NEW YORK — Aaron Judge was at the center of a Yankee Stadium celebration on Thursday evening, surrounded by gleeful teammates after delivering a game-winning hit to clinch a hard-fought and meaningful win over the Astros.
By Friday afternoon, Judge and the Yankees both appeared poised to celebrate another victory. Judge and the Yankees have agreed on a $19 million contract for 2022, avoiding an arbitration hearing, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. The team has not confirmed.
The deal contains incentives that include $250,000 if Judge is voted the American League MVP, in addition to $250,000 if he is named World Series MVP.
Judge and the Yankees had been $4 million apart. Judge and his agent, Page Odle, were prepared to argue his value at $21 million, while the club filed at $17 million.
“For me, it’s plain and simple,” Judge said earlier this week. “I love this team, I love this organization and everything. But there is the business side of it that I don’t like at times. I don’t think the team likes to do that. You just have to go through it, you handle it, then you move on.”
The 30-year-old Judge is enjoying an MVP-caliber campaign, owning a .304/.379/.658 slash line, with a Major League-leading 27 home runs and 58 runs scored in 68 games.
In his latest heroics, Judge’s walk-off hit capped a Yankees comeback in their 7-6 victory over Houston on Thursday night. However, a potential arbitration hearing would not have incorporated arguments from this season, only focusing on Judge’s performance from 2021 and earlier.
Avoiding the hearing seems to be a prudent decision for both sides. Judge had planned to dress in a sharp suit and log on for a Zoom meeting scheduled to begin around noon on Friday, then would have likely been in the Yankees’ lineup later in the evening against Houston.
Judge has said that he hopes to be a “Yankee for life,” and the club remains interested in signing Judge to a long-term extension, though the Yankees are believed to be abiding by the outfielder’s request to hold all talks until after the season when he can field offers as a free agent.
Judge has said that he does not believe his contract situation has impacted his play.
“I’m not really motivated by that kind of stuff,” Judge said. “I’m more motivated by the type of team we’ve got, the special talent we have here and the opportunity we have ahead of us. I try to just keep focusing on that, and it makes it pretty easy to block this other stuff with the business side out.”
The Yankees have not participated in an arbitration hearing since 2017, when they were victorious over relieving Dellin Betances, who sought $5 million and received $3 million. Before that, their most recent case was in 2008, when they won against right-hander Chien-Ming Wang.