The New York Yankees cannot let Aaron Judge leave in free agency

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Yankees have one job this offseason — make sure Aaron Judge doesn’t go anywhere else.

Aaron Judge wants to remain in New York. The Yankees have made it clear that they want the All-Star slugger to return. But in not extending Judge before the 2022 season, they ran the risk of another team swooping in and signing him away from the Bronx.

After the Yankees were swept by the Astros in the ALCS, Judge admitted there was a possibility that he’d leave New York. “We couldn’t get something done before spring training. … Now I’m a free agent,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Not extending Judge, 30, before the season was always a gamble. General manager Brian Cashman even went on the record with their offer — seven years, $213.5 million — something that he believed was a fair offer and reaffirmed their belief in the superstar outfielder. But Judge went on to have one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history, hitting .311/.425/.686 with a 1.111 OPS, 62 home runs, 131 RBI and 10.6 WAR.

The contract that Judge now signs is expected to exceed $300 million — and there’s going to be a plethora of suitors that will only drive the price higher.

The New York Yankees have to be willing to meet Aaron Judge’s price

The San Francisco Giants, Judge’s favorite team growing up, are among those teams and have the financial resources capable of such a move. The New York Mets could pursue him if Jacob deGrom leaves in free agency. The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly “serious” about signing Judge and moving Mookie Betts to second base. There will certainly be others involved to varying degrees.

But the Yankees cannot let Judge leave. Even if it means paying him $45 million per season. He is simply too important to their franchise and if they have any hope of eventually catching the Astros in the American League, they need Judge. Losing him would only further the gap and make catching the Astros almost impossible.

Re-signing Judge would only be step one of what should be a busy offseason for the Yankees. They could use another frontline starting pitcher, with Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon being two free-agent possibilities (if they opt out of their contracts, as expected). They could use another outfielder, with Pirates star Bryan Reynolds being among the players they have checked in on in the past. They also could use a shortstop, though they were not involved in the historic free-agent shortstop class last offseason, and could do the same once again as top prospect Anthony Volpe looms in the minors.

But the Yankees’ offseason should revolve around re-signing Judge. But in not signing him before the season, they ran the risk of losing him in free agency, and it’s a situation that Cashman and the Yankees cannot let happen.

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