The Yankees’ dream is a world championship. Their nightmare is Aaron the judge of the Mets.

I regret to inform the Yankee Haters of the Universe that the New York Yankees are very good at baseball.

Serious Yankee fans are excited at the moment – the Pinstripes have lost two of three to the Mighty Mariners this week, below 0.500 since the All-Star break, and the start was a bit chaotic. But come on. Sounds like someone is complaining about the cup holders in a Bentley convertible.

After all, these Yankees are still brilliant 70-36, behind the Dodgers with the second-best record in the sport, and as of Friday morning, they are leading AL East by 10 1/2 games. Unless the entire roster suddenly forgets how to hit, field, and field (as the Red Sox did in July), they’re post-season lock-ups, and who knows what’s coming next.

(And the playoff portion makes Yankee fans jittery.)

But I’m not here to talk about the Yankees. I’m here to talk about Aaron Judge.

It’s been a long time since someone lived spring and summer in New York City like Aaron Judge. Entering Friday’s play, the towering player sits atop the majors with 43 home runs, 93 hits hits, 89 hits and 676 points, all while holding a very solid .298 hitting average.

He’s in the midst of the best statistical season of his career, a clear candidate for the MLS Player of the Year award, and a long way from the face of this generally thriving Yankee club. He’s the main character in a bustling city, hitting biscuits on the stands and having what seems to be the time of his life.

He could also be dead next season.

Well, well, that was a lot. I apologize. This was not great. Sorry.

Please bring your Yankee fan friends back from the edge.

But the truth is, Aaron Judge is set to hit free agency after this season. The judge passed a seven-year bid of $213.5 million from New York and did the old-school brave thing of disdain for long-term security and bet on himself. He’s playing with a one-season salary of $19 million in 2022, and there is a growing belief that he may now end up with a long-term deal approaching $300 million, or possibly more.

It is unclear whether he will sign with the Yankees or not. It sounds sacrilegious, but it could end up on the Mets, who have a great new owner in Steve Cohen and are sitting in first place themselves. The Mets – not the Yankees – have become the city’s biggest spender, more Yankees than even the Yankees, and what better way to prove it than by attracting the city’s most beloved athletes right now?

Or maybe it’s the San Francisco Giants, the Judge’s Northern California childhood favorite. Or the odd Red Sox. Or the Dodgers are freaking out. Or a strange mysterious team that will be revealed later.

(Please bring your Yankee friends back from the edge again.)

Important: The judge says he wants to stay in the Bronx. “I want to play for the Yankees. I want to stay here for a long time,” he said not long ago, and there’s no reason not to believe him. There was no indication of secret feet with other franchises, such as the Miami Dolphins and QB Certain Aging.

In another era, this would be a throwback. The Yankees were spending on everyone because they were Yankees, they lived up to that. George Steinbrenner would moan and groan, perhaps undercut the judge in the press a hundred times, but there was no way he would have risked the chance of being his best offensive player moving to Queens or 95 to Boston.

But these are different days. The money is ridiculous, but there is growing skepticism about long-term deals for anyone but the brightest young stars. Here, a complicating factor is the age of the judge. He’s in his 30s, a late baseball star.

Aaron Judge is eligible for free agency after this season.


picture:

Jim McKissack / Getty Images

Do the Yankees want to lock themselves in Aaron Judge until he’s 39 or 40? The judge peaked late, but its durability—he lost parts of several seasons—has to be taken into account. He’s not a child phenomenon like Juan Soto, 23, who recently turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer from Washington and was suddenly traded in San Diego.

Someone will definitely pay the judge. Unlike basketball or football, there is no maximum salary in baseball. There is a luxury tax, but the designed concession will overpay.

Judge is the hottest player in baseball’s biggest franchise. It’s the definition of the guy who gets the big check. If the judge comes close to Babe Ruth’s singles season mark of 60 and 61 for Roger Maris – he’s on his way to 66 – he’ll be superbly nervous in the Bronx.

It’s August. The Yankees are in first and Aaron Judge hits deliriously in striped lines.

But sure, he’s edgy.

Share your thoughts

What should the Yankees do about Aaron Judge?

Write to Jason Gay at Jason.Gay@wsj.com

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