Aaron Judge bet on himself this offseason, and he cashed out big time. Judge has agreed to return to the New York Yankees on a 9-year, $360 million deal Wednesday morning. This deal is $150 million dollars more than what the Yankees offered him the Spring.

Entering the 2022 season, the Yankees offered their star outfielder a 7-year, $213.5 million extension on Opening Day as Judge was in the final year of his contract. Judge declined the offer and decided to continue contract negotiations following the season. Declining offers on a contract year is not unusual and we see it happen often in all sports. We’re watching it happen in the NFL with star running back for the Raiders, Josh Jacobs. But with great reward comes great risk because there have been cases where athletes have lost everything in trying to get a better contract.

Instead of meeting Judge’s request, the Yankees released the details about Judge’s contract and how he declined. Judge revealed publicly that he was ‘upset’ with this decision as he felt it was to create conflict for him. “We kind of said, ‘Hey, let’s keep this between us,’” Judge said to TIME magazine. “I was a little upset that the numbers came out. I understand it’s a negotiation tactic. Put pressure on me. Turn the fans against me, turn the media on me. That part of it I didn’t like.”

Judge had a lot to prove entering the 2022 season, and he came out swinging. Aaron Judge’s historic season can be described as arguably one of the best performances by a player in a single season post steroid era. He broke the American-League record of most home runs in a season with 62. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he added 131 RBI’s while slashing .311/.425/.686/1.111. Over the past 65 years, only Barry Bonds recorded a loftier single-season wRC+ than Judge’s 207. He received awards like the AL Hank Aaron Award, AL Silver Slugger, and the MLB’s highest honor with the AL MVP. Judge just missed the Triple Crown award, falling behind only Luiz Arraez of the Minnesota Twins.

Judge entered the offseason as the hottest free agent on the market, drawing interest from several teams. Amongst the favorites were the Yankees, San Francisco Giants, and the San Diego Padres. Aaron Judge grew up in California and the Giants are about 100 miles away from his hometown. The San Diego Padres were a contender as they were looking to make a splash this offseason and get Juan Soto and Manny Machado weapons. The Yankees were hesitant giving Judge his demands because by the end of his contract, he’d be 39 years old. So, it did not help the Yankees case in retaining Judge when most teams were willing to take the risk without uncertainty. It was later released that Judge had great visits with the Giants and they offered him 9-years, $360 million.

From what seemed to be an easy re-signing of a star player in one of the largest markets in baseball turned to disaster in the matter of days. Rumors shifted that the probability of Judge going to the Yankees or Giants was a 50/50 split down the middle. Then headlines broke on all media platforms that Aaron Judge is going to sign with the San Francisco Giants. Well known columnist and baseball personality, John Heyman, tweeted on his social media that the star outfielder “appears headed to the Giants.” Although there was confusion all around the baseball community when Giants CEO Larry Baer says there’s currently “nothing to report” on the Judge situation. Heyman then went back to social media to apologize for misleading fans as he “jumped the gun” on a report. Even Starting Pitcher for the Giants, Logan Webb, responded to Heyman with “Not cool man.”

Then Wednesday morning, Yankee fans had a huge sigh of relief as Aaron Judge signed a 9-year, $360 million deal with a full no trade clause. Judge told fans that he wanted to be a “Yankee for life” and it looks like it will be that way. 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. It is also the biggest deal ever for a position player, at $40 million per year, blowing by the Angels’ Mike Trout’s $35.5 million annual salary. It was also released after the signing that the Padres made a significant offer to Judge before he took the deal with the Yankees. The Padres offered Judge 10 years, $400 million. He declined the offer and stated that he chooses legacy over money.

Social media went berserk over the Aaron Judge signing. From Yankee fans celebrating the return of their star slugger to fans joking about John Heyman; everyone was talking about the news. A Giants fan tried to find humor in the situation commenting on a Bleacher Report article “We’ll never forget his 7 minutes of being a Giant.” Other fans poked fun at how much money he’s making saying “Corn Dogs are about to be 28 dollars at Yankees stadium.” Yankees fans didn’t care much about how costly it was to bring him back, as most of them posted Instagram stories and Tik Toks sharing their excitement.

Being a lifelong Yankee fan, it was great to see the Yanks throw the bag at Aaron Judge in order to bring him back. Knowing New York, Steinbrenner and Cashman would lose the trust of the entire fanbase if they weren’t able to work out a deal. I’m also aware that these types of contracts are some of the biggest risks to take in sports. There are several instances that these players do not live up to the hype or are unable to win before their star is old and declines. I still have nightmares about the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7-year, $153 million contract. Judge will be on contract until he is 40 years old and who knows how long before he becomes strictly a DH. Nonetheless, there is no questions of his abilities right now and he is the Yankees best shot at a world series right now.





Link for featured image – https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-12-07/aaron-judge-remain-with-yankees-reaches-nine-year-deal