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The New York Yankees can’t let Aaron Judge leave in free agency

The New York Yankees have one off-season job—making sure Aaron Judge doesn’t go anywhere else.

Aaron Judge wants to stay in New York. The Yankees have made it clear that they want the All-Star player back. But in not extending the judge’s role before the 2022 season, they risked having another team pounce on him and sign him away from the Bronx.

After the Astros swept the Yankees into the ALCS, the judge admitted there was a possibility that he would leave New York. “We couldn’t get anything done before spring training. He said… Now I’m a free agent. We’ll see what happens.”

Not extending the judge’s role, 30, before the season has always been a gamble. General Manager Brian Cashman even went for the record with their bid—seven years, $213.5 million—something he believes was a fair bid and underscored their faith in the defense star. But Judge went on to have one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history, hitting .311/.425/.686 with 1,111 OPS, 62 home runs, 131 RBI and 10.6 WAR.

The contract Judge signed is now expected to exceed $300 million—and there will be plenty of suitors that will only drive up the price.

The New York Yankees must be willing to meet the price of Aaron Judge

The San Francisco Giants, the favorite team of Judge who grew up, are among those teams and have the financial resources to make such a move. The New York Mets could go after him if Jacob deGrom left free agency. Los Angeles Dodgers It said “Great” about appointing a judge and moving the Mookie Betts to second base. Certainly there will be others involved to varying degrees.

But the Yankees couldn’t let the judge leave. Even if it means paying $45 million a season. It’s simply too important to their franchise, and if they have any hope of eventually catching stars in the MLS, they need to judge. Losing it would only increase the gap and make catching stars nearly impossible.

Re-signing the judge would be just the first step of what should be a crowded Yankees season. They could use another pitcher in the front line, with Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon being free-agent possibilities (if they pull out of their contracts, as expected). They could use another player, as Pirates star Brian Reynolds has been among the players they’ve checked in in the past. They could also use a short pit stop, even though they weren’t in the historic free agent class in their last off-season, and could do the same again as Anthony Volpi looms.

But the season for the Yankees should revolve around the judge’s re-sign. But should he not sign before the season, they risked losing him to free agency, a situation that Cashman and the Yankees could not allow.

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