How Yankees closed deal with Aaron Judge, 'likely' the next team captain

Yankees' Aaron Judge
Yankees' Aaron Judge / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

SAN DIEGO -- Now that Aaron Judge has committed to the Yankees for what will almost certainly be the rest of his career, he is ready to take his place among the franchise icons who served as team captain.

When Judge and Hal Steinbrenner reached an agreement on a nine-year, $360 million contract early Wednesday morning, they were more concerned with the appropriate financial questions and did not settle the question of the captaincy directly. But one person with direct knowledge of the team’s thinking said it was "likely" that the team will now take that step.

That is quite a shift in tone from late Tuesday, when the Yankees had no idea if Judge even wanted to play for them.

Consider all that happened on Monday and Tuesday:

-- A report surfaced that Judge was headed to San Diego for the Winter Meetings, but the Yankees did not have any firsthand knowledge of his plans.

-- A Time magazine article quoted Judge saying he had dreamed as a child of becoming a San Francisco Giant, and was angry with the Yankees for announcing their April offer to him. The Yanks were, in the words of one source, "shocked" by the article’s contents and timing.

-- A report surfaced that Judge was headed to San Francisco. Even though that report was retracted, the Yankees feared that momentum was headed in that direction.

Sep 30, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts as he runs in from the outfield during the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
Sep 30, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts as he runs in from the outfield during the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

-- Judge had a surprise meeting with the San Diego Padres late Tuesday, who the Yankees believed were offering $400 million.

Yankees officials went to bed on Tuesday extremely concerned that they were about to lose Judge.

From a vacation in Italy, Steinbrenner called Judge. The conversation, according to a person briefed on it, went like this:

"What makes you and your family happy?" Steinbrenner said. "Do you want to be a Yankee?"

Judge said that he did, but needed the Yanks to offer a ninth year (their offer at that time was eight years and $320 million). Steinbrenner increased his bid, and the two had a deal.

The organization hopes that the process, and especially the personal touch with which it concluded, will bring Steinbrenner and the Yankees closer to the famously inscrutable Judge. The next step in that process will almost certainly be naming Judge’s as the team’s first captain since Derek Jeter.