It has to be a somewhat uncomfortable position for New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
As star slugger Aaron Judge, fresh off hitting an American League record 62 home runs this season, enters free agency, it’s the slugging outfielder who holds nearly all the leverage and not the Yankees.
“(Judge is) going to dictate the dance steps to his free agency and he has worked extremely hard to earn this position, so we’ll see how this plays out,” Cashman told reporters Friday, per ESPN’s Joon Lee. “It can tie you up a little bit along the way, but he’s not the only guy that we’re needing to deal with. He’s the most important, but if he came in here today and said, ‘Oh, man, I’m signing up, let’s go,’ there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Lee added that Cashman declined to say during his media availability whether he is currently in ongoing talks with Judge’s camp on a new contract.
But Cashman certainly made known the importance of Judge to the organization. The Yankees will even take into consideration Judge being a massive fan favorite and his ability to draw people to the ballpark when deciding how high of a dollar amount they offer the superstar.
“As George Steinbrenner said, he puts fannies in the seats,” Cashman said, per Lee. “People want to go watch that guy play, and you want to put great teams on the field that they want to come here to watch compete and win. Certain individual players transcend the team and everything stops when they’re at the bat or they have the ball in their hand. He’s one of those types of talents.”
Cashman acknowledged that while Judge is of high priority, the Yankees have other areas of need they have to put some focus on this offseason as well.
But to retain Judge, the Yankees will have to back up a Brinks truck, or three or four. Judge reportedly turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension from the Yankees at the beginning of the season.
Betting on himself worked out to the greatest potential for Judge, and now, he’s seemingly in complete control of where he plays next in his Major League Baseball career.