Sports

Yankees’ Aaron Judge deserves to be paid as MLB’s best player

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This trial is only 33.3 percent over. But already it is time for summary judgment.

Yankees star Aaron Judge has won his case already. He deserves to be the highest-paid position player in the game. The Yankees should plan on Judge being around another eight years, and reserving a spot for him in Monument Park.

In other words, pay the big man.

When Judge was seeking to equal Mike Trout’s position-player record annual salary of $ 36 million in contract talks in the spring, it was a surprising ask with a predictable response. The Yankees love Judge but didn’t see him quite stacking up to the game’s best player and three-time MVP.

Well, we are now exactly two months into the season, and also exactly one-third the way through the season, and we aren’t hearing that anymore. If Judge isn’t Trout now, it’s because he’s better.

Truth is, he’s better than anyone else, too. He leads the majors with a .677 slugging percentage, 1,059 OPS and 21 home runs, and is tied with Paul Goldschmidt and Manny Machado with a 3.1 offensive WAR.

At this point, he’s spent his point. Even outside the confines of Judge’s Chambers, Yankees fans know he can rest (his case anyway). There’s no winning argument to be made that he’s deserving of anything less than that $ 36 million best-in-the-business standard. He bet on himself, and he won big.

Yankees
Aaron Judge rounds the bases after a home run.
Corey Sipkin

I told Judge that the other day, not that he needed to hear it from me. Characteristically, he didn’t sustain or object.

“I’m not going to get into the contract yet,” Judge responded with a smile.

To be fair, the Yankees’ original $ 213.5 million extension offer ($ 30.5 million per year) seemed reasonable at the time, reasonable to everyone but Judge. And they were willing to go a bit higher than that – though obviously not high enough.

If you’re keeping score at home, the Yankees were right about just about everything else this winter and spring, which is how they got to an MLB best 39-15. They were right to hand a rotation spot to Nasty Nestor, the preferred nickname. They were right to expect Luis Severino to bounce back after three seasons mostly away.

They were right that Isiah Kiner-Falefa plays a mean short, and right that they’d be better off employing a defense-first catching tandem of Jose Treviño and Kyle Higashioka. Right that Anthony Rizzo makes a nice lefty complement to all their righty power. Right, too, that Matt Carpenter still had plenty to offer.

At a time where they supposedly did nothing, they nearly batted 1,000.

Despite operating in New York, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman just might be the best small-market GM going. Anyway, all these great bargains should allow them to pay stars their worth. The Yankees are always about stars, and Judge is by far their biggest one.

Ace Gerrit Cole makes exactly $ 36 million. At this point, why not Judge? Obviously, that’s the going rate.

There’s nothing going on at present with a multiyear contract, per Judge’s instructions. But when they restart talks, and hopefully soon, the Yankees have no choice but to concede on salary.

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There are no excuses now. The Yankees have the highest revenue in baseball, and the highest valuation. Forbes says they are worth $ 7.1 billion, exactly 700 times more than the Steinbrenner family (and assorted Cleveland friends) paid 50 years ago.

Of course, there’s nothing to say Judge won’t raise his asking price based on recent results. But it says here he had it exactly right the first time.

Judge’s numbers are brilliant, his intangibles clear. He leads on the field, and in the clubhouse, and he is reason number No. 1 these Yankees are threatening to join the greatest teams in their rich history.

“He’s the best player in baseball since I’ve been here,” said Rizzo, who’s been here a month short of a full year.

When teammates talk about Judge, they gush. It’s not just the otherworldly talent or stats, it’s the constant preparation and the consistent demeanor; it’s the priorities and the focus. He sets the tone for a team that is thriving daily, and threatening records.

Judge made clear he was cutting off negotiations Opening Day when the sides could not bridge what looked like an enormous gap. He’s let his bat and glove make his only statement.

Yankees
Aaron Judge
Getty Images

He’s on pace to hit 63 home runs, which would top the legit home run record of Yankees great Roger Maris by two.

Characteristically, he’s refraining from big proclamations or predictions.

“We’ll see,” he said when asked about the Maris chase. “It’s a long season. There are going to be ups and downs. ”

When I mentioned how much pressure Maris felt, and how his hair fell out due to that pressure, Judge isn’t envisioning a repeat of that.

“There’s no pressure,” he said.

“We have a really good ballclub,” he continued. “I don’t have to worry a lot. If I don’t hit a home run, DJ [LeMahieu] might get four hits. Or Rizzo might do something big. Or [Giancarlo] Stanton. ”

True enough, the supporting cast is substantial. But this is clearly Judge’s team.

And hopefully, for a very long time.

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