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Yankees beat Red Sox after failing to extend Aaron Judge

Opening day arrived in the Bronx on Friday, with sunshine bathing the glistening green lawn of Yankee Stadium. The Boston Red Sox might as well have floated from their hotel.

“It’s a special place,” their manager, Alex Cora, said before batting practice. “If you need your alarm clock to go off in the morning today, sorry.”

For the Yankees and Aaron Judge, the alarm sounded like a sad trombone. They ended the day happily, with a 6-5 victory on a first single by their new third baseman, Josh Donaldson, in the 11th inning. The judge was on deck to slap Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the ghost runner who rushed home from second base.

Today was Judge’s deadline to sign a contract extension before the offseason, when he will be eligible for free agency. There were no last-minute negotiations; two hours before the first pitch, general manager Brian Cashman said the talks were over, at least for now.

The Yankees, Cashman said, had offered Judge, their benchmark outfielder, a seven-year, $213.5 million contract that would begin in 2023. Judge, who turns 30 this month, said no.

“Our intention is for Aaron Judge to remain a New York Yankee as we move forward, and I know that’s his intention as well, which is a good thing,” Cashman said. “We’re obviously going to be entering these efforts in a new arena, which would be at the end of the season when free agency begins. This may determine its actual market value, as we certainly couldn’t agree at this point.

The Yankees have been relatively quiet this offseason, mostly ignoring a robust free agent market. The idea was that Judge would be their extravaganza, and if he had signed the contract, it would have been the second biggest deal given since the World Series, after Corey Seager’s 10-year, $325 million contract with Texas. .

The Yankees added two everyday players, Donaldson and Kiner-Falefa, in a trade with Minnesota for two more, Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela. They retained first baseman Anthony Rizzo and traded reliever Miguel Castro, but otherwise held off.

“In terms of going back, I have nothing to settle here,” Cashman said. “I feel like we’ve improved in a lot of areas that we needed to address, and we still have the option, if someone changes their mind, to keep the player we’d like to keep.”

There is no rule prohibiting the Yankees from continuing to negotiate with Judge. Deadline was his strategy, and Judge avoided it at the end of spring training. The Yankees, Cashman said, would be willing to keep talking.

“I will respect his position,” Cashman said. “But I will never rule out, if the opportunity exists, to review things over time. I mean, he’s too good a player, on my end, to be stubborn and say, ‘No, no, we’re not going to talk anymore.’ If there’s anything either party needs to adjust or listen to, I’m open-minded at all times.

Cashman said he could not know if the Yankees would make the same offer after the season; it can be higher or lower, depending on what happens between now and then. The risk now passes to the judge.

Some players bet on themselves and come out on top; Max Scherzer once rejected a $144 million contract extension from Detroit, then got $210 million from Washington in free agency. Then again, others are losing the bet, like Juan Gonzalez, who also rejected an offer from the Tigers, for $140 million, and ended up earning around $46 million the rest of his career.

Yankees and Judge still haven’t agreed on 2022 salary; they are scheduled for an arbitration hearing to determine whether the judge will get $21 million, as he requested, or the Yankees’ offer of $17 million.

“Just getting into extension talks has been a blessing,” Judge said. “I never thought in my life that I would have this opportunity. It is not something guaranteed. Just to even think about going that route with the Yankees is something special. I know I was guaranteed last year; it was a refereeing year, and that’s what I’m going to focus on. I have a year to play and the contract extensions are fine, but I have more important things to focus on.

It’s hard to predict how Judge will age, as there’s never been a player of his size to use as a basis of comparison. Judge is the only position player in the history of the sport, according to Baseball Reference, to be at least 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds.

Adam Dunn was close, an inch shorter than Judge and a bit heavier. A reliable 40-homer hitter until age 30, Dunn did not age well and finished before his 35th birthday. The best comparison is Judge’s teammate Giancarlo Stanton, who is listed at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds and is signed until 37.

The Yankees accepted this contract (with some salary relief) in a trade with Miami after the 2017 season. It was natural for them to commit to Judge for the same term as Stanton, who has about two and a half years of more. But was it smart?

Stanton, who homered in the front row of right field seats on Friday, has had two healthy seasons in New York, and two cut short by injury. Judge followed a similar pattern: He was durable as a rookie and again last season, but missed 37% of Yankees games in the intervening three years.

This season, Judge could be forced to miss Yankees games in Toronto. Only players vaccinated against the coronavirus will be allowed to enter Canada, and Judge has been coy about his vaccination status. Cashman wouldn’t say what role, if any, that played in the negotiations.

When the Red Sox signed infielder Trevor Story (six, $140 million) last month, they made it a prerequisite for Story to receive the vaccine. It’s a sensible request for a player in a team sport — especially for an influential star in the clubhouse, like Judge with the Yankees.

“He’s the ultimate teammate,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s probably the biggest leader in this room and he’s an incredible player who wants to go out and be big and wants nothing more than to be part of a Championship club. There’s no doubt in my mind that what whatever the outcome, nothing will change the way Aaron approaches things.

Boone was speaking before the game, shortly after Judge met reporters near his locker. He now has the space at the end of the clubhouse, between an empty stall and the entrance to the no-go areas. It is a symbol of judge status, awarded by club house manager Rob Cucuzza. Previous occupants have included Jorge Posada, Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner.

“I talked to Gardy about it a bit – he said, ‘Take care of it,'” Judge said. “It’s an incredible honour. I actually talked to Robby about it, he asked me if I wanted to be here. I said, ‘I just appreciate that you think I deserve to be here, it means a lot.’ I hope I’ll keep this record well.

It can be a short term rental.

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