Yankees will make Aaron Judge an offer before Opening Day

TAMPA — Aaron Judge will get his extension offer from the Yankees before Opening Day, Brian Cashman said Saturday — but the outfielder may have backed off his April 7 deadline.

“Between now and Opening Day, we’ll make an offer,’’ the general manager said before the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays, 10-9 at Steinbrenner Field. “We’re committed. We’ll make an offer and hear what he has to say in response and then it will be pencils down before Opening Day.”

Later on Saturday, Judge spoke as if he would be willing to take the talks beyond Opening Day.

“I’m pretty sure,’’ Judge said of the April 7 deadline. “If there are negotiations [after Opening Day], I won’t be talking to you guys [the media] about it at all. We haven’t decided yet, but for right now, that’s what we’ve got.”

The outfielder has become the face of the Yankees and the most popular player on the team as he heads into what could be his final year before free agency and a long-term extension either on the table or close to it. Cashman said Judge’s status within the organization won’t influence the team’s negotiating tactics as they try to come to terms on a contract extension.

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Aaron Judge runs at Yankees spring training on Friday.
Aaron Judge runs at Yankees spring training on Friday.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Po

“We’ve always tried to approach things with as much information and sound reasoning [as possible] and see where it takes us,’’ Cashman said. “In a worst-case scenario, we’ll have [an arbitration] hearing in the regular season. I think all parties hope it’s an extension, clearly. That’s not anything that anyone can promise.”

Cashman noted Judge’s comments from Wednesday, when the outfielder said he wasn’t going to deal with a potential distraction of negotiations once the season gets underway.

“He communicated that to you [the media],’’ Cashman said.

Asked if that deadline was communicated directly to the team, as well, Cashman said: “I don’t know if I can say that. It doesn’t matter. Whatever he said through you guys, I’ll take at face value.”

And he says he’s prepared for any outcome.

“There are two parties involved in this and Aaron [said] that he wants this part of things to end before Opening Day,” Cashman said. “It’s either resolved and out of the way, or the opposite way and we do one year [in arbitration] and play it out. … I can reassure you conversations will take place before Opening Day one way or another and we’ll know where we stand when the dust settles.”

The last time the Yankees went through with an arbitration hearing was in 2016, when they offered Dellin Betances $3 million and the reliever countered with a request for $5 million. The fight became ugly — and public.

“I think our position has always been that we wind up in a hearing only if we’re dragged there,’’ Cashman said. “That’s our position. We don’t handle arbitration where we’re trying to get over on anybody. We go only when we’re forced to go. It’s not something like we’re afraid of going, but our history shows we stay out of that arena unless compelled to get there. That’s fine, too. Let’s see how it all plays out.”

Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman
Corey Sipkin

Judge had a similar mindset.

“[Cashman] gave you a pretty good answer,’’ Judge said. “Arbitration-wise, that’s just how things go. We’ll go back and forth and maybe settle on something before the court date and if not, we’ll see each other in court.’’

Judge is still hoping to avoid that scenario with a long-term deal after the Yankees submitted an arbitration number of $17 million and his camp countered with $21 million.

“I want to be here,’’ Judge said. “Any way we can lock that up and I can play quite a few more years here, that would be great. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m not too worried.”

He insisted the uncertainty isn’t affecting him on the field.

“I’m a baseball player,’’ Judge said. “I’m gonna come in here and do what I need to do on the field. If I take care of what I’ve got to do on the field, everything else will work out.”

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