MLB: Why $1 Million Won’t Get the Yankees Aaron Judge to Compete in the Home Run Derby

Many Major League Baseball players choose not to participate in the home run derby the night before the All-Star game, especially if they’ve done it in the past. As a result, the participants can be relatively unknown budding superstars or veterans looking to have some fun. The league is trying to attract more stars to participate in the event by raising the skates. In the past, the Home Run Derby winner would receive a $150,000 prize, but this year that is getting bumped up to $1 million. However, that might not be enough to convince Yankees OF Aaron Judge to participate.

Judge’s home run derby history

Judge participated in the derby in 2017 and won the event, beating Justin Bour, Cody Bellinger, and Miguel Sano along the way. But he slumped in the weeks following the derby, and he felt being in the event exacerbated a shoulder injury he suffered earlier that season when he ran into the outfield wall. Judge opted not to try to defend his title and chose not to participate in 2018.

Judge’s plans for the 2019 derby

The point of the new $1 million prize is to try to get superstars like Aaron Judge to take part in the derby to draw more attention to the annual event. But it’s not enough to entice Judge, who told Newsday’s Anthony Rieber that he might take part if the All-Star break was longer and he “actually had a break,” but “the money doesn’t change it.”

Judge is earning $684,300 from the Yankees this season, plus the money he makes from endorsements with companies like Pepsi and Adidas, so the $1 million would be more worthwhile to him now than it will be once he signs a big-money contract.

Why Aaron Judge doesn’t want to do the derby

Judge told Rieber that the 2017 derby affected him because of the shoulder injury but “swing-wise, no. I was just taking BP … If I didn’t get hurt, it would have been a different story.” Judge had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder following the 2017 season, which involved “loose-body removal and cartilage clean-up.”

If he didn’t hurt his shoulder in the event two years ago, Judge might be more likely to participate in this year’s derby to try to earn the million-dollar prize.

Judge may do it again in the future

The Yankees Aaron Judge takes a cut in the first game of the 2019 season.
Aaron Judge is hesitant to do the home run derby again. | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Just because Judge doesn’t plan on being in the derby this year, he hasn’t ruled out taking part in it again in the future, and he apparently has a strict requirement to get back in — he wants to do it in front of his hometown fans in the Bronx. He was quoted in Newsday as saying, “the only thing that will make me want to participate would be if the All-Star game would ever be in New York City again.”

The home run derby was last held in New York City in 2013 at Citi Field, and the Yankees last hosted the event in 2009, at the old Yankee Stadium, before Judge began his career. The current Yankee Stadium has not yet hosted the home run derby.

When can Yankee Stadium host the home run derby?

The 2019 All-Star gem will be at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, and Dodger Stadium is slated to host in 2020. However, no venues have been announced beyond that. Yankee Stadium is likely a candidate to host the home run derby at some point in the 2020s because the league usually likes to award the event to teams that build new stadiums. Since the new Yankee Stadium hasn’t had the derby since it opened in 2009, it is probably due to hold the event in the near future.