Does Anthony Rizzo Re-Signing With The Yankees Bode Well In Aaron Judge Talks?

By the end of his first full season, Anthony Rizzo stood amongst the mass of reporters in the designated area in the middle of the spacious Yankee clubhouse and showered the praise upon Aaron Judge, saying things that made him sound like his agent and not the first baseman who frequently batted behind the slugger in the lineup.

It was after the Yankees were swept by the eventual champion Houston Astros in Game 4 of the ALCS on Oct. 23 when Rizzo was more expansive on his views about Judge’s next contract and quiet about his own upcoming contract.

“He bet on himself on the biggest stage, in the biggest market, and did it with ease,” Rizzo said of Judge as the Astros celebrated on the other side of the Yankee Stadium basement. “He should be rewarded as the highest-paid player in the game. He’s the new gold standard, in my opinion.”

Technically Rizzo was under contract as part of a two-year, $32 million deal signed in March after the lockout froze business. This time there is no lockout and the sport is flush with cash in $11 billion in revenues thanks to an expanded playoff format and numerous streaming deals.

Rizzo is back with the Yankees and essentially earned himself a slight bump in pay, getting retained on a two-year, $40 million deal nearly two weeks after Brian Cashman said the Yankees were hoping to re-sign him.

And considering Judge’s next contract is the talk of the offseason, at least until it actually gets completed much of the talk in Rizzo’s conference call Wednesday centered around the outfielder that he has become close to since being obtained from the Cubs.

“I hope Judge stays just for the sake of the game,” Rizzo said Wednesday “because you see a lot of franchise icons not getting what they deserve for the team that they have done so much for.”

It is logical to think Rizzo re-signing with the Yankees bodes well in their bid to retain Judge. His return came on the same day owner Hal Steinbrenner mentioned he met with Judge in a one-on-one setting.

“I do believe he wants to be a Yankee. I think we’ve got a good thing going here,” Steinbrenner told reporters Tuesday at the owners meeting.

The good thing Judge has going will definitely cost the Yankees more than the $213 million they offered in a seven-year deal that was rejected just before the season opener, but it is not Rizzo to suggest contract offers for someone he has become close to.

“Obviously, I want to be his teammate,” Rizzo said. “We’ve become good friends on the field, off the field. We’ve really enjoyed playing with each other, but at the end of all of this a friendship here, a friendship somewhere else, it’s still a friendship. Doesn’t mean you have to be on the same team to be friends. Wherever he’s at, I try to respect his privacy and his space and let him come up with the decision on his own.”

In a funny coincidence, the question of whether Rizzo returning bodes well for Judge returning to the Yankees, occurred just as multiple reports surfaced that said MLB was investigating any possible collusion between billionaire Mets’ owner Steve Cohen and Steinbrenner.

The basis for the investigation came from a Nov. 3 article on the website of SNY – the television network of the Mets where former owner Fred Wilpon owns a majority share. The article cited that because of the mutually respectful relationship between Cohen and Steinbrenner, the teams would not result in a high-profile bidding war for Judge.

Still it was enough for the MLBPA to seek an investigation and during an 18-minute press conference at MLB headquarters, Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed a confidence no collusion would be found as opposed to the 1980s when owners colluded not to sign free agents following the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons, a move that cost them $280 million.

“I’m absolutely confident that the clubs behaved in a way that was consistent with the agreement,” Manfred said Thursday. “This was based on a newspaper report. We will put ourselves in position to demonstrate credibly to the MLBPA that this is not an issue. I’m sure that’s going to be an outcome but obviously we understand the emotion that surrounds that word (collusion) and we’ll proceed accordingly.”

And meanwhile for the Yankees proceeding accordingly is to match the words of Rizzo with an action that results in Judge continuing a career that has seen him hit 220 homers, including the record-setting 62 homers last season.