Yankees, Aaron Richter avoids arbitration

11:54 am: Judge and the Yankees have agreed a $19 million guarantee, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter connections). That’s right in the middle of signup numbers, though the deal comes with additional potential incentives. The judge would earn an additional $250,000 each for winning the AL MVP and World Series MVP awards this season.

11:35 am: The Yankees and Aaron Richter have agreed on a contract to avoid arbitration, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). They were due to have a hearing this afternoon, but the last-minute agreement avoids that need.

Judge and the Yankees should go through the process with the largest gap in submission counts of any player-team pairing this season. The judges’ camp had requested a salary of $21 million, while the Yankees countered with $17 million. MLB’s arbitration system does not allow umpires to land on a midpoint; Had they gone to a hearing, the arbitrators would have had to set the judge’s salary at either $17 million or $21 million. By avoiding litigation, the parties can come to an amicable middle ground. That avoids any acrimony that arises in an adversarial hearing for the face of the franchise.

This was the final season of arbitration for Judge, who is just months away from his first venture into the open market. He turned down a seven-year $213.5 million renewal offer during spring training. It looks like it would pay well to bet on himself as the slugger will arguably be the best talent available.

Judge surpassed MLBTR’s initial upcoming class power ranking a month ago, and since then he has clipped .288/.369/.606. He comes into play on Friday and owns a .302/.379/.663 line overall, and his 27 home runs are six ahead of anyone else in the game. He is ready to go free before his campaign at the age of 31 and appears to be on track to an eight-year contract if he continues to play at elite level in the last three months of the season.

As most probably know by now, Judge’s incredible 2022 production would not have been admissible in his arbitration. The arb process usually takes place off-season, with salaries set before opening day. Last winter’s lockout froze league business for more than three months, leaving players, teams and referees insufficient time to resolve all cases during spring training. Hearings therefore continued into the season, but MLB and the Players Association agreed that all cases had to be based on the player’s pre-2022 work.

Judge, of course, had a solid career record going into the first half of this season’s MVP caliber. He entered the year as a career .276/.386/.554 hitter, accumulating a trio of All-Star appearances and two Silver Slugger Awards in the process. The Fresno State product hit .287/.373/.544 with 39 home runs and 98 batted runs last season, a platform performance that set him up for a big raise compared to his $10.175 million salary as of 2021.

The settlement of the judge’s case officially closes the books of the 2021-22 Arbitration Class. 31 players had situations that lasted into the season, although the majority reached mid-season agreements or multi-year contract extensions. According to the Associated Press, of the 13 players heard this season, four have won their cases.