PITTSBURGH — As he watches Aaron Judge having a potentially historic season en route to free agency, Hal Steinbrenner said Wednesday he has “no regrets” about not signing the slugger last offseason.
“We made an offer that I feel was a very good one,” the Yankees managing general partner said on a Zoom call. “It was based on the numbers, of course, but it was also based, in part, on what he means to the organization. It was a combination of both. And we just didn’t get a deal done.”
Prior to Judge’s Opening Day deadline, the Yankees made Judge a seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer.
Since then, the two sides were able to avoid arbitration by settling minutes before a hearing was set to take place at $19 million, with bonuses that could bring it to $19.5 million after the Yankees offered $17 million and Judge asked for $21 million.
“We had less time [to negotiate] this offseason than we normally would because of the lockout,” Steinbrenner said. “There are no regrets. We’re gonna be having discussions at some point.”
Asked if he thinks they’ll have to increase the offer whenever they come to the table again, Steinbrenner said, “that’s a hypothetical,” but didn’t rule it out.
“We’ve got three, hopefully four months left in the season, with the entire postseason,” Steinbrenner said. “We’re halfway through the season. Is it a possibility? Of course it’s a possibility. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
Like Judge, Steinbrenner said he wouldn’t talk about the contract situation during the season.
“We’re not gonna give any updates,” Steinbrenner said. “I completely agree with Aaron — and still do — that in no way shape or form can this be a distraction. Our sole focus is winning a championship. That’s all anyone needs to worry about right now. We’ll see where we end up.”
Judge has made his case by entering Wednesday’s game against the Pirates with an MLB-high 29 homers and being the central part of an offense that has gotten the Yankees off to a 58-23 start.
“Aaron is a great Yankee and he is very valuable to the organization,” Steinbrenner said. “He’s a great leader. Obviously, he’s performed extremely well this year, which we’re all thrilled about.”
As for talks following the season, when Judge can hit the open market following the World Series for the first time, Steinbrenner said: “Any great Yankee, it’s gonna be something we’re looking at and talking about seriously. He means a lot to the organization. Nobody’s gonna deny that.”
Asked whether he’s “optimistic or hopeful” the team can come to a long-term deal with the star, Steinbrenner said: “There’s no doubt we’re hopeful that is the case. But there’s a lot of discussion to be had and I’m always willing to talk.”
He also defended the team and general manager Brian Cashman publicly disclosing its offer to Judge, which Judge acknowledged upset him.
“To my knowledge, what we announced is what we offered,” Steinbrenner said. “We knew that was gonna get out anyway. As [Cashman] said, we wanted to be as transparent as possible.”
Soon enough, Stienbrenner and the Yankees will find out how much it will cost them to keep Judge around.
“He’s been phenomenal,” Steinbrenner said. “Not only with his play on the field, but his leadership. He’s a guy that’s confident, a great talent and he believes in himself. That’s what you’re seeing this year and we’re all thrilled.”