For more than a moment there was a situation where Aaron Judge wasn’t going to be in New York Yankees pinstripes for much longer.
In 2022, Judge went on to have a record-breaking year, despite all the talk off-field about his contract and whether he was going to take free agency and sign somewhere else - Yankees fans are glad he didn’t and their team is 8/1 to win the World Series next season.
|What||MLB Opening Day|
|Where||Venues across USA and Canada|
|When||Thursday 30th March 2023|
|How to watch||BT Sport|
|Odds (outright)||LA Dodgers 6/1, HOU Astros 6/1, NY Mets 7/1, NY Yankees 8/1, ATL Braves 9/1|
Judge very nearly went home to the West Coast. Offers were on the table from the San Francisco Giants, they were offering a deal for nine years at $360million, while the San Diego Padres put down a whopping 14-year contract worth $414m.
These were huge competitive offers that Judge and his management team were going to have to consider.
The deal-breaker for Judge though was when the Yankees offered him the chance to become their 16th captain in franchise history. Judge felt he couldn’t refuse and signed a nine-year, $360m contract, matching what the Giants had offered.
In his first game for Spring Training, Judge spoke to YES network about hearing his name called out for his first at-bat: “Hearing your name get called for the New York Yankees never gets old.
"If it’s in Tampa, if it’s in New York, that’s something that I didn’t want to stop hearing once I became a free agent. I was hoping to hear those words again. It was an exciting moment, I think.”
Before the 2022 season, Judge and the Yankees had reached an impasse in his dealing with a new contract. He was unsuccessful in negotiations in reaching a new long-term deal.
The Yankees offered him $17m in arbitration and a seven-year deal worth $213.5 million. Instead, Judge signed a one-year deal worth $19m and said he would deal with the contract talk at the end of the season and take free agency.
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What transpired was a wonderful season for Judge with the contact talks curbed for the time being.
The 30-year-old hit his 200th home run in July, becoming the second-fastest behind Ryan Howard and then in August, against the Los Angeles Angels, he became only the 10th player in Major League Baseball history (and third player in Yankees franchise history) to record multiple 50-home run seasons.
Judge hit his 60th home run of the season in September joining Babe Ruth and Roger Maris on that list of only three Yankees to do so. It was Maris’ 1961 of 61 home run record that Judge was after and matched it on the 28th September against the Toronto Blue Jays.
It took Judge a few days to pass the record, which he did on 4th October against the Texas Rangers off the pitching of Jesus Tinoco, setting the new single-season American League home run record of 62.
Judge’s 2022 regular season went leading the Major Leagues with 62 home runs, 133 runs scored, 131 RBI’s tied with Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, 111 walks and batting .311 with 177 hits, 28 doubles and 19 intentional walks, while also stealing 16 bases in 19 attempts.
Judge won the 2022 Most Valuable Player award for the American League, earning 28 votes of the 30 possible - he is 13/2 to retain the American League MVP award.
In December 2022 decided to stay and signed his new deal and was named as 16th captain of the New York Yankees, following eight years without after Derek Jeter retired in 2014.
Judge was asked if he could repeat the feats of last season, speaking to the official New York Yankees website, he said: “You never know, I don’t really like to put a number on it.
“I just kind of like going out there and trying to control what I can control, but you never know what could happen. So, we’ll see about 62.
"Last year was fun chasing history and having those moments. Every time we play in New York, I feel like your chasing history. It’s never a cakewalk in the Bronx, that’s for sure."
The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009 and for a franchise that has won 27 of them, they are way overdue another success.