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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Yankees and Aaron Judge are not going to get an answer about his 2022 contract on Wednesday, at least not from an arbitrator. Despite reports earlier this season that the sides would meet with the arbitrator on June 22, the hearing is now scheduled for Friday.
So, there are at least two more days for the Yankees to try to avoid what seems like a very poorly-timed battle over $4 million. While the arbitrator is not allowed to take Judge’s 2022 performance into consideration, the Yankees have to. They should consider how Judge is leading this team that is on a historic pace and that this may be their best chance to end their World Series drought before they head into a meeting where they try to convince the arbitrator that he is not worth $21 million.
Judge is not worrying about the hearing.
“Being here with these guys and what we’ve been doing, the past couple months has made it pretty easy just to focus on playing baseball,” Judge said before Tuesday night’s game against the Rays at Tropicana Field. “I get caught up in contract stuff or arbitration stuff but there’s no need, that’s what I got agents for. We got people to handle that kind of stuff.”
Before the season started, Judge turned down a contract extension offer that would have been worth over $230 million and would have included this season. The slugger initially set the opening-day deadline for negotiations on an extension and a 2022 contract. He and the team were $4 million off when they traded numbers to try to avoid arbitration. Because of the owners’ lockout, the arbitration process went into the season. Judge’s hearing is the last to be heard, according to a source.
And he is prepared to go into the meeting, which will be held via zoom, and hear what the Yankees have to say.
“I’ve had people in my agency, past players, that went through the process and they hated it,” Judge said. “And I’ve had other people that went through it and said it was actually kind of good to hear what they had to say about me. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Basically the Yankees are going to argue that Judge is not worth $21 million.
Players who have gone through the process in the past said that hearing the team tear them down is tough. The Yankees last case that went to arbitration ended ugly when the team publicly said Dellin Bentances wasn’t a closer, so he didn’t deserve closer money. It was something that reverberates through a clubhouse.
“It’s been a long time and I really don’t like talking to other people’s business, but he just didn’t like how the process went. Kind of like what I said before, he kind of mixed personal and business with it, because he gave a lot to his organization,” Judge said he remembered of the Betances arbitration. “The numbers he put up for quite a few years and even though he wasn’t a closer, he did a lot of special things, and maybe he thought he should get reciprocated for that but it didn’t happen.”
It will be hard to tear down Judge, even though his pace for 63 homers this season can’t be entered into the conversation.
The 30-year old was already coming off one of his most complete years in the big leagues.
The three-time All-Star slashed .287/.373/.544 with a .916 OPS, 39 homers and 93 RBIs in 148 games in 2021 According to Baseball Savant, Judge was among the league leaders in average exit velocity (95.8 miles per hour), max exit velo (119) and hard-hit percentage (58.4%). He led the Yankees in WAR (5.4) this season.
Overall, his six years in the big leagues has been exceptional, averaging .276/.386/.553 and a .940 OPS. He’s the 2017 Rookie of the Year, runner up to Jose Altuve in that same season and a Home Run Derby champion.
Judge said that he has not allowed this to distract him this season, nor has it motivated him.
“We’re motivated by the type of team we got special talent we have here and the opportunity we have ahead of us,” Judge said. “So I tried to just keep focusing on that and that makes it pretty easy for me to kind of block this other stuff from the business side of it.”