Aaron Judge stuck to the script.
The Yankees slugger’s long-anticipated free agency has arrived after the Bombers were swept out of the ALCS by the Astros. And Judge said all the things you would expect him to say about his future in pinstripes following Sunday’s loss in the Bronx.
“I haven’t even thought about the next step yet,” Judge told reporters. “We’ve got time to figure it out. I’ve never been in this spot before.”
Does he want to stay?
“I’ve been clear on that since I first wore the pinstripes,” he said. “We tried to get something done before spring training, and now I’m a free agent, and we’ll see what happens.”
What did not happen this postseason: A productive Judge. He followed up his historic 62-home run regular season with a brutal October. He went 5-for-36 (.138) with just two homers and 15 strikeouts. And he was was 1-for-16 against Houston, grounding out weakly to closer Ryan Pressly to wrap up Game 4 with the Yankees down a run.
Judge’s postseason swoon is unlikely to change how the Yankees feel about him, and how much money they are willing to invest in him. The bigger question is the impact his poor showing may have on potential suitors. He was awful this year and now he’s batting just .211 in 44 career postseason games. Does this give, say, the Giants pause before they offer him a long-term deal that pushes $300 million?
Judge’s free agency is going to come down to two things. One is in the Yankees’ control, one isn’t. They determine how much money they are willing to offer him. If they are willing to match and then beat any outside offer, they have a good chance to re-sign him.
That said, what does Judge want? The Yankees have no say in that matter. And we wonder if they even know what he is thinking. While Judge has said all the right things, he has said them with the air of detachment. Maybe he wants to go home to San Francisco. Or go ring chasing with the Dodgers. Or use a team like the Rangers as a person ATM. If that’s the case, there’s really nothing the Yankees can do.
The Yankees made Judge a reasonable offer before Opening Day based on the state of play at the time. He stood his ground, bet on himself and delivered one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. And now we will see how it shakes out. The Yankees have signaled they want him and do whatever it takes. We will see if that is true. And even if it is, it may not be good enough.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]