Cashman says Yankees, others have `pot of gold’ awaiting Judge

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Brian Cashman realizes Aaron Judge struck gold with his record-setting season, raising the price for the New York Yankees to keep their star slugger.

In the hours before opening day last April, Judge rejected a contract that would have paid him $213.5 million over seven seasons from 2023-29. He is eligible for free agency and will command far more after setting an American League record with 62 homers, tying for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missing a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.

“There’s a pot of gold there,” Cashman, the Yankees general manager, said ahead of the Division Series against Cleveland. “It’s yet to be determined what the gold – how much it weighs – but it’s a pot of gold, no doubt about it. So good for him. It was already a big pot and, obviously, it’ll be bigger.”

Judge was drafted by the Yankees in 2013 and homered in his first big league at-bat three years later. The 30-year-old Californian has become the post-Derek Jeter face of the Yankees, a four-time All-Star with 220 home runs over seven seasons and a fan favorite recognizable for his 6-foot-7, 282-pound frame and ever-present smile.

“He’s put himself in an amazing position to have a lot of choices,” Cashman said. “And clearly, obviously, we’d like to win the day on that discussion, and that’s obviously for another day. But we said that before the season. We said that many times during the season. If you need to hear it again. I’ll say it again: Yeah, of course we love to have Aaron Judge back as New York Yankee, but that’s all for another day.”

Judge had a $19 million salary this season in a one-year contract that avoided an arbitration hearing. He would not negotiate a long-term deal during the season.

“I’ve been vocal about I want to be a Yankee for life,” Judge said before the opener. “I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here. They’re family. This is home for me, and not getting that done right now, it stinks. … At the end of the year, I’m a free agent. I can talk to 30 teams and the Yankees will be one of those 30 teams.”

New York can negotiate terms with Judge exclusively through the first 15 days after the World Series. After that, all teams can bid.

“He’s a great player who bet on himself, and it’s the all-time best bet, right, the way he navigated the season,” Cashman said. “Obviously, he was healthy and you know what he’s capable of when he’s healthy. He’s always putting up huge numbers when he stays healthy, and he’s stayed healthy now for a number of years.”

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.