COMMENTARY: Give Aaron Judge a blank check


Photo credit/ "The Yankees' Aaron Judge bats during the second inning." by apardavila is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Not only should the Yankees sign Aaron Judge for the rest of his career, he deserves the coveted honor of being the next Yankees captain.

Since his major league debut in 2016, Aaron Judge has been the face of the New York Yankees. That’s why it was so stunning that contract negotiations before the start of this season fell through, and why his looming free agency continues to be worrisome for Yankees fans.

I think Judge was right in rejecting the Yankees’ offer of $213 million over seven years. He bet on himself and thus far it’s been a successful gamble. While Hal Steinbrenner’s offer was fair, it wasn’t enough for someone who has become synonymous with the Yankees organization.

Judge is having a career year. He’s chasing the American League home run record set by legendary Yankee Roger Maris in 1961. With roughly 20 games left in the season, as of publication he only has to hit five more to break that record.Some would argue that Barry Bonds’ record of 72 home runs in a season shouldn’t count due to his use of performance enhancing drugs. From that standpoint, Judge is chasing the all time home run record

The rest of his slash line is also MVP-level caliber. At the time of publication, his batting average is .310, and his strikeout rate is just 25%. Out of 611 plate appearances, he’s only struck out 154 times.

His teammate and fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton has a 28% strikeout rate this season. Power hitters in baseball tend to strike out more, since they swing for the fences. In Judge’s case, he also suffers from more missed strike calls due to his large stature.

Judge also leads the league in runs, runs batted in (RBI) and walks. As of today, he’s leading all of Major League Baseball with a 20 home run lead on the guy in second place, Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies. As he’s gotten closer to the home run record, he has been intentionally walked more frequently.

Even if he doesn’t break the home run record this year or isn’t named MVP, Judge deserves essentially a blank check from the Yankees. Anything less than $300 million would be an insult, and I couldn’t be mad at him if he left the organization for one that will actually pay him what he deserves.

Judge’s veteran presence in the locker room is something that can’t be overlooked. He has a history of using his massive 6’7” frame to block cameras zeroing in on a player in the dugout after a rough inning. He is a true leader and force on and off the field, and he should be the next captain of the team if he signs an extension in the off season.

The last captain of the Yankees was one of my heroes, Derek Jeter. The legendary shortstop spent his entire career with the Yankees, winning five World Series titles in his 20-year career.
Judge is batting just as well as Jeter did that year, and like Jeter is making some impressive defensive plays. Don’t even get me started on Judge’s absolute cannon of an arm from the outfield.

Before the 2001 season, the Yankees signed Jeter to a ten year, $189 million contract. In today’s money, that’s equivalent to $316 million. I’d argue that Judge is to today’s Yankees as Jeter was to the three-peat champion Yankees of the late 90s and early 2000s.

Judge bet on himself this year to prove he’s worth just as much as Jeter was paid in 2001. He is a once in a generation talent on the field, and is a stand up guy off the field as well. Even the team president Randy Levine called Judge an “all time Yankee.”

Aaron Judge deserves as much money as the Yankees can give him, and he deserves the prestigious title of team captain. He’s a sure bet to be in the Hall of Fame. I can almost guarantee that if the Yankees can hold onto him for his career, Judge will have a plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium and his number retired among the legends.

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