Overpaying Aaron Judge was a mistake the Yankees used to make without blinking

Overpaying Aaron Judge was a mistake the Yankees used to make without blinking

There was a time when the Yankees would have already signed Aaron Judge to a ridiculous contract.
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In the scene at the climax of Layer Cake, an English gangster flick Daniel Craig made two years before becoming James Bond, the antagonist goes on this tangent about taking shit, and how eventually, if you climb high enough, you forget what shit even looks like.

Brian Cashman knows what shit looks like, he sees it every day, and each time his boss doesn’t want to take shit for not paying the team’s most notable and liked player, Cashman has to go out there and take secondhand shit because no one is ever going to feel bad for the GM of the New York Yankees.

Aaron Judge set a self-imposed Opening Day deadline on contract negotiations because he doesn’t want them to be a distraction during the regular season. That thought process makes little sense. We all know the only way to get people to stop talking about contract disputes is to solve the dispute and sign a new deal. Regardless, Judge told reporters Friday that he’s now treating this season as a contract year.

“At the end of the year, I’m a free agent — will talk to 30 teams, and the Yankees will be one of those 30 teams. It’s always nice to try to wrap something up sooner, the better. But we weren’t able to get it done and it’s on to baseball.”

His health makes giving him a massive deal extremely risky, and the rumor that he’s asking for Bryce Harper and Mookie Betts money says a deal in the massive to gigantic range is exactly what he’s looking for. The oddity about this whole situation is, in the past, the kind of irresponsible deal that Judge wants and sports writers make fun of would’ve already been done.

Judge turns 30 this year, he’s only played more than 140 games twice in six seasons in pinstripes, but of those six, one was his shortened rookie year and the other was COVID affected. During his healthiest year in 2017, he hit a league-leading 52 dingers and drove in an MLB-best 128 RBIs with a .284 average, which was good enough to finish second in the AL MVP voting. Last year he played 148 games, seven fewer than in ’17, and had 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and a .287 average. In between those two years, the most games he played was 112 and his best production was 27 homers and 67 RBIs.

If the Yankees weren’t the Yankees, I’d totally understand them balking at giving him franchise-crippling money. If the Yankees weren’t in the middle of a World Series drought that drives their fans apoplectic, and the front office had a history of restocking the shelves with better or homegrown talent, I’d trust that the GM has a plan in place.

The only strategy to letting your most popular player, who has his own section at Yankee Stadium, who is capable of MVP numbers, who said he wants to be a Yankee for life, audition for a new contract is if you don’t think he can be that guy anymore.

Whatever New York is doing isn’t working even if Cashman says it is, and their fans are used to having their cake, eating it too, and then heaping another slice on the plate to gorge on. At no point do they want to hear that the idiots upstairs disappointed Judge right before the season.

Cashman telling reporters that his seven-year, $213.5 offer was turned down, followed by Judge saying he prefers private negotiations, is a GM trying to avoid taking shit for not getting a deal done by putting the onus on the player.

If Cashman wants to rise to the top of the layer cake, and stop shoveling shit, he’s either going to need to convince his owners to spend money like they used to or be better at his job.

It doesn’t matter if Judge is worth that kind of cash, the only thing that matters is that the Yankees operate like the Yankees, and being afraid of making a mistake instead of knowingly making one because you know you have the money to course correct if it falls through is as big an affront to their fans as a 13-year World Series dry spell.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.