The New York Yankees have signed slugger Aaron Judge to a nine-year, $360 million contract, according to reports from MLB Network and The Athletic, ending one of the most high-profile periods of free agency in recent Major League Baseball history.
Judge, a product of the club’s farm system who broke Roger Maris’ American League and the Yankees’ single-season home run record by hitting 62 this past season, turned down a $213.5 million, seven-year offer this past spring. That figure seems paltry now that the negotiation is all said and done.
At 30, Judge will return to the Yankees for his eighth season. He’ll play at least nine more with a chance to have his No. 99 retired by the club and a place for him reserved in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
The San Francisco Giants, who play 90 miles west of where Judge grew up in Linden, Calif., were the only other prominent pursuers of the outfielder. Even though Judge had a much-publicized visit with San Francisco brass prior to Thanksgiving, the Giants never said they’d made an offer.
The Yankees, though, made it clear to Judge after they were swept by the eventual World Series-winning Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, that re-signing him was their top priority.
“Judge‘s offer from the Yankees was worth more than the same offer from the Giants since taxes are lower in New York than California,” said Robert Raiola, a CPA to teams and players, and director of the sports and entertainment group at PKF O’Connor Davies. Raiola estimates that Judge will save approximately $11 million by signing with the Yankees instead of the Giants.
Principal owner Hal Steinbrenner met twice with Judge and then indicated the Yankees would not be outbid for the right-handed hitter who led MLB in almost every offensive category in 2022, save for batting average.
“He’s a very important part of this team,” Steinbrenner said at the time. “He became ever a better leader this year, I think, in the clubhouse. People gravitate toward him. Obviously, he’s very important to our fanbase and very important to my family and the organization.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman—who, like Judge, recently re-signed with the Yankees—said prior to the playoffs that Judge “bet on himself, and it’s the all-time best bet the way he navigated the season.”
Judge had had an epic and singular regular season with a slash line of .311/.425/.686, an OPS of 1.111 and OPS-plus of 211 (100 is the median). He led the Majors in all those categories except batting average (his .311 was good for fifth), while leading MLB with 133 runs scored, 131 RBIs, 391 total bases and the 62 homers.
He seemingly single-handedly carried the Yankees to 99 wins and the AL East title but ran out of gas during the postseason when he was 5-for-36 (.139) with 15 strikeouts and two homers.
Still, a future without Judge would have been baffling for the Yankees. In their last eight home games, as he chased the record, the Yanks drew 408,552 total fans. A family of four averages a minimum of $350 to attend a Yankees’ game, according to Team Marketing Report, which means those games generated about $40 million in revenue, including club seats.
Judge earned a relatively modest $19 million this past season.
Teammate Nestor Cortes said Judge should be named Yankees’ captain, the first since Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter retired in 2014. And star pitcher Gerrit Cole, who signed a nine-year, $324 million contract as a free agent with the Yankees prior to the 2020 season, said he couldn’t envision the team “going without our big motor, No. 99.”
“He’s been a tremendous leader with this organization. Everybody looks up to him,” Cole said in an interview. “Him not being here? Looking forward, it’s not something I enjoy thinking about.”
Now no one in pinstripes will have to contemplate it.
This story will be updated.
(Additional reporting by Michael McCann)