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New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge on Wednesday was named captain, the 16th in franchise history, on the heels of his MVP season and landmark free agent contract.
Judge, 30, signed a nine-year deal worth $360 million and was named the first captain in pinstripes since Hall of Fame member Derek Jeter retired following the 2014 season.
With Jeter and Willie Randolph in attendance, the moves formally were announced by the Yankees at a news conference.
“Getting a chance to be the captain of the Yankees now, that goes without saying what an honor that is. I looked back at the list — Thurman Munson, Lou Gehrig, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly,” Judge said.
“That’s a pretty good list right there, not only great baseball players but great ambassadors of the game and great ambassadors of the New York Yankees. This is an incredible honor that I don’t take lightly.”
Judge landed the mega-deal after rolling the dice by turning down a massive offer last spring. Judge hit 62 home runs in 2022, establishing an American League home run record.
He turned down what general manager Brian Cashman publicly revealed was a contract covering seven years at $213.5 million in March 2022.
Terms of an offer from the San Francisco Giants matching financial figures to the final deal with the Yankees began to leak earlier this month. Reporters herded at baseball’s winter meetings helped fan flames that Judge was San Francisco-bound after a premature report signaled Judge was a goner.
Judge also had an offer from the San Diego Padres, but after contemplating contract offers from those three teams, decided to return to New York.
“The last month, it was difficult to imagine the New York Yankees without Aaron,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said.
“One of the conversations we had two weeks ago, I actually said to him, ‘As far as I’m concerned, you are not a free agent, as far as I’m concerned you are a Yankee, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that remains the same.’
“Technically speaking, of course, I was incorrect in my feelings. Aaron was a free agent and there were numerous clubs that wanted him in a big way to be a part of their organization. Fortunately in the end, it all worked out.”
A four-time All-Star, Judge has 220 career home runs and 497 RBIs in seven seasons. He led the American League with 131 RBIs in 2022.
Cashman and team executives said after the season that bringing Judge back was the “only” priority and making him team captain was a consideration.
“We would love to continue to call him our player every step of the way as he follows what looks like — as long as nothing happens — a career path that will lead him to Cooperstown,” Cashman said. “I would like him to be in pinstripes every step of the way.” – Rappler.com