The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
The Yankees step up to the plate and ink megadeal with Aaron Judge

I’m glad Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman heeded my blog request at the end of October to “Just do it: sign Aaron Judge.” Cashman, who just extended his own contract with the Yankees for four years, had to practically empty the Steinbrenners’ coffer, but it was the right decision.

Judge signed a nine-year deal worth $360 million, eclipsing the previous free-agent record of $330 million by Bryce Harper. His $40 million average annual value is third most behind only Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. If he completes the full term of this contract, Judge will become one of the longest-tenured Yankees (16 seasons) in recent history.

Cashman bucked current MLB front office trends that teams shouldn’t sign long-term deals (more than five or six years) for players who are already 30+ years old. It’s true Judge won’t likely provide commensurate value for the full nine years of the deal. The Athletic’s Keith Law makes the case that tall players like Judge, who is 6-feet-7, aren’t generally productive past 34 years of age.

So, the Yankees could wind up with another situation like Alex Rodriguez, where the last few years of his contract were a drag on the team—his performance didn’t warrant his hefty salary. The Yankees currently hold another long-term, big-dollar deal with Giancarlo Stanton (who is 6-feet-6). He’s had trouble staying healthy and some would argue he’s not worth the $29 million per year he is currently making. His contract extends through 2027, when he is 37 years old. Judge has already had his own share of health issues in 2018 and 2019, causing him to miss over 50 games each season.

Despite the cautions and past experiences, the Yankees took the plunge with Judge. For a while, the rumor mill had Judge going to San Francisco, but the Yankees ended that talk with its mega-offer.

Here’s the way I think the team rationalized their decision. They are desperate for a world championship. Their last one, in 2009, seems like ages ago. If Judge can lead the Yankees to the World Series a couple of times within the next four or five years, they will feel like they got their just return for him. Whatever happens after those four or five years becomes less important.

Judge is certainly capable of carrying the Yankees on this broad shoulders. He proved that in 2022, when the team swooned in August and the first half of September. It was Judge that kept them from completely spiraling out of contention. He finished the season with one of the best offensive performances in history by leading the league in home runs, RBIs, runs scored, walks, on-base percentage, and on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

The 2022 season took its toll on him since he played in 157 games (15 more than any other Yankee) while dealing with the pressure of breaking Maris’s home run record. That manifested itself in the playoffs when Judge went 5-for-36, with 16 strikeouts and only two extra-base hits (both home runs) in nine games.

The Yankees front office could take some of the pressure off Judge next season by adding a top-flight starting pitcher and acquiring a shortstop who can give them some power, in addition to defense. Names like pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Carlos Correa have been mentioned in the press as Yankee pursuits. Will the Yankees continue their spending spree?

Judge had turned down a 7-year, $213 million offer at the beginning of the 2022 season. By waiting until after the season to finally negotiate his deal, he raised his value by $147 million. Not too shabby for a well-timed delay. Of course, his case was helped immensely when he turned in the MVP season and broke Maris’s long-time record.

Judge is capable of repeating his extraordinary 2022 season, but don’t expect it. The Yankees will give him more days off, in order to help him prevent nagging injuries from the day-to-day grind of a long schedule. Plus, if a few of his teammates step up their production, Judge won’t be compelled to carry most of the load by himself.

I’m guessing at some point in the negotiations with Judge that Cashman asked himself, “What would George [Steinbrenner] do?” I think he got the answer he was looking for.

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