Since the first pitch was thrown out in April, one of the big questions in Major League Baseball has been: Will Yankees slugger Aaron Judge re-sign with the team, or become a free agent?
Amazingly, at the beginning of this season, Judge turned down an offer from the New York Yankees, worth $213 million for seven years.
Little did he know, this season he would break Roger Maris’ American League single-season record of 61 home runs and become a candidate for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Judge’s market value has only risen since he turned down that huge contract offer earlier in the year.
Based on his performance, Judge is “driving the bus” when it comes to contract negotiations. Assuming he declares free agency, he will have many passengers boarding his “bus,” including the Yankees and several other teams that hope to sign him.
This should be an interesting set of negotiations.
Usually in contract negotiations the guidelines are clear. Not this time. In recent years, some of MLB’s biggest stars Mookie Betts of the Dodgers, Mike Trout of the Angels and Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres each signed contracts in the $300 million range.
These contracts all are above the initial offer from the Yankees to Judge and provide him with a legitimate basis for countering with an amount above the team’s initial offer. He has both information and legitimate power.
There will be plenty of other free agents watching this negotiation scenario play out on the national stage. This could become a template for future contract negotiations.
What is Judge’s true value? The Yankees need to figure it out quickly or the marketplace will do it for them. There will be a bidding war among the passengers on Judge’s bus. This will result in a monster contract, and anyone riding the bus has the ability to have skin in this game.
There is a veiled threat that Judge could end up across the East River in Queens playing for the New York Mets or on the Pacific Coast playing for the Dodgers or Giants. The pressure will be on the Yankees from their fan base, and from his fellow players to keep Judge in pinstripes.
So, if you were Judge’s agent, what criteria would you use to convince those many passengers on the bus that your client is worth a $300 million contract? Would you use the prior agreements with the current and past players? What should be the length of the agreement? Would you use his record-breaking performance this year? Is the fact that he could be chosen the MVP of the league an important factor in the negotiation?
All of these elements together would make for a powerful argument for a record-breaking salary agreement. I would expect his agent would use all the tools available to him to leverage the best possible deal for his client.
But, one final element must be taken into consideration. What does Aaron Judge want? At the present time this is a mystery and only he knows the answer.
So as the Aaron Judge bus continues its journey, one or more of the passengers will be getting on and off as the fare begins to increase. I expect the bidding to start once Judge declares himself a free agent at the end of the season. The Yankees need to act prior to this bus reaching that final stop on the journey, step up to the plate and make him the type offer he cannot refuse.
They had that opportunity at the beginning of the season and did not make their best offer. Now, it’s safe to say, at this time the ball is in Aaron’s court and he will be the ultimate judge.
This situation can easily occur in salary negotiations with top executives. Many companies base their offers on what the last person was earning, rather than researching what the going rates are in the relevant market. If this is the mid- to upper-level executive you want to add to your team, make them an offer that is more than competitive, one that satisfies their needs. More than likely, there is a high probability they are also negotiating with other companies and you want them to join your team. Make your first offer your best offer, and you will not strike out. Instead, you may hit that needed home run.
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