I’ve been fighting this battle on Twitter for almost a year now, it constantly pulls me back in. But at the start of this season I promised my girlfriend, whose about done with me talking about Judge and injuries, that I would let it go. I wouldn’t fight my “Aaron Judge isn’t the face of baseball fight,” I wouldn’t let my annoyance with his constant injuries ruin my “60 game sprint season.” It was easy for the first three weeks. I mean how could I complain about a guy who wins AL player of the week after hitting six home runs after five games, but things changes quick as they always seem to do with Judge.
Barely a month into the season, Judge was already placed on the IL for a calf strain and so began the revival of my “Judge just isn’t it” argument. So in case you don’t follow my Twitter, or haven’t had me jump onto one of your “Aaron Judge is the face of baseball” posts I’ll fill you in.
I’m not saying that big guys shouldn’t or can’t play baseball but moving a 6-foot-7 body carrying 282 ish pounds certainly isn’t easy, and it leads to many of Judge’s issues. Judge is one of, if not the biggest player in the MLB currently, but isn’t the only giant baseball player in history. Sure there are players like Richie Sexson and Tony Clark (both seemingly favorite examples from “keep judge forever camp”) but Sexson and Clark both played primarily at first base, a position that makes for much less pounding and moving of a big body.
“Well what about Dave Winfield?” people constantly throw in my face. It’s true. He was a 6-foot-6, 220 pound Hall of Fame outfielder, you are absolutely right Aaron Judge isn’t the only one of his kind. But Winfield had some trouble with injuries himself — not that it stopped him from making his way into the Hall of Fame — but the point is big bodies get hurt and older big bodies get hurt even more and guess what? Aaron Judge is only getting older.
Size and injury mostly go hand in hand. I’m not just hating on the guy because he’s Empire State Building tall, rather I’m saying his body size makes it hard for him to handle the demands of baseball. Since he was called up in 2016, which ended early due to an oblique strain, Judge has only really played one almost complete season, 2017, which won him AL Rookie of the Year. It was a great season and we were all on the Judge train, including the Yankees organization which quickly debuted the Judge’s Chambers in the right field stands, a little prematurely if you ask me.
2017 wasn’t completely injury free, though. Judge has some shoulder pain plague his second half after competing in the home run derby. I guess we will call this the “swing too hard” injury of 2017. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse. Every year, the Yankees give Judge slightly more money while Judge plays slightly less games. In 2018 and 2019, Judge averaged about 100 games which is fine when you are paying the dude less than a million a year, but it starts to get rather annoying when you think about him making $25 million a year.
I want to give Judge a pass for the 2018 fractured wrist injury because you can’t blame the guy for getting hit by a pitch. In 2019, Judge dealt with an oblique injury in April and a shoulder injury in September. Before the 2020 season we learned of a rib issue that would keep Judge from starting the season in April. Luckily the injury healed during the shut down but that wouldn’t be the last in 2020.
Less than a month into the season, Judge had already been placed on the IL for a calf problem. Yes, I know, he doesn’t think he should be on the IL but you know what, he is — and he is because he played a few games on turf. Sure, Giancarlo Stanton can’t run the bases, but Aaron can’t play on turf. I’d like to think that this is the end of the 2020 Judge injury saga, but I’m more than skeptical.
Judge is 28 years old this year. Not old, but certainly not young when you’ve got guys like Gleyber Torres and Fernando Tatis Jr. making waves in their early twenties. Judge is under Yankees control for another two years, meaning his free agency doesn’t hit until he’s 31 years old, not exactly a spring chicken. Harper, Trout, and most recently Mookie all signed their big contracts before the age of 30. Age isn’t a make or break thing, but if a guy in his mid-20’s can’t stay healthy what do you expect out of a guy in his mid 30’s?
“But he’s the face of baseball”
He might be the “face of baseball” right now but if we know anything about the Yankees it’s that they don’t just give out contracts because you sell jerseys. There is no earning anything with the Yankees. Remember when they let go of the 2009 World Series MVP? How about when Cashman told Jeter he could find other shortstops? Sure, they ended up signing Jeter but if Brain Cashman is ok with insulting Jeter and shopping around he certainly won’t mind doing it to Judge.
You don’t earn a long term contract cause you win one World Series, and Aaron hasn’t even won a World Series yet. I know you want to bring up Gardy and CC, but let me stop you there. Signing those guys for $12 and $10 million for a year respectively is not comparable to giving Judge $25 million a year.
I think there are two ways you can handle the Judge situation.
1) Trade: Judge can still be used as a trade piece for someone big. I would go after another starter but I’m no GM. The point is that as of right now, Judge has enough value to have some return for the Yankees.
2) Wait it out: Judge has another two years under Yankee control so it might be worth it to wait out these years and let him go to free agency. If teams are thinking anything like I’m thinking, they won’t even offer Judge the kind of monster contract most people believe he will get. If offers are lower, the Yankees might be able to scoop him up for a reasonable price, one that doesn’t pay $25 mil a year.
Either way, in my opinion, you can’t give a guy you misses 1/3 of the season during his prime a history making contract. I’m not saying get rid of him, but I am certainly saying that we can’t give him a Mookie contract, or even one similar.