Hal Steinbrenner’s charm offensive gives Yankees captain no. 16

Hal Steinbrenner announced Aaron Judge as Yankees 16th captain.

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History can change in a single moment. That turned out to be true for the Yankees when they tried to re-sign Aaron Judge. If Hal Steinbrenner hadn’t made that famous late-night phone call at 3 a.m. PT from Italy to Judge in California, the Yankees might still only have had 15 captains in their history. It was likely that the MVP would take his skills elsewhere.

The Bombers made an offer of eight years, but the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres were also very interested in the 2022 AL MVP. On Wednesday, Aaron Judge admitted after his introduction as the 16th Yankee captain that he would have not been there if Steinbrenner hadn’t called him that night. He told reporters:

“Yea I was prepared to leave if Steinbrenner didn’t offer a ninth year, that was really a big thing for me. I wanted to get that ninth year. All it really took was getting on the phone with Hal and him saying ‘alright, let’s do it, what’s the hold up here?’ Because there was some pretty good offers out there. It would’ve been a tough financial decision to turn down some things. Ultimately, it came down to hearing Hal say we want you here, if [that takes] nine years here’s nine years.”

Aaron Judge, who hit an AL record 62 home runs and hit .311/.425/.686 last season, confirmed that he had received more than one formal offer from other teams while testing the free agent waters. But it turned in the Yankees’ favor as the owner was very involved in the talks to keep his star player.

During multiple in-person meetings and phone calls, Aaron Judge was told that he didn’t think he was a free agent and that there was no question that he would be a Yankee.

“I think it was on a Tuesday night and we [Judge] had a conversation,” Steinbrenner said. “I woke up the next morning and talked about a lot of the things we talked about in our first meeting after the season. That’s when I told him, you’re not a free agent as far as I’m concerned, you’re a Yankee. We just need to do what we can do to make sure that stays the same.”

After that phone call, Steinbrenner started to feel a little uneasy about the negotiations, even though he thought the Yankees had communicated well to Aaron Judge. He just had a feeling that something wasn’t right, and rumors at the Winter Meetings showed that he was right.

That’s when Steinbrenner called Aaron Judge directly from Italy to seal the deal. He dropped the hammer with a ninth guaranteed year and a total of $360 million, which was the biggest contract the Yankees had ever given out.

Steinbrenner made things easier for Aaron Judge

Every step of the way, general manager Brian Cashman and Aaron Judge’s agent Page Odle were involved. Cashman, on the other hand, said that this was Steinbrenner’s most-ever involvement in negotiations. He was also reminded that Hal is George’s son and has a “can’t say no” attitude.

“George had a real charm about him and a real way that when he was recruiting he could connect and sell, and I saw a lot of that with Hal Steinbrenner during this process,” said Cashman.

“I think he made it personal for Aaron from the beginning to the end. He talked to Aaron right away. We were knocked out of the playoffs by Houston, and the next morning Hal, Aaron, and I talked on the phone. Steinbrenner told Aaron how important it was that he was a Yankee, and Aaron agreed. It made me think a lot of how his father ran his business.”

Manager Aaron Boone was on the other end of this. When news came out that “Arson Judge” might be going to the Giants, the Yankees’ manager started to worry. He called Cashman right away, and Cashman told him that the news was “bulls—t.”

Boone asked a group of Yankees high-ups if they thought it would be a good idea for the manager to call Aaron Judge one last time, and they all said yes. Boone told the power hitter again how important No. 99 was to the team. He also asked Judge to call Steinbrenner one last time before making any big decisions, because he knew the owner would not let him go. This turned out to be true.

Aaron Judge chose to stay with the Yankees because he wanted to leave a mark on the team. This was more important to him than a possible $400 million offer from the Padres or the chance to play closer to home. The captain knew where he wanted to be and where he thought he belonged throughout the whole process. Steinbrenner made it easier for him.

Aaron Judge said, “In my heart, I knew where I wanted to be. I think that going through this process was a good way to learn about organizations and see what they are all about. Going through free agency was a hard time. In the end, it helped me see more clearly that I belong in pinstripes and that I need to finish my career here in New York.”

What do you think about Steinbrenner’s charm offensive? Leave your comment below.

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