Aaron Judge says he is looking forward to arbitration hearing with New York Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Aaron Judge intends to just "wear a nice suit" and "introduce myself and sit back" as a three-person arbitration panel debates whether the New York Yankees should pay their All-Star outfielder the $21 million salary he believes he is worth this season.

The hearing will be held Friday, sources told ESPN's Buster Olney.

"I'm looking forward to it," Judge said Tuesday afternoon ahead of the Yankees' game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, although he did not confirm the day. "I've had people in my agency, past players, that went through the process, said they hated it. And then other people that went through it said it was actually kind of good to hear about [yourself]."

The last Yankees player to go to arbitration was reliever Dellin Betances in 2017, Judge's record-setting Rookie of the Year season. An arbitration panel ruled in the club's favor, and Betances was open with his teammates about the hostility that transpired in the hearing room.

"[Betances] just didn't like how the process went. ... He gave a lot to this organization, the numbers he put up for quite a few years, even though he wasn't a closer, he did a lot of special things and maybe thought he should get reciprocated for that but it didn't happen," Judge said. "It's probably tough, but for me it's plain and simple. I love this team, I love this organization and everything, but there's a business side of it that I don't like at times, I don't think a lot of people like, I don't think the team likes it [either] that you have to go through and then you move on."

Manager Aaron Boone praised how Judge has handled himself through the process, which has not affected his popularity or performance. Earlier Tuesday, MLB announced the first results of All-Star balloting, and Judge led all players with 1,512,368 votes. Judge can become the first Yankee to lead the majors in voting for the All-Star Game since Alex Rodriguez in 2008.

Judge's 25 home runs this season are the most in the majors, and he became the third player in franchise history to hit at least 25 home runs in the Yankees' first 62 games of a season, joining Babe Ruth (28 in 1928 and 26 in 1930) and Mickey Mantle (27 in 1956).

"Whatever happens there, I know what Aaron's focus is and what he wants to accomplish and I don't expect anything to get in the way of that," Boone said. "This is obviously a great player, but a guy that's just really good from the neck up, too, as far as handling whatever comes his way through stardom, through being one of the faces of the game, to being a New York Yankee. Things that happen or inevitably come up, in this case contract situations and arbitration and all that, he's fully equipped to handle those things and not affect what he does between the lines."

As the season opened, Judge had expressed his frustration at not finalizing a long-term contract extension with the Yankees, the club with which he has repeatedly said he wants to spend the rest of his major league career. Judge self-imposed a deadline of Opening Day for coming to terms on an extension that would have prevented him from hitting free agency. But he and the Yankees did not reach an agreement, with general manager Brian Cashman saying the team had offered a seven-year, $213.5 million extension, which, paired with the $17 million it offered in arbitration this season, would have made the entire package worth just over $230 million.

Judge refused to address the rare move of Cashman publicly revealing the terms of the Yankees' offer, and described it as the business side of baseball, which he echoed Tuesday. Cashman releasing the specific figures was something that did not sit well inside the Yankees' clubhouse, sources told ESPN.

The parties will hold the hearing via videoconference unless a settlement is agreed upon, which can't be completely ruled out despite the fact that Judge said he wouldn't negotiate a contract extension in-season. The Yankees set a precedent in 2019, when pitcher Luis Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million extension shortly before his arbitration hearing.

In terms of whether the impending hearing has been on his mind or served as a distraction, Judge said his focus has been on winning games.

"We're the best team in the league. That's what's been on my mind," he said. "Being in here with these guys and what we've been doing the past couple months has made it pretty easy to focus on playing baseball. I could get caught up in contract stuff or arbitration stuff, but there's no need. That's what I have agents for."


Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who has been on the injured list with left Achilles tendinitis since May 24, threw a live batting practice session at the team's minor league complex in Tampa earlier Tuesday. The injury seems to have hampered him this season, particularly in his past five appearances, in which he posted a 14.73 ERA after giving up six earned runs over 3⅔ innings.

Clay Holmes has dazzled in taking over the closer role, not allowing a run in 29 consecutive relief appearances from April 9 through June 18 (31⅓ innings pitched), surpassing Mariano Rivera's 28-game stretch for the longest scoreless streak by a Yankees pitcher in franchise history.

Asked whether he believed he had lost his role to Holmes, Chapman said that was not his focus.

"I don't see it that way. I'm past that point in my career in which I would fight for a role, for the closer role, I've already gone through that," Chapman said. "When I got to the major leagues, they gave me the opportunity to close and I took advantage it. Pretty much the same thing is happening to [Holmes]. I am trying to come back, healthy, [to] help the team in any role. He is doing an excellent job right now and he deserves the role that he has."