Aaron Judge during the 2022 season.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Baseball, Bank Accounts and Bombs: MLB Mega Contracts Might Not Be Worth Their Weight in Gold

The verdict is in: Aaron Judge will remain a Yankee. After a record-setting season, the behemoth outfielder decided to stay in the Big Apple and remain with the New York Yankees, signing a nine-year, $360 million deal, according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi.

It was one of the greatest "betting on yourself" examples in sports history. Judge made Yankee fans "all rise" 62 times, setting the American League record for the most home runs in a single season — surpassing legends such as Babe Ruth and Roger Maris — and earning an extra $146.5 million and two years because of it. Prior to the 2022 season, the Yankees offered their slugger $213.5 million over seven years.

With the bidding for Judge over, we can now make the completely rational and correct decision to decide if it was smart giving a 30-year-old power hitter that much money for that many years.

A Look at Similar Mega-Contracts For 30-Year-Olds

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees bats in the third inning during the game between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers

Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Albert Pujols: Pujols was 31 when he signed a 10-year, $240 million deal to leave St. Louis for the Anaheim Angels. He was almost immediately not worth that money. After averaging a little more than 2 WAR (wins above replacement) in his first three seasons there, he was a worth a grand total of -0.7 WAR over seven seasons. The resurgent 2022 season was fun, but the Angels probably regret ever inking him to that deal.

Robinson Cano: Pujols and Cano are the only 31-year-olds to ever sign deals of more than seven years, and they each got 10 years. Cano's was the exact same deal, just with the Seattle Mariners. After averaging about 4 WAR over nine seasons with the Yankees, he went to Seattle and averaged nearly 4.3 WAR per season for five seasons before he was traded to the New York Mets. He was never the same there, especially after failing a drug test and earning an 80-game suspension in 2018.

Robinson Cano blows a bubble with the Mariners.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Miguel Cabrera: Everything went downhill quickly after the eight-year, $248 million contract extension Miggy signed at age 30, which would cover his 2016-2023 seasons. After posting a 5.1 WAR season in 2016, he never eclipsed 1 WAR in a season. They went as follows: -0.7 (2017), 0.8 (2018), -0.5 (2019), 0.3 (2020), -0.6 (2021) and -1.5 (2022). Cabrera's power numbers have been nonexistent in the latter half of his career, and he's been a shell of his Triple Crown self from years ago.

Alex Rodriguez: The King of Cash signed a massive 10-year deal worth $275 million with the Yankees when he was 32. The man who was worth as much 10 WAR in a season at one point of his career then suddenly wasn't. After posting a 5.8 WAR season in 2008, he averaged 4 WAR the next three seasons before being worth 1.2 WAR per season for his last four years and retiring after the 2016 season.

Ken Griffey Jr.: The Kid was the best player in baseball, with the sweetest swing, by the time he was 30 and signing a nine-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds (who, by the way, got him for a steal at $116.5 million). After hitting 398 home runs, stealing 167 bases and totaling 68.4 WAR over 11 seasons in Seattle, he hit 213 home runs over those next nine seasons and all but stopped stealing bases. After a 5.4 WAR season in 2000, he only eclipsed 2 WAR in one other season, yet again proving the risk of long-term deals for players 30-plus years of age.

Ken Griffey Jr. at his Reds press conference.

Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport/Getty Images

The trend among these contracts seems to be this: maybe a few good seasons before a majority of bad or really bad seasons. But if the Yankees wanted to keep the AL single-season home run king and not send fans to the pitchfork and torch store, this is what they had to do. You pay for three or four Judgian years before he looks like Judge Judy at the plate for the remainder of the contract.

It's true that teams pay for what players once were. A player's prime certainly isn't on the wrong side of 30. But Aaron Judge feels like one of those "Yankee for life" players, especially after putting his name alongside other Pinstripe legends. This is just the price the Yankees had to pay.

MORE: Aaron Judge's Parents Adopted Him, and He Wouldn't Be a Yankee Without Them