general, I think there will always be a chance to compete."