Although the New York Yankees walked off at home against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, that got just a fragment of everyone’s attention. The big story coming out of the Bronx on Saturday was the failure of the team and Judge to work out a long-term contract extension, setting the slugger up for his first foray into free agency at season’s end.
Obviously, given the events of last summer (and, really, the last few years, on the whole), Cubs fans are intimately familiar with watching faces of the franchise heading into their walk year without a deal in place. In fact, we’re once again in that situation as Chicago prepares to take two-time All-Star catcher Willson Contreras to an arbitration hearing this year.
It’s tough for fans to watch – but this Judge development could drastically alter the free agent landscape at season’s end. After the Cubs sat out on the premier names on the market this offseason, it stands to reason they could look to find their new cornerstone heading into 2023.
Judge would join the likes of Trea Turner, Carlos Correa (who has an opt-out after ’22 and ’23), Xander Bogaerts (again, has an opt-out at year’s end) and others as the cream of the crop in the class. With the Cubs entirely untethered as far as long-term commitments go, could we see a pursuit of the mammoth outfielder?
Let’s hope not. As badly as this team could use a cornerstone offensive player, I’m not sinking $30+ million a year in a guy who has played more than 145 games just twice in his first six years in the league. When he’s healthy, he’s a monster at the dish – there’s no debating that fact. But the problem is he’s rarely at 100 percent.
The Yankees were poised to make Judge the second-highest paid position player in the league in terms of AAV ($30.5M) – second only to Mike Trout. Apparently, he feels he can do even better than that with a big performance in 2022.
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I’m not saying the Cubs shouldn’t go give a guy $30 million annually. But if they do, it needs to be a middle infielder – not a slugger who’s battled injuries his entire career and whose size could become a major viability by the end of a long-term contract.