By RONALD BLUM and JAY COHEN (AP Baseball Writers)
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Aaron Judge has issued his ruling: Court remains in session in the Bronx.
Judge is staying with the New York Yankees on a $360 million, nine-year contract, according to a person familiar with baseball’s biggest free agent deal ever.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the AL MVP’s contract had not been announced.
Judge, who hit an American League record 62 homers last season, will earn $40 million per year, the highest average annual payout for a position player. The contract trails only Mike Trout’s $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels and Mookie Betts’ $365 million pact with the Los Angeles Dodgers for biggest in baseball history. Trout and Betts were already under contract when they signed those deals.
The Yankees made a long-term offer to Judge before last season that was worth $213.5 million over seven years from 2023-29. But the outfielder turned it down in the hours before opening day in April.
The 6-foot-7 Judge bet on himself — and won.
Judge surpassed Roger Maris’ AL home run mark to power New York to an AL East title. He also tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missed a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.
New York was swept by Houston in the AL Championship Series, but Judge became the first AL MVP for the Yankees since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.
By rejecting the Yankees’ preseason offer, Judge gained $146.5 million and an extra two guaranteed seasons. The Northern California native also visited with the San Francisco Giants last month, and there likely were more teams monitoring the market for the slugger who turns 31 in April.
Judge’s decision will have a domino effect on several teams and free agents. His status held up at least some of New York’s offseason plans — given the size of the contract — but general manager Brian Cashman made it clear his team would wait patiently while Judge contemplated his options.
In the end, that approach worked.
“So we’ll wait, we’ll wait for this process to play out,” Cashman said Monday at baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego. “And that means staying active in the conversations and negotiations.”
Judge, 30, was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft and made his big league debut in 2016, homering in his first at-bat.
A year later, he was one of baseball’s breakout stars. He hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBIs in 2017, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. The four-time All-Star has 220 homers and 497 RBIs in seven big league seasons.
“A guy of his stature and his greatness hopefully spends his entire career into Monument Park and into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee,” New York manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday.
The average annual value of Judge’s deal trails only New York Mets pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, at $43.3 million. Verlander’s deal was reached Monday and hasn’t been announced, but a person familiar with it told the AP he would earn $86.7 million over two years.
Blum reported from Qatar.
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