Yankees-Aaron Judge talks could easily get personal

“It’s nothing personal, Sonny. It’s purely business.”
– Michael Corleone

TAMPA — Aaron Judge smiled at question after question about his current contract status with the Yankees. This is his public stance. He smiles a lot.

He defused. The judge is not someone who goes public with personal animus.

He avoided all the controversial potholes. Judge is Jeter-esque in that way. He has a growing brand. He won’t spoil it with a war of words with his employer. So he smiles. He defused. He dodges.

“Like I said, I understand it’s a deal,” Judge said. In fact, he used that term — “business” — four times in a six-minute conversation with The Post.

It’s definitely a business. Big business. Judge and the Yankees were unable to agree on a one-year contract for eligible players as of Tuesday’s deadline. The $4 million gap between what he asked for if this goes to a hearing ($21 million) and what the Yankees countered ($17 million) is life-changing for pretty much everyone on the planet.

To avoid a hearing, the franchise and franchise player must work out a multi-year extension in the two weeks before the judge’s opening day deadline — unless the Yankees change their filing and litigation policies for anything other than a multi-year Contract. An extension is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and you can expect this to only get harder if the Yankees and Judge can’t find an acceptable middle ground between $17 million and $21 million to avoid all the potential awkwardness.

Aaron Richter
Aaron Richter
NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

So of course it’s personal. Maybe not as personal as it was for Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Because by the time he had “settled all family business,” he had exacted the ultimate revenge on each of his enemies.

Still, this is the judge’s livelihood. He’s slated to be a free agent after the season, so this is where he’ll play the next phase of his career. And for how much. This is about how he values ​​himself and how the Yankees value him. And the fact that he was the only Yankee of the 12 candidates to start Tuesday without a contract and ended the same way speaks loudly to how far the two sides are in agreeing on that value. This is personal; learn more fully that your bosses don’t value you financially the way you think you should be valued.

And if a deal doesn’t materialize by opening day, do you think it will only make the relationship worse? How about they come to in-season hearings in this lockdown-disrupted year? The last time the Yankees and a player went to arbitration was in 2017 with Dellin Betances. It was extremely controversial. And yes, Judge, a rookie this year, remembers. You can dress it up, but teams come up negative in hearings to try and win the case and save money.

“I think both sides want to avoid getting into that situation, going into that room and fighting each other a little bit and having to get out the boxing gloves,” Judge said.

That will not be easy. The judge said the sides only discussed a one-year deal on Tuesday and he was kept informed throughout by his agent Page Odle.

Aaron Richter
Aaron Richter
NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The upcoming battle is easily predictable. The Yankees love Judge. Think he’s a great player. Hal Steinbrenner wants to extend it. But Judge has had a different career as a Yankee. In the two years he was healthy, Richter finished second and fourth for the AL MVP. In the other three years, he has appeared in 63 percent of the games. He will be 30 years old on April 26th. Yanks have to assume that Judge is even more likely to miss out on injuries in his 30s than he was in his 20s. Also, there is almost no precedent to rely on when it comes to how a referee’s greatness ages. So you won’t want to go much beyond 35 or 36 in an expansion.

The judge will believe they are among the best players in the game and should be rewarded that way, which historically means paying a player into their late 30s – or even their early 40s. At top dollar. In arbitration, there is a category of “special leadership and public appeal” that a player might invoke to try to make their case. But in general, arbitration boils down to cold statistics.

For a long-term deal, however, Judge will point out how the Yankees are monetizing him, from the “judiciary” to building publicity on YES around him — and more. His representatives will note that Judge has proven he can handle playing in New York and being a Yankee. Joey Gallo, for example, who could be the next offseason’s second-best free-agent outfielder, hasn’t shown that yet. So do the Yankees really want to risk finding a replacement?

Conversely, can the Yankees get away with dollar differences like Robinson Cano and theorize that history only shows he’s probably already played his best five years?

For now, the Yankees are publicly silent. GM Brian Cashman did not respond to a text asking for comment. The judge said he has not been offended by anything since Tuesday and continues to hope to strike a long-term deal and be “a Yankee for life.” So it could all be a pose and these two sides could negotiate hard but find a way to each other before April 7th.

But if not, it’s definitely going to be more personal. Yankees-Aaron Judge talks could easily get personal


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