The Yankees in the Hal Steinbrenner/Brian Cashman era are typically rational in free agency, bypassing bidding wars in favor of what they perceive as value.
This sometimes frustrates fans old enough to remember George Steinbrenner’s whims(which, by the way, often proved foolhardy), but it’s the way the 21st century Yanks operate.
Most of the time.
Every so often, Hal decides to put on blinders, bear down and hone in on a particular target, damn the cost. The two most memorable were CC Sabathia ($161 million) after the 2008 season and Gerrit Cole ($324 million) after 2019.
It appears that no one in the media knows exactly what the Yankees have offered Aaron Judge -- in fact, I’m told that barely anyone in the Yankees organization has details, either -- but the vibe I’m catching is that he’s soon to become another Sabathia or Cole. It would be a mild surprise if this doesn’t wrap up by the end of next week’s winter meetings, the time frame when those other two players signed.
At the quarterly owners meetings this month, Steinbrenner projected confidence in his team’s ability to do what it took to retain Judge.
"I’ve absolutely conveyed that I want him to be a Yankee for the rest of his life," Steinbrenner told reporters. "No doubt about that. He knows the rest is up to him and his family and where they want to go from here, but we’re going to do what we can. I can assure you."
That press briefing in itself was a clue. It is not Steinbrenner’s style to express that kind of confidence in his ability to retain a player, unless he really is that confident. Clearly, the one-on-one conversations with Judge earlier in the offseason went well.
The Yankees do not know if Judge will choose them -- "hopeful" is probably a better word than "confident," because Judge is an often inscrutable person who holds his true feelings close -- but they do appear poised to flex their financial advantage.
We can use logic to extrapolate that the Yanks would pay Judge more than $35 million per year for eight or nine years, but no one involved would come close to confirming that, on or off the record. The team seems determined not to publicize any details of this negotiation while it is ongoing.
That is their right, of course. But this isn’t my first offseason, and I can tell you that this one smells like Sabathia and Cole.