ST. PETERSBURG — Aaron Judge plans to dress in a sharp suit, find a comfortable chair and log on for his arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Friday, a meeting scheduled to take place on Zoom.
A difference of $4 million remains between Judge and the Yankees, with an arbitration panel preparing to determine Judge’s 2022 salary. Judge and his agent, Page Odle, filed at $21 million, while the club filed at $17 million.
“It’s all business,” Judge said. “For me, it’s plain and simple: I love this team, I love this organization and everything, but this is a business side of it that I don’t like at times. I don’t think a lot of people like it; I don’t think the team likes it. You have to go through, you handle it and you move on.”
Though the 30-year-old Judge is enjoying an MVP-caliber campaign, owning a .301/.380/.647 slash line with a Major League-leading 25 home runs and 55 runs scored in 65 games, the arbitration panel’s decision should not incorporate arguments from the 2022 campaign.
Judge slashed .287/.373/.544 with 39 home runs and 98 RBIs in 148 games for the Yankees last season, when he was selected as an All-Star for the third time, received his second Silver Slugger Award and placed fourth in the American League MVP race.
On Opening Day, Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension that would have set his 2022 salary at $17 million. While Judge is eligible for free agency after this season and figures to be in line for a massive deal, he does not believe the contract situation impacted his play.
“I’m not really motivated by that kind of stuff,” Judge said. “I’m more motivated by the type of team we’ve got, the special talent we have here and the opportunity we have ahead of us. I try to just keep focusing on that, and it makes it pretty easy to block this other stuff with the business side out.”
Judge was not in the Yankees’ lineup on Tuesday, with manager Aaron Boone looking to give the slugger a day off on Tropicana Field’s artificial turf. Boone said that he had no plans to discuss the upcoming hearing with Judge.
“Whatever happens there, I know what Aaron’s focus is and what he wants to accomplish,” Boone said. “I don’t expect anything to get in the way of that.”
The Yankees have not participated in an arbitration hearing since 2017, when they were victorious over reliever Dellin Betances, who sought $5 million and received $3 million. Betances, who participated in his hearing, was irked after team president Randy Levine blasted the request as “having no bearing in reality.”
“He just didn’t like how the process went,” recalled Judge, who was a rookie that spring. “[Betances] kind of mixed personal [feelings] with business. He gave a lot to this organization, and the numbers he put up for quite a few years — even though he wasn’t a closer, he did a lot of special things. Maybe he thought he should get reciprocated for that, but it didn’t happen.”
Judge said that he has spoken to some players who went through the arbitration process and “hated it,” though others have told Judge that “it was actually kind of good to hear what they say about me.” Judge said he would prefer to be in a physical room for the hearing, but he plans to take in every word.
“I’m going to introduce myself to the arbitrators, then sit back and let my team do the work,” Judge said.