Aaron Judge
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

It may be a risky situation, but the New York Yankees should work on a contract extension for Aaron Judge this spring.

Based on the number of injuries that the New York Yankees have already endured, it’s probably safe to say that this hasn’t been a positive spring for the ballclub.

The Yankees could still turn this into a productive period though. Along with the many roster battles that are taking place prior to the regular season, there could be an opportunity to lock up “The Judge.” This comes in spite of the possible risk.

Since reporting to camp a few weeks ago, superstar Aaron Judge has been suffering from a right shoulder injury that’s prevented him from playing in any exhibition games. But the Yankees would be foolish to let this recent setback stop them from exploring a contract extension.

Heading into this season, the soon-to-be 28-year-old is slated to earn $8.5 million. He’ll be eligible to enter the open market after the 2022 campaign. But Judge won’t be the only All-Star player that the Yankees will need to re-sign before 2023.

Currently, Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman are also set to become free agents after the 2022 season. In addition, the Yankees will have their hands full after the 2023 campaign as Miguel Andujar, Giovanny Urshela, Luis Severino and Domingo German are all slated to hit the market.

General manager Brian Cashman could thus lighten his future workload by extending Judge before the start of the regular season.

This would provide the Yankees with some clarity involving their future payroll. However, they haven’t had a great deal of recent success with handing out early extensions to their key players.

In 2019, both Aaron Hicks (seven years, $70 million) and Severino (four years, $40 million) received extensions and then missed the majority of the season. With both players recovering from their respective Tommy John surgeries, Hicks will likely miss the first half of 2020. The Yanks expect Severino to sit out until 2021.

Since Judge has battled injuries the last pair of seasons, signing him to an extension this spring could be risky. But if the Yankees were to let the power-slugging righty reach the open market, he could demand a contract that may force Cashman to let him leave the Bronx.

Despite Judge’s injury-related concerns, he’s been one of the best outfielders throughout MLB when healthy. During his only full season in the majors in 2017, the 27-year-old played in 155 games and produced 52 home runs, 114 RBI’s, a .343 ISO, .357 BABIP, .430 wOBA, 174 wRC+, and an 8.3 fWAR rating. He additionally put up a slashing line of .284/.422/.627/1.049.

Based on these results, it would be wise for the Yankees to extend Judge, especially before fellow superstar Mookie Betts resets the outfield market with his mega-deal next offseason.

Betts (28) and Judge (30) will be entering free agency at different ages. But the Yankees right fielder will still likely benefit from the large deal that the former Red Sox outfielder could sign after this season.

Judge hasn’t mentioned publicly about wanting to sign an extension this spring. He may be open to that conversation though, based on his recent injury history. If he continues to miss significant time over the next three seasons, most teams will likely avoid offering him a lucrative contract prior to 2023.

Judge would then possibly have to sign a one or two-year deal to prove that he’s capable of staying healthy. If that were to happen, he’d be 31-32 years of age by the time he reaches the open market again.

If both sides discussed an extension prior to the regular season, a potential eight-year, $200 million deal could be a safe decision. Since Judge has proven to be an injury risk, Cashman and his staff will likely avoid making No. 99 a $300 million player this spring.

The severity of Judge’s shoulder injury is still under evaluation. Thus, any contract negotiations will likely have to wait until his results are revealed. If those results show that Judge will miss significant time, then Cashman will likely postpone these discussions until after 2020.

Judge probably won’t explore an extension until he’s back out on the field, but the overall conversation is seemingly destined to happen eventually. Meaning, there’s no reason for Yankees fans to start worrying about him leaving town just yet.