Yankees Playing a Dangerous Game With Aaron Judge as Red Sox Watch

The Yankees and Judge were set to head to an arbitration hearing to argue about the MVP candidate's salary for 2022

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees celebrates his a game-winning base hit against the Astros
AL MVP favorite Aaron Judge could be playing his final season for the New York Yankees.
Jim McIsaac/Getty

After walking the Yankees off with a single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Bronx Bombers a dramatic 7-6 victory over the Astros on Thursday night, Aaron Judge was set to take on his current team on Friday on Zoom in an arbitration hearing about his salary for this season.

In a filing made by his agent Page Odle, Judge, who slashed .287/.373/.544 with 39 home runs and 98 RBIs in 148 games for the Yanks last season, requested that his 2022 salary be set at $21 million. New York has previously filed for the 30-year-old slugger to be paid $17 million this year, the final one he is under contract.

The Yankees, who are worth approximately $6 billion, were prepared to go to the mat with the American League MVP favorite over $4 million during a season in which he is leading the majors with 27 home runs, a .663 slugging percentage and 57 runs scored. To potentially save themselves the difference in salary, the Yankees risked risking alienating the 30-year-old slugger as he prepares to enter free agency looking for a long-term contract that will likely end up being worth $300 million or more. At the last minute, the two sides agreed to meet in the middle and settled on Judge making $19 million in 2022.

Regardless of Friday’s canceled hearing, the fact that Judge even had to request may be enough to ensure that the 2022 season will be his last one in New York — with the Yankees at least. As ESPN’s Buster Olney theorized earlier this week, the Mets could be in play for Judge when he hits free agency. Olney, who listed the Dodgers, Angels, Twins, Giants and Cubs as additional potential suitors for the slugger’s services, also said the Boston Red Sox could be in play for Judge if New York somehow allows him to hit the open market.

The Red Sox, who have their own contract issues to figure out with regard to star shortstop Xander Bogaerts and power-hitting third baseman Rafael Devers, would seem to be a less-than-ideal landing spot for Judge considering the injury-prone right-hander only has a .179 lifetime average at Fenway Park. However, signing Judge away from the hated Yankees would be a reputation-bolstering move for embattled Red Sox general manager Chaim Bloom and could help endear the 39-year-old exec to a fanbase that has been lukewarm toward him thus far.

“There is unrest among Red Sox fans, many of whom have become convinced their team has become allergic to spending big money,” Olney writes. “The signing of Judge would change that narrative, rip the Yankees’ best position player out of their lineup, and get Red Sox fans turning out early to watch Judge put divots in the aluminum siding that protects the Green Monster.”

George Steinbrenner would never let the Red Sox sign Judge. Unlikely as it seems, his son Hal might.

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