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Aaron Judge and Yankees Agree on Deal That Works for Each Sides

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Brian Cashman said this a few years ago, and it never changes: Desperation drives free agency. A team wants — needs — a player so badly that it’ll spend whatever it takes to get him, and the salaries climb higher and better.

Aaron Judge’s latest $360 million contract agreement with the Yankees, contingent on a physical examination, pays him a median of $40 million per season for the following nine years. It’s the richest deal in Yankees history and the best salary ever for a position player.

Ticket prices are based on what the market will bear, not what owners have to cover their payroll. Unless you are concerned about how Hal Steinbrenner disperses his fortune, it’s best to rejoice in the event you love the Yankees.

Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, revealed last opening day that Judge had rejected the team’s contract offer of $30.5 million per 12 months for seven years. Judge then swatted 62 home runs, greater than Babe Ruth in 1927, greater than Roger Maris in 1961, greater than every other hitter within the history of the American League.

It was probably the most emphatic “Well, watch this!” response since Ruth pointed to the stands within the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. Only this wasn’t a gang of loudmouth Chicago Cubs heckling a slugger who was down within the count. This was a front office attempting to be pragmatic with a slugger who was all the way down to his last 12 months in pinstripes.

Neither called his shot, not exactly. Nevertheless it takes a healthy ego and a flair for showmanship to soak up a perceived insult, tell the world you’re going to do something about it, after which deliver. That’s what we saw from Judge in 2022.

The gaudy statistics, which included major-league-best figures in on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), runs (133), runs batted in (131) and total bases (391), added as much as a $360 million contract. By betting on himself, Judge earned a $146.5 million increase — greater than the payroll of 14 teams last season — from the Yankees’ April offer.

He also led the Yankees to the A.L. East title, keeping the team atop the standings when injuries and struggles infected the remaining of the roster. It was only the second division crown for the Yankees within the 10 seasons since Derek Jeter’s last playoff game, in 2012. Judge should soon grow to be the team’s first captain since Jeter; he has been the undisputed clubhouse leader for years, and now has essentially committed to spending his profession within the Bronx.

Judge grew up in Linden, Calif., rooting for Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. They wanted him badly. So did the San Diego Padres, who’ve a magnetic pull to all superstars today. However the Yankees needed Judge probably the most, and translated that have to dollars.

This was at all times the most sensible consequence. Judge did every part possible to earn the best to be the highest-paid position player in the game, and to eclipse Gerrit Cole’s nine-year, $324 million deal, which had been the richest in Yankees history. It seemed all along, then, that the minimum contract could be nine years and $333 million — that’s, $37 million per 12 months.

Think about the competition on the open market, the round-number appeal of $40 million per 12 months, and there you might have it: $360 million for nine years, through 2031, when Judge turns 39.

It’s actually reasonable to think that Judge could still be productive at that age. Twenty-one different players have hit a minimum of 25 homers in a season at age 39 or older, including five within the last decade: Raul Ibañez, David Ortiz (twice), Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltrán and Nelson Cruz.

For the Yankees, though, this contract will not be about Judge’s productivity within the early 2030s. It’s about winning a championship this decade. They missed the World Series within the 2010s for the primary calendar decade for the reason that 1910s. That’s desperation.

As downturns go, in fact, it hasn’t been that bad. Because the last out of the 2009 World Series, after they won their last championship, the Yankees have been the A.L.’s best team by far. They’ve 1,145 victories across those 13 pennant-less seasons, 59 more wins than the Tampa Bay Rays, who’re second within the A.L. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have more regular-season wins in that span.

Judge has helped the Yankees reach the postseason in all six of his full seasons. In 44 playoff games, he has hit .211 with 13 home runs and 66 strikeouts. Principally, he strikes out slightly more and hits fewer home runs than he does within the regular season. He must be higher in those moments, and he craves more possibilities.

“We’ve been one game away from a World Series to getting kicked out within the wild card, to A.L.C.S., A.L.D.S., just form of throughout the board,” Judge said last month, on the night he won the A.L.’s Most Worthwhile Player Award.

“So my ultimate, most vital thing is I would like to be in a winning culture and a team that’s committed to winning — not just for the rest of my playing profession, but I would like a legacy to form of live to tell the tale with any organization.”

The Yankees have the culture and the commitment. Judge has the contract confirming his status in the sport’s hierarchy. The hard part continues: The pursuit of an elusive championship, and the elevated legacy that comes with it.

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