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MLB - US Sports: Judge the star of the Yankees

We put the focus on outfielder Aaron Judge who is a superstar for the New York Yankees and yet could be leaving for pastures new in the winter.

Judge, following arbitration, settled on a one-year deal with the Bronx Bombers and we look at what this means for the Yankees and how much of a dilemma they have in trying to keep him at Yankee Stadium.

Injury delayed Judge's debut

Judge was signed as the 32nd pick of the 2013 MLB draft by the Yankees and was injured for most of the year after tearing his quad muscle in a base running drill. It wasn't until 2014 that he made his debut in Triple-A Charleston RiverDogs of the Class-A South Atlantic League.

In 2015 and 2016 he was invited to Spring Training to gain experience with the Yankees main roster.

Judge made his MLB debut towards the end of the 2016 season against the Tampa Bay Rays, and with his first at-bat for the Yankees, he hit a home run at Yankee Stadium.

Since then Judge has become the centrepiece of the Yankees' line-up when it also includes his fellow hitter, Giancarlo Stanton, the bash brothers at best.

Earlier this year, Judge and his team turned down a seven-year, $213.5million extension and decided to go to arbitration to discuss a deal.

In the end the Judge party settled on a one-year $19million deal, which will see him hit free agency at the end of the season.

And he is not likely to be short of offers, having become Rookie of the Year in 2017 and American League MVP Runner-up in that season also. From 2018-21, he ranked 10th in OPS (.917) among qualified hitters.

Slugging ace

Judge hit 39 home runs with 98 RBI's and a .916 OPS in 2021, he made his third All-Star team, won his second Silver Slugger and finished fourth in MVP voting.

Speaking to MLB.com, his first baseman team-mate, Anthony Rizzo said: "He's a legitimate MVP candidate every single year, and he knows that."

The injuries that Judge struggled with between 2017 and 2020 were the main reason for his not hitting the heights that he should have.

However, last season he played 148 games and after a persistent calf injury which kept him occupied in 2020, he said that he played through pain when he shouldn't have.

Speaking to the official Yankees' website, at Spring Training, Judge reiterated his love for the Bronx Bombers: "I'm disappointed because I've been vocal about how I want to be a Yankee for life.

"I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here. This is home for me."

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Is New York still home?

However, Freddie Freeman thought Atlanta was home and Carlos Correa thought Houston was home.

Everyone has a price, even the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts. The core group of the Chicago Cubs championship winning side from 2016, now go on to play elsewhere. As I say, everyone has a price.

The seven-year deal that the Yankees have offered Judge has seen one of the largest payrolls in MLB get tight.

The Yankees already pay heavy in terms of Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton and they owe a whopping $346million combined after 2022.

Cole flopped in the second half of 2021 and struggled in October, while 32-year-old Stanton only appeared in 41 games in total in 2019 and 2020.

So where could Judge go?

Assuming that Judge reaches free agency, here are some of the clubs who could enter talks with him and pay him what he wants and there aren’t many.

The San Francisco Giants have been carefully managing their payroll expectations. The west coast side has been gradually reducing their payroll and long-term obligations.

The Giants would be ranked as outsiders in the Judge chase, the only lure is that Judge went to High School around 100 miles from Oracle Park.

The New York Mets would be favourites in my eyes. Owner Steve Cohen and general manager Billy Epplier have other priorities at the end of the season, however. after locking in stars like Jacob DeGrom and Pete Alonso, will they have the cash to hit Judge with?

No doubt, they have the money and are not afraid to go over the competitive balance threshold.

Judge cautioned though: "At the end of the year I'll be a free agent. I get to talk to 30 teams. The Yankees will be one of those 30 teams."

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