As questions continue to linger about the future of MLB home run leader Aaron Judge, who's a free agent at season's end, rival executives reportedly expect him to remain with the New York Yankees.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported Thursday that "most" within baseball think the Yanks will find a way to re-sign the four-time All-Star outfielder.
"They have to keep him, don't they?" an unnamed general manager told Heyman.
In June, Judge and the Yankees agreed on a one-year, $19 million contract for 2022 to avoid a hearing for his final year of arbitration. The slugger said no further discussions would be held about a long-term deal.
"That's for when the season's done," Judge told reporters.
The 30-year-old California native has bolstered his value with a terrific season. He's compiled a .296/.399/.664 slash line with 51 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 127 appearances. No one else in baseball has more than 36 homers.
Judge has played his entire career with New York, which selected him in the first round of the 2013 draft. He reached the major leagues in 2016 and won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2017 after hitting 52 longballs in his first full season.
His foray into free agency could be a watershed moment for the modern-day Yankees.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Yanks under George Steinbrenner were willing to spare no expense to chase World Series titles.
The financial balance of power has shifted toward the Los Angeles Dodgers and, more recently, the New York Mets over the past decade, though.
With Judge putting himself in line to receive a monster contract, the Yankees will likely have to step up if they're going to outbid those bid-spending rivals and others.
Although discussions about the Yanks' lack of spending are a bit overblown—they still rank third with a $252.2 million payroll this season, per Spotrac—it's reasonable to question whether they'll keep Judge no matter the price. There may be a limit.
If the likely AL MVP leaves over the winter, there will be incredible pressure on the front office to make other moves during the offseason to keep the club in championship contention next year and beyond.
Staying with the Yankees still seems like the most probable outcome for Judge, though.