New York Yankees Must Proceed With Caution In Upcoming Aaron Judge Arbitration Hearing

A hearing is scheduled for June 22ndnd to determine New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge’s 2022 salary. In his final year of arbitration, Judge is asking for $21 million while the Yankees are offering the three-time American League All-Star $17 million. Hearings are usually held in February, but Major League Baseball’s 99-day suspension didn’t end until March 10th that impacted business operations. The judge has twice avoided arbitration with the Yankees on one-year contracts worth $8.5 million (2020) and $10.175 million (2021). Due to the 60-game plan in 2020, at about 37 percent, the judge’s split salary was $3,148,148, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

The judge’s dominance over the first 10 weeks of the 2022 season cannot play a role in the hearing as it will focus solely on the events of the final season. While the Stars align with Judge signing a mammoth free agent deal at the end of the season, an arbitration panel could rule in the Yankees’ favor. The judge would have to settle for a pay rise of 67.08 percent instead of 106.39 percent, while inflation in the United States is currently 8.6 percent, a 40-year high.

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The judge is not trying to beat right fielder Mookie Betts’ record for a one-year contract awarded to a ballplayer eligible for arbitration. In January 2020, Betts avoided arbitration with the Boston Red Sox and signed a one-year, $27 million contract. A month later, the 2018 American League’s Most Valuable Player was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. By July, Betts had signed a 12-year, $365 million contract extension, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Right-handed pitcher and Yankees teammate Gerrit Cole holds the record for a one-year contract awarded to a ballplayer in an arbitration. In February 2019, Cole asked for $13.5 million while the Houston Astros countered with $11.425 million. Regardless of what happens, Judge will set a record. If he loses, Judge’s $17 million salary will be lower than the qualifying $18.4 million offer that 10 ball clubs made to their 14 upcoming one-year free agents last offseason. Salary is calculated by averaging the top 125 contracts for the season for major league ball players.

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The judge’s hearing will be influenced by the 2021 statistical performances and salaries of Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Los Angeles Angels batter-designate Shohei Ohtani. The 11th of the American Leagueth Ohtani, unanimously Most Valuable Player, earned $3 million last season since he signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract extension in February 2021, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Guerrero, Jr., the runner-up to Ohtani on the vote, earned $605,400. He avoided arbitration with the Toronto Blue Jays last March and signed a one-year, $7.9 million deal. Both delivered exceptional value as the average major league salary on opening day in 2021 was $4.17 million, according to the Associated Press.

In Olympic parlance, Judge consistently fell short of the medal podium last season. He was an elite performer but had become synonymous with number four. In addition to coming fourth in the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award poll, Judge missed out on the top 3 in Percent On-Base (.373), Percent Slugging (.544), On-Base plus Slugging (.916) , On-Base plus Slugging plus (149), Barrels (70), and other advanced metrics per Baseball Reference and Statcast.

On occasion, Judge would become separated from other ballers from Guerrero, Jr. and Ohtani. Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker (.557) finished behind Guerrero Jr. (.601) and Ohtani (.592) in slugging percentage. In terms of on-base plus slugging, Tucker (.917) was third behind Guerrero, Jr. (1.002) and Ohtani (.965). Last season as a member of the Oakland Athletics, first baseman Matt Olson (153) trailed only Guerrero Jr. (167) and Ohtani (158) in on-base and slugging plus.

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Tucker earned $624,300 last season, while Olson avoided arbitration with the Athletics over a one-year, $5 million contract. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Tucker is eligible for arbitration at the end of this season and currently earns $764,200. Olson was traded to the Atlanta Braves in March and avoided arbitration by signing an eight-year, $168 million contract extension.

Along with Guerrero, Jr. and Ohtani, Texas Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien will also appear at the hearing. As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays last season, Semien finished third in the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award poll and earned $18 million in his only season in Toronto. Before the lockout, Semien signed a seven-year, $175 million deal with Rangers.

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Semien, who received the Gold Glove Award as a second baseman and silver slugger last season, had the highest wins in the American League (WAR) for position ball players and the second-best overall in of the league behind Ohtanis 9.0 WAR . In comparison, Judge’s 6.0 WAR ranked fifth among position ball players and seventh overall in the American League. Unlike the trio who finished ahead of him in voting for the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award, Judge did not surpass 40 homers, 100 runs batted in and 100 runs totaled.

The New York Yankees are in a precarious position over a $4 million difference with Aaron Judge as they try to convince an arbitration panel that he doesn’t deserve a $21 million salary for the 2022 season. Given the timing and unique circumstances of the hearing, it would have been in the best interests of both parties to avoid arbitration or agree to a contract extension prior to the start of the season. Even if the Yankees prevail, hurt feelings on the part of the judge can negatively impact talks about a long-term contract. The Yankees and Judge are a perfect marriage and let’s hope the inconveniences of arbitration don’t ruin a match made in baseball heaven.

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