SAN DIEGO — Everyone stand up! Aaron Judge will keep his Yankees pinstripes, the Judge’s Chambers will remain open for business, and the captain could be on deck.
The winner of the 2022 American League Most Valuable Player Award has agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal with the Yankees, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on Wednesday. The contract, which is pending a physical contract, has not been confirmed by the club.
It would be the largest contract awarded to a free agent in major league history, surpassing Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies in 2019. Judge flew to San Diego on Tuesday to decide, selecting the Yankees over competing offers from the Giants and the Padres, who were a surprising late entry into the bidding.
A fuzzy Brian Cashman said Wednesday morning he hadn’t slept yet, after spending the past several hours communicating with Judge and Officer Page Odle. In the end, the decision to match San Francisco’s offer was made by general manager Hal Steinbrenner, who called Judge directly and asked, “Do you want to be a Yankee?”
“Hal Steinbrenner would be the Mariano Rivera of these negotiations,” Cashman said. “I can’t officially say it’s happened yet, but hopefully we’re in a good place.”
From day one after the Yankees’ post-season departure, Steinbrenner made keeping Judge a priority, meeting the slugger in person at least once in Tampa, Florida, where he told him that he and his family hoped that Judge would be “a Yankee for life.” Steinbrenner has also said he is designating Judge as the first Yankees captain since Derek Jeter (2003-14) comes on the table.
“Obviously, in Aaron Judge’s case, he’s spectacular,” Cashman said. “Ultimately, if that’s something the Steinbrenner family wants to discuss, that’s going to come out of their seats, just like when we pull back the numbers. Every time they want to make a decision, I support that decision 110 percent.”
The Yankees’ confidence in keeping their biggest star couldn’t be helped by a TIME article published Tuesday. In it, Judge commented on his displeasure at the April 8 press conference where Cashman volunteered to see Judge’s decision to reject a $213.5 million seven-year extension days early.
“We kind of said, ‘Hey, let’s keep this between us,'” Judge told the magazine. “I was a bit angry that the numbers came out. I understand it’s a negotiation tactic. Put pressure on me. Turn the fans against me, turn the media against me. I didn’t like that part.”
Cashman said the quote caught him off guard, but manager Aaron Boone noted that Judge discussed the topic in a closed-door meeting in the manager’s office the night of the Yankees’ AL Championship Series loss to the Astros.
“I knew he was a little disappointed about that,” Boone said. “We talked for a long time that night. I don’t think it was meant as a tactic or anything like that. We knew there would be constant speculation about it. We actually wanted to run to the situation. I don’t think it’s a factor in what’s going on.”
There was some panic in the corridors of the Grand Hyatt around noon on Tuesday, when an erroneous report suggested that Judge appeared ready to pick the Giants. Boone just got out of the shower and half-dressed called Cashman to ask what had happened. When Cashman replied, “Nothing,” Boone exhaled and hurried to the Yankees’ suite.
“I feel like he definitely belongs in pinstripes,” Boone said. “A man of his stature and his greatness, hopefully he will spend his whole career [in New York], goes into Monument Park and the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. That would be the hope.”
Judge exceeded all expectations after declining overtime; it was, as Cashman put it, “the best bet of all time.” Judge responded with an all-ages season, hitting .311/.425/.686 in 157 games as he led the Majors in home runs (62), runs (133), RBIs (131), slugging percentage, on-base percentage , OPS+ (211) and total bases (391).
“He’s a great player and a great person who certainly has the respect of everyone in that room,” Boone said. “Guys look at him, look up to him. When you have a player of that caliber who is as loved and important as he is on a day-to-day basis, you want to do your best to keep that up.”