Thursday night, New York Yankees star Aaron Judge led his team to a thrilling come-from-behind win over the Houston Astros with a walk-off single (NYY 7, HOU 6). Aaron Hicks hit a game-tying three-run home run and Judge won it with the single to cap off the four-run ninth inning comeback. New York is an MLB best 52-18 this season.
On Friday, the Yankees and Judge settled on a $19 million contract for 2022 at some point before the two sides were scheduled to go to an arbitration hearing at 12 p.m. ET, according to MLB.com. Judge can earn another $250,000 each for winning AL MVP and World Series MVP. The team has not yet confirmed the contract settlement.
Judge filed for a $21 million salary and the Yankees filed for $17 million prior to the deadline in March. The $19 million settlement is right at the midpoint, and the awards incentives can put a few extra bucks in Judge’s pocket. Arbitration-eligible players without a contract were paid at the team’s filing number until a deal was reached, so the Yankees owe Judge some back pay.
Had the Yankees and Judge gone to a hearing Friday, each side would have made an argument defending their filing number, and the three-person panel would have selected either the salary Judge filed or the salary the team filed. Nothing in-between. Judge was the final hearing on the schedule, so all 2022 arbitration cases are complete.
Arbitration hearings can be unpleasant because the team details the player’s shortcomings and argue he deserves a lower salary, though they’re not necessarily relationship killers. The Yankees went to hearings with Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera (twice) back in the day and they lived happily ever after. Still, everyone wants to avoid a hearing when possible.
“It’s all business,” Judge told MLB.com earlier this week. “For me, it’s plain and simple: I love this team, I love this organization and everything, but this is a business side of it that I don’t like at times. I don’t think a lot of people like it. I don’t think the team likes it. You have to go through it. You handle it and you move on.”
Judge, 30, is having a monster season and, at +100 (per Caesars Sportsbook), is the current AL MVP favorite. He’s hitting .304/.379/.658 with an MLB-leading 27 home runs, five more than any other player. Judge has also taken over as New York’s starting center fielder, sliding over from right to improve the club’s defense.
Unfortunately for Judge, only 2021 performance was to be considered during an arbitration hearing, so his great 2022 would not have helped his cause. Arbitration hearings consider past performance only. That also took a bite out of Judge’s negotiating leverage during settlement talks.
Judge rejected a seven-year contract extension worth $30.5 million per season in spring training. He is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, and while rejecting an extension worth more than $200 million is a bold move, Judge has done nothing but up his price this year.
Arbitration hearings typically take place in February and March, though they were pushed into the season this year by the owners’ lockout. Arbitration hearings were also held during the season in 1995, following the players’ strike.