Aaron Judge has been on fire to start the 2022 season. The New York Yankees outfielder entered Wednesday's action leading Major League Baseball with 10 home runs and currently boasts an OPS of .982 for his AL East-leading team. His performance is just more evidence the Yankees screwed up by not locking Judge up to a long-term deal.
Judge has been a consistent performer during his time in the Bronx. His career slashline of .277/.384/.558 and OPS of .942 are stellar. While the 30-year-old hasn't been able to recapture the heights of his magical rookie season in 2017, he's still been great. As a rookie he mashed 52 home runs and posted a career-highs in OPS (1.049) and fWAR (8.8). He may never get to those numbers again, but he's still been a marquee slugger.
As things stand, Judge is set to hit free agency after the 2022 season. The fact that the Yankees didn't lock him up to a long-term deal before now was an act of staggering incompetence. After Judge hit .287 with 39 home runs, 98 RBI, an OPS of .916 and a 5.3 fWAR in 2021, he should have been given a long, lucrative deal. They failed to give him an offer at the market rate and it will certainly cost them.
New York reportedly offered Judge $230 million over seven years. Given where contracts are going and how important the slugger is to the Yankees, he should have gotten more. He should be paid on the level of the best players in the game. Max Scherzer is making $43.3 million in 2022, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon are making $36 million, Mike Trout, Carlos Correa, Nolan Arenado and Stephen Strasburg are all making around $35 million. Judge has earned a deal in the $35 million range.
The Yankees may wind up re-signing Judge, but given the way he's played to open the season, his price tag has gone up significantly. Had they inked him this offseason, they likely would have gotten him for less than they would now. And if he leaves this offseason, they'll only get a draft pick in compensation. Either way, they've screwed themselves by not getting a deal done sooner.
It's worth noting, Yankees fans will riot if Judge isn't retained. Not only has he consistently performed at a high level, he's also been clutch.
No one knows how this will play out. But in the best case scenario for the Yankees, general manager Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office have cost themselves a ton of money by waiting to get something done. The worst case? The Yankees don't even want to think about that.