Aaron Judge may have millions of reasons to love these new baseballs.
Home runs are down significantly in Major League Baseball. Many are blaming the ball itself. But no matter the explanation, it is elevating the importance of power hitters like Judge. The Yankees star has slugged an MLB-leading 14 homers this year during an MVP-caliber start to the season. And if things keep up at this pace – Judge’s health and production and the state of play in the big leagues – one MLB insider believes it will pay off handsomely for the soon-to-be-free agent.
“If this is going to be the baseball moving forward, then his value goes up even more as a pure home run hitter,” said Joel Sherman on his debut New York Post podcast with fellow columnist Jon Heyman.
“What is rare is valuable. And if home runs are going to be rare, the ability to do it.”
Judge has vowed to test the market after he ended extension talks with the Yankees on Opening Day. So far, he is winning the contract battle as the Bronx Bombers have emerged as the best team in the sport. Heyman said Judge “may end up being the highest-paid position player” in baseball if he can stay healthy and continue to produce at this rate.
“He may get what he was looking for, which is the $36 million a year (on par with the Angels’ Mike Trout), and eight or nine years added on,” Heyman said. “The Yankees are willing to go higher. They were willing to go higher when they cut off negotiations.”
Heyman said the Yankees were ready to offer Judge $31 or $32 million annually when negotiations broke off on Opening Day (their final offer was $30.5 million). But at this point, it appears they will need go much higher in order to retain the slugger this winter.
“You have to give the guy credit, the gamble that he took,” Heyman said. “The Yankees made a very good offer. He gambled and he looks like he is winning huge. … Judge has really, really hit the jackpot here.”
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]