Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner realizes there’s a chance the price will go up to sign Aaron Judge to a long-term contract after the star fighter’s excellent first half.
The judge rejected an eight-year contract worth $230.5 million to $234.5 million, dropping talks before the April 8 opening and saying he would not renegotiate until after the season. The judge’s representatives wanted a nine-year deal above the average annual value of the Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Forel‘s contract, which is $319.6 million, a person familiar with the negotiations said at the time, speaking on condition of anonymity because Judge’s position was not made public.
“Is it a possibility? Of course it’s a possibility,” Steinbrenner said on Wednesday during his mid-season media availability. “But cross that bridge when I get there.”
Judge, who will qualify for free agency after the World Series, leads the Major Leagues with 29 home runs. He is second in the AL with 60 RBI’s, hitting .281, a big reason why the Yankees started Wednesday with a 58-23 record in the Major League and a 13-game lead in the AL East.
“Aaron is a great Yankee and he is very valuable to this organization,” said Steinbrenner. “He’s a great leader. It’s clear that he’s performed extremely well this year, which we’re all really happy about. So look, every great Yankee, yeah, it’s something that we’re going to seriously look at and talk about. It means a lot to the organization, no one will deny that.”
After the Yankees made their long-term offer public in April, Judge and the team agreed to a $19 million one-year deal last month that avoided an arbitration hearing. Steinbrenner said that even if talks resumed during the season, the team would not discuss the negotiations publicly until after the Yankees’ season ends.
“We made an offer that I think was a very good one,” said Steinbrenner. “It was, of course, based on the numbers, but it was also partly based on what he means to this organization. It was a combination of both. And we just didn’t make a deal. We obviously had less time this low season than we normally would due to a lockout and such. But there is no regret. We will discuss at some point.”
Steinbrenner expressed satisfaction with the team’s off-season makeover, which included trading catcher Gary Sanchezacquiring short stop Isiah Kiner-Falefathird baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Jose Trevino, and the hiring of slamming coach Dillon Lawson. New York hasn’t tried to sign a top-notch free-agent shortstop like… Carlos Correa or Trevor Story†
“To be a great team, Gene Michael always said defense in the middle, right? That’s something we’ve definitely improved on,” Steinbrenner said. “I didn’t spend $300 million on it, but I think most people are quite happy with Isiah and the work he’s done.”
As the August 2 trade deadline approaches, New York may seek a corner outfielder. Joey Gallo started Wednesday with a .165 average, nine homeruns, 18 RBIs and 89 strikeouts in 194 at bats.
“It has been difficult for him, there is no doubt about it. But there is a lot of baseball to experience this season.” Steinbrenner said: “I still expect great things from him. … I don’t hesitate to give up top prospects. I always have been. But we’ve done it in the past. and that all comes on the table too.”
Steinbrenner expects the path to a title will include a match-up against Houston, who defeated the Yankees in the 2017 and 2019 AL Championship Series.
“We should all be concerned about Houston. It is a very good team,” he says. “But it will also be a challenge for them, make no mistake.”
He wouldn’t mind a Subway Series against the Mets, who came in on Wednesday with the NL’s second best record at 50-31.
“I’m all for it,” said Steinbrenner. “Means I’ll be there.”