Lists are not the most creative of ways to get into a column, but I feel we need one to begin this piece. Because this grouping, this top 5, this — OK, I will use the dirty four-letter word — list will be our guide through trying to unbundle the Aaron Judge extension talks with the Yankees.
Contract negotiations in baseball revolve around comparables, and to get a sense of where Judge and the Yankees stand, we first need to understand where Judge stands in the game now. This list is for Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement from 2017-21, the five full seasons that Judge has been a Yankee:
1. Mookie Betts, 32.0
2. Mike Trout, 28.4
3t. Judge, 26.7
3t. Jose Ramirez, 26.7
5. Nolan Arenado, 25.9
So why is this list fascinating? Because Betts and Trout are definitely going to be central to these Judge talks. Because Ramirez — look at that, tied with Judge in this category — is the other mega-player involved in extension negotiations right now with his team (Cleveland). And because Arenado in February 2019 signed the kind of star-level, face-of-the-franchise extension with Colorado before beginning his walk year that the Yankees and Judge are trying to complete now.