Why the Yankees haven't extended Aaron Judge before 2023 offseason

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Why the Yankees haven't extended Aaron Judge before 2023 offseason

Aaron Judge is enjoying one of the best seasons in MLB history. He's at 60 home runs on the year, chasing Roger Maris' 61 for the American League and franchise record, and he's currently the leader in all three Triple Crown categories (batting average, home runs, RBIs).

And yet, as Yankee fans celebrate the historic success of Judge this year, one question must be nagging at the back of Yankees GM Brian Cashman's brain: "What in the world is it going to take to re-sign this guy?"

The Yankees and Judge entered this season on some seemingly chilly terms. Judge filed for a salary of $21 million this year, whereas the Yankees filed for $17 million. While the two sides settled on $19 million earlier this year, extension negotiations didn't seem to be going amazingly before Opening Day.

MORE: What to know about Aaron Judge's home run chase

Cashman gave a press conference ahead of Opening Day in which he confided the details of Judge's offer: $213.5 million for seven seasons. The deal would have made Judge the highest-paid position player by average yearly salary in Yankees history, but Judge turned down the offer and bet on himself, while also saying he wouldn't be talking negotiations throughout the season.

He hasn't had to, his play has done it for him. Judge is batting .316/.419/.703 with 60 home runs and 128 RBIs in one of the best offensive seasons ever. He's looking to become the first player to hit 60 homers and win a Triple Crown in the same season.

Heading into this season, there were some valid concerns about Judge and his longevity. The outfielder is in his 30-year-old season, he missed time in 2021 with the vague designation of "lower body soreness," he's dealt with collapsed lungs (2020), oblique strains (2019), fractured wrists (2018), and shoulder surgery (2018 offseason).

The severity of his injuries are amplified by Judge's body type. At 6-feet-7-inches 282 pounds, every injury is amplified by Judge's size.

The Yankees also made efforts to sign Judge, with Cashman saying the Yankees made him a seven-year, $213.5 million offer, $30.5 million per year. That would put Judge in the neighborhood of Mookie Betts' deal on the Dodgers, who makes $30.4 million per season.

Judge, however, spurned that deal, and he also had good reason. Judge had just played 148 games in 2021, hitting .287/.373/.544, finishing fourth in MVP voting. Despite his (relatively) advanced age, Judge wanted to bet on himself. Indeed, Betts' extension was for 12 years and will carry through until he's 40. It's possibly Judge was seeking more longevity on his contract.

MORE: MLB home run records: Most HRs in a game, season and career in baseball history

No one really knows where things are between Judge and the Yankees.

The arbitration is a heartening sign for relations between the two sides, particularly after Cashman's truly weird preseason press conference. Judge, however, has not been shy in talking about what free agency holds. There's no hometown discount in store, despite his public desire to play his career in pinstripes.

"Very few people get this opportunity to talk extension," Judge said in April per Bleacher Report.

Me getting this opportunity is something special, and I appreciate the Yankees wanting to do that. But I don't mind going into free agency. It is what it is. At the end of this year, I’ll talk to 30 teams. The Yankees will be one of those teams.

In other words? The Yankees' leverage of a year with Judge under contract is gone. He's entertaining all of his options.

No one is going to know how talks are going until the season is over, however.

"No matter what happens during the season, we're not going to give any updates. We're just not going to," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in July, per ESPN. "I completely agree with Aaron, and still do, that in no way, shape or form can this be a distraction. So the sole focus is winning a championship. That's all anyone needs to worry about right now."

Steinbrenner also bobbed and weaved out of a question about the odds of Judge being a Yankee next year.

"There's no doubt we're hopeful that is the case, but there's a lot of discussion to be had," he said.

I'm always willing to talk, of course, and we're going to be doing that at one point or another, but we're just not going to be talking about if that happens and when it happens; we're not going to be talking about anything 'til the season's over.

Judge had imposed a deadline of Opening Day to come to terms on an extension, and had openly said he wants to be a Yankee throughout his career.

"I'm just disappointed because I've been vocal that I want to be a Yankee for life," Judge had said in April after negotiations stalled, per Bryan Hoch.

He still can be, but with every homer, the price is going up.

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