New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has played like someone in line for a massive contract this offseason, but for now he is "happy" to just avoid arbitration.
Judge and the Yankees agreed to a one-year, $19 million contract on Friday and avoided the arbitration hearing that was scheduled for that day. As a result, he is set to become a free agent after the 2022 campaign.
"I was happy we were able to agree on a number and settle this thing and not have to go into court there," Judge said, per ESPN. "If I would have went in that room, I probably would have missed the game tonight, and that didn't really sit too well with me. I valued playing this game tonight with my teammates, trying to battle it out."
The center fielder suited up for Friday's 3-1 loss to the Houston Astros and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
It was a rare poor performance during what has been an outstanding season for Judge, who is slashing .299/.374/.648 with 27 home runs and 53 RBI in 69 games. The Yankees are also 11.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East with Major League Baseball's best record at 52-19.
Contract discussions with Judge were a primary storyline for New York ahead of the season, and his performance in 2022 has likely only increased his value.
The $19 million lands between the $21 million the three-time All-Star asked for and the $17 million the team offered in March.
As for a long-term deal?
"That's for when the season's done," Judge said.
ESPN noted general manager Brian Cashman previously said the club offered an eight-year contract worth between $230.5 million to $234.5 million, while the player's side asked for a nine-year deal that surpassed the average annual salary of Mike Trout's contract and ended up at $319.6 million.
Judge is 30 years old, but he appears to be in the middle of his prime and on his way to challenging for an MVP award to add to a resume that includes three All-Star selections and two Silver Sluggers.
New York is also positioned to realistically win its first World Series since 2009 in large part because of Judge's presence in the middle of its lineup.
How valuable that presence is will once again be up for discussion this offseason even if the two sides avoided arbitration for the rest of the 2022 season.