Aaron Judge has something else to put on his free agent resume: American League MVP.
After making history this past season by breaking Roger Maris’ 61-year-old AL home run record with 62 homers, Judge captured his first MVP award, which was announced Thursday night.
He beat out last year’s MVP, Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, who finished second despite another strong season both at the plate and on the mound.
Ohtani’s two-way excellence was no match for Judge this time around, as he led the majors in a number of offensive categories, in addition to home runs.
Judge also paced the majors with 133 runs scored and 131 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .425, slugging percentage of .686, an OPS of 1.111 and an OPS-plus of 211.
And until the final few days of the regular season, Judge was in the running to become the first Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012 with the Tigers.
It added up to a season for the ages for the 30-year-old, who is a free agent for the first time in his career after betting on himself by turning down the Yankees’ seven-year, $213.5 million extension on Opening Day and then putting the Yankees’ offense on his back.
Not surprisingly, the Yankees’ decision-makers have all said they want Judge back, from managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner saying payroll concerns are “not gonna stop us” from signing Judge, to Aaron Boone adding, “Hopefully, [his free agency] ends with him back in pinstripes, where he belongs” and general manager Brian Cashman calling Judge’s career path “Hall-of-Fame like. [There would be] nothing better than to have him continue to man right field for us.”
But Cashman also noted this month that Judge had “put himself in a great position to have a lot of choices.”
Certainly, Judge didn’t need an MVP award to prove his excellence to other teams, but it won’t hurt as he hits the open market, where the Giants and Dodgers figure to be potential suitors.
Judge was in the running for the 2017 AL MVP award, but finished second to Houston’s Jose Altuve — an outcome that has since come under greater scrutiny following the revelation of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal during the championship season.
The following spring, Judge said, “I really don’t want to get into the whole, ‘If Altuve stole the MVP or not,’ [because] that really doesn’t matter,’’ Judge said at the time. “It’s over with. The biggest thing is, I’ve got to make sure next time I don’t keep the votes so close, I guess. Try to go out there and win it outright, so there’s no question.”
In 2022, Judge did just that.