$300 million as a 30-year-old? How much Aaron Judge could really get in free agency
- ESPN MLB Insider
- Kiley McDaniel covers MLB prospects, the MLB Draft and more, including trades and free agency.
- Has worked for four MLB teams.
Aaron Judge is the most famous player on the most famous team in baseball. So far this year, he’s that team’s best player, too. And after he turned down a nine-figure extension offer from the New York Yankees on the eve of the season, he’s set to become a free agent this winter.
The Yankees (via GM Brian Cashman) made a point last month to make public their final offer to Judge: An extension of seven years and $213.5 million. The Yankees haven’t handed out a nine-figure deal since giving Gerrit Cole $324 million in late 2019. In all of baseball over the past two offseasons, only Corey Seager has been guaranteed more than that $213.5 million offer as a free agent (he got $325 million for 10 years).
But Judge, a year before he hits free agency, turned it down. So now the biggest question is: How much could he get in the winter? It’s worth a look, given his blistering hot start to 2022: third-best WAR in baseball, hitting .307, leading the league in homers with 14 — and he’s actually been unlucky this year with ball-in-play luck per Baseball Savant’s xwOBA statistic. That stat predicts outcomes based on exit velo, launch angle and other advanced data that’s a more reliable measure of talent in small samples. Judge is tied with Mike Trout for best in the league, way ahead of everyone else.
Even if you want to adjust expectations below his on-pace numbers — after all, we’re only a quarter of way into the season — various projection systems (which consider both his performance and health history) are predicting Judge to essentially match his career-best WAR (8.0, according to Baseball Reference) from 2017. Judge isn’t just off to a hot start, he looks headed for a career year, one that couldn’t come at a better time.
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