Aaron Judge is cashing in on the bet he placed on himself last spring.
Judge, a superstar outfielder who has spent his entire profession with the Yankees, turned down an enormous contract extension before the 2022 season began, proceeded to set an American League single-season record with 62 home runs, won the league’s Most Priceless Player Award and on Wednesday was rewarded with a nine-year, $360 million contract, which can be the biggest deal ever signed by a free agent.
The contract, which was first reported by MLB Network, is pending a physical, but the small print were confirmed by two people acquainted with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to debate them publicly.
The Yankees’ original offer before the 2022 season was for seven years and $213.5 million, and so Judge’s bet paid off to the tune of two extra years and $146.5 million.
Judge’s recent contract, by way of total value, will trail only the extensions signed by Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels (12 years, $426.5 million) and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers (12 years, $365 million). His average annual value of $40 million can be the best ever given to a position player, and can trail only Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, the co-aces of the Mets, who each average $43.3 million a season.
In Judge, 30, the Yankees retain a player they chose in the primary round of the 2013 draft and developed right into a wildly popular star. He was the A.L.’s rookie of the 12 months when he hit 52 home runs in 2017, has been named to 4 All-Star teams and hit a recent level in 2022 by breaking Roger Maris’s vaunted A.L. home run mark — a record given extra weight because everyone with more within the National League has been connected to performance-enhancing drugs. He also put up a major-league-leading 10.6 wins above alternative, based on Baseball Reference’s formula.
Judge’s pursuit of Maris captivated much of the baseball world, with television networks cutting into other events to point out his at-bats and the Maris family openly rooting for him. Roger Maris Jr. traveled to games to be there when it happened.
But Judge’s 2022 season was not defined only by his home runs. He also batted a career-high .311, difficult for the triple crown until the season’s final days; led the majors in runs scored (133); and tied Pete Alonso of the Mets for the main league lead in runs batted in (131). He also led the majors in on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686) and total bases (391).
He did all that while stealing 16 bases and playing above-average defense in each right field (54 starts) and center field (74 starts).
There had been speculation that Judge may be willing to go away the Yankees to hitch the San Francisco Giants, a team he grew up rooting for, but he as a substitute decided to commit to the Yankees through what can be his age-39 season.
Tyler Kepner and Scott Miller contributed reporting.