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MLB executives offer wild thoughts on Aaron Judge possibly leaving New York Yankees in 2023

Matt Johnson
Aaron Judge
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge is the leading candidate for the AL MVP watch 2022 and he is powering the New York Yankees atop the MLB standings and towards the MLB playoffs. While Judge is focused on the season and his arbitration battle with New York, many around the league are thinking about his future.

New York had an opportunity to sign Judge to a long-term contract this spring. While the Yankees made a sizable offer, it fell short of the salaries for the highest paid MLB players. Ultimately, Judge rejected it and went into his contract year looking to prove himself.

That’s precisely what the 30-year-old outfielder is doing. He entered Wednesday as the favorite for MVP honors, led MLB in All-Star Game votes and is enjoying one of the best seasons by a contract-year player in recent memory.

  • Aaron Judge stats (2022): .300/.378/.644, 25 home runs, 50 RBI, 3.8 FanGraphs WAR, 184 wRC+

Judge is staying healthy, all while playing quality defense in center field. Once his arbitration case is settled, determining his salary at either $17 million or $21 million, he can focus entirely on baseball. While he isn’t focused on free agency this winter, multiple MLB executives weighed in on what might happen.

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Buster Olney of ESPN spoke to multiple officials across the league about Judge’s upcoming free agency. Among the most surprising quotes was the suggestion that Judge would essentially no longer be relevant if he leaves the Yankees.

“If [Judge] signs with another team, it’d be like Alex Rodriguez going [from Seattle] to Texas. He’d disappear.┬áNo matter where it is, he wouldn’t have the same impact [on the baseball landscape] than he would if he just stayed with the Yankees. If he stays with the Yankees, he’ll be the next [Derek] Jeter — they’d probably make him captain, and he’ll make twice as much money in endorsements than anywhere else.”

MLB executive on potential impact if Aaron Judge leaves the New York Yankees

While there is some argument to be made for Judge’s overall popularity to take a hit, it’s not like there aren’t other alternatives. He could easily become the face of the New York Mets or Boston Red Sox, creating a direct rivalry with the Yankees and potentially even improving MLB’s popularity.

Furthermore, the same argument being made against Judge leaving New York is why the franchise should be willing to offer him more money. There isn’t another marketable player available within the next year who matches Judge’s popularity. All of that adds value to his brand, which the Yankees need to pay him for in his next contract.

Incredibly, it’s not the strangest comment made by a team official. When Olney asked an MLB talent evaluator about what Judge is looking for as a free agent, he mentioned the desire to win. In the process, the anonymous team official also took a shot at the Chicago Cubs.

“He wants to win…(he) wouldn’t sign with a loser like the Cubs are right now.”

MLB talent evaluator on Aaron Judge and the Chicago Cubs

It’s certainly true that Chicago is an unlikely landing spot for Judge, considering how far away the team is from competing for a World Series. However, the obvious shot at the Cubs when there are so many teams just as bad is unexpected.

In the end, Judge isn’t thinking about any of this right now and it would still be a surprise if he doesn’t re-sign with the Yankees this winter. If something goes wrong and he departs, Judge will land with a competitive team and his popularity will survive leaving New York just fine.