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Aaron Judge Had the Best Contract Year in Sports History

There are other solid candidates, but once he hit 62 on Tuesday, it became official. No one has had a better contract year than Aaron Judge.

There’s no metric that defines the best contract year in sports, per se. But if there was, you could bet that Aaron Judge‘s contract year would be at the top of that list.

In Game No. 161, the Yankees‘ slugger passed Roger Maris with his 62nd home run of the season, setting the American League single-season record. He currently has 16 more homers than anyone else in 2022, which will make for the largest difference between the top two home run hitters in a single year since Jimmie Foxx (58) and Babe Ruth (41) in 1932.

His incredible contract season goes beyond hitting dingers as the Yankees prepare for their fifth-straight postseason bid. Judge nearly accomplished the first triple crown since Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the league in homers, RBIs (131), runs (133), OBP (.425), SLG (.686), OPS (1.111), and total bases (391).

In this context, Judge not only had one of the best seasons in MLB history, he’s had the best contract year ever, anywhere.

Perhaps it’s a lesson for everyone to bet on themselves, despite what someone else thinks your value is. That’s what Judge did β€” and look at him now.

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Aaron Judge Contract in 2022

Despite not agreeing on an extension in the preseason, Judge and the Yankees hammered out a one-year deal to avoid arbitration for the 2022 season. The AL Home Run King made $19 million this season and will make an additional $250,000 each if he wins American League and World Series MVP.

Betting On Himself

The 30-year-old four-time All-Star turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension from the Yankees in Spring Training. He countered with an offer in the neighborhood of 9-10 years and $36 million, per the NY Post.

That was before his 2022 tear. His value has skyrocketed since.

His age, however, is the one downside. Mike Trout‘s deal (12 years, $426.5 million) has the highest total value in MLB history. If Judge were to sign a 12-year deal, the Yankees (or another team) would be paying him a boatload of cash until he’s 43. That’s not likely to happen.

Forbes estimates that Judge will get upward of $400 million one way or another. It’s just a matter of whether the Bronx Bombers are the ones paying him.

Anyone Else?

When I tweeted that Judge had the best contract year in sports history, most agreed. But some brought up interesting counters. I remain unconvinced, but let’s discuss…

Michael Jordan, 1996

This was probably the most popular reply I received. “MJ would like a word” or a meme of Jordan taking the tweet “personally.” All good! Jordan signed an eight-year contract with Chicago worth roughly $25 million prior to the 1988-89 season.

He was severely underpaid and nearly went to the New York Knicks in 1996-97, but the Bulls signed His Airness to the then-highest-paying contract in American sports history β€” a one-year, $30.14 million deal. During the 1995-96 contract year, Jordan led the league in scoring (30.4 PPG), the Bulls won a then-record 72 regular-season games, and MJ won MVP and Finals MVP.

Fair case, but the context, build-up, and dramatics behind Judge’s contract year mean more to me than the greatest basketball player of all-time doing what he does best.

Who’s Next?

Lamar Jackson: The star quarterback turned down a five-year extension offer worth over $250 million β€” $133 million guaranteed at signing. The figure isn’t the problem. He wants that $250 million to be fully guaranteed.

Kyrie Irving: The 30-year-old was eligible for a five-year, $245M contract, but the Brooklyn Nets didn’t want to commit so much money for so long for a player who missed more regular-season games than he’s played (113-103) in three seasons in Brooklyn. Instead, he opted into his $37 million option, making him an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Again, there’s no singular way of saying Judge’s was the best ever, but that’s my take.

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