NEW YORK — Aaron Judge was the last Yankee to address the media on Friday night, hours after New York's walk-off victory over the Red Sox on Opening Day.
The superstar slugger sat behind the podium in New York's press conference room for just under 10 minutes. Every single question thrown his way had to do with his contract situation.
So much for extension talks not being a distraction after the conception of the regular season.
Earlier in the day, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman revealed that negotiations between Judge's camp and the Yankees were off. New York and their three-time All-Star did not agree to a long-term deal—something both parties have publicly stated they hoped to accomplish—prior to first pitch on Opening Day.
Judge deflected certain inquiries, declining to disclose any details stemming from his recent conversations with Yankees brass that occurred behind closed doors. Specifically, Judge chose not to comment on the offer he received, a seven-year, $213.5 million pact beginning in 2023 that was revealed Friday morning by general manager Brian Cashman.
It did seem like Judge was a bit perturbed that Cashman went public with those figures, though.
“I don’t like talking numbers,” Judge said. “I like to keep that private. It’s something that I felt like was private between my team and the Yankees. But I’m not going to get into that.”
What Judge did get into, however, is his openness to enter free agency after this season. That feels notable for a player that has been a member of one organization for his career and has made it crystal clear that he wants to be a "Yankee for life."
"At the end of the year, I'm a free agent. I can talk to 30 teams. The Yankees will be one of those 30 teams," Judge said.
New York and Judge were $4 million apart in arbitration—the Yankees filed at $17 million while Judge's camp asked for $21 million. Therefore, his contract for this season is yet to be determined.
To turn down a deal that would end up exceeding $230 million is quite the gamble for Judge, though. After all, the slugger has battled injuries consistently in the past. Who knows what kind of offers Judge will have on the table this fall when the offseason begins. A down year or another injury-plagued campaign in 2022 would surely impact his value with the Yankees and on the open market.
"Every day is a gamble. Stepping outside of your house is a gamble," Judge said. "Very few people get this opportunity to talk an extension. Me getting this opportunity is something special and I appreciate the Yankees wanting to do that. But I don't mind going to free agency. It is what it is and I got a job to focus on."
Judge went 2-for-5 with a run scored in New York's dramatic victory over Boston on Friday. The right fielder, who turns 30 this month, is coming off the second-best season of his career, slashing .287/.373/.544 with 39 home runs and 98 RBI in 148 games.
Even as the possibility of Judge wearing another uniform next season grows, the outfielder says he's focused solely on what he can do in his current digs.
"I'm just disappointed because I think I've been vocal about being a Yankee for life, I want to bring a championship back to New York, I want to do it for the fans here," he said. "They're family, this is home for me and not getting that done right now, it stings. But I've got a job to do on the field and I've got to shift my focus with that now and play some ball."
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