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Aaron Judge at crux of Yankees’ offseason of uncertainty

ABRUPTLY swept out of the MLB playoffs by the Houston Astros, an offseason of uncertainty is underway for the New York Yankees.

At the top of the list of questions for team president Brian Cashman: Will Aaron Judge be back?

Projections for Judge’s free-agent contract awaiting are in the $350 million — or higher — range, and the Yankees opted not to meet the slugger’s asking price in the offseason. Judge turned down a deal worth a total of $213 million before spring training.

Judge led baseball in home runs by 16, setting the American League record with 62 homers.

“Incredible. Just an incredible season and someone that I’ve grown close with and just admire and respect and hopefully we’ll see him in pinstripes for a long time,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I don’t even want to think about the alternative right now.”

Judge, 30, will have alternatives with the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs reportedly on the list of expected bidders.

Ace right-hander Gerrit Cole knows what it feels like to be in Judge’s position. He left the Houston Astros to join the Yankees on a landmark $324 million deal with the Yankees.

Cole said he’s had several conversations with Judge about what to expect and reflections of how to handle the immense gravity of the situation. He said it comes down to patience.

“Take your time,” Cole said of what he told Judge about the weeks ahead.

After Judge went 1-for-16 in the postseason series with Houston, he heard boos at Yankee Stadium. But first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who re-signed with the Yankees in free agency last winter, said Judge earned every penny with the numbers he put up during the 162-game regular season. Judge posted an OPS of 1.111 and drove in 131 runs.

“The money he’s brought to this organization, this franchise, to the game of baseball — I’m sure just the money alone in September and him chasing 62 was enough to easily pay him,’’ Rizzo said.

At the moment, Judge said he wasn’t in position to look forward. He was too busy kicking himself Sunday night.

“For not bringing home that championship,” he said.

Judge, closer Aroldis Chapman, Rizzo and starter Luis Severino are among the players who can reach free agency next month. Outfielder Andrew Benintendi and starter Jameson Taillon can also hit the open market, as can reliever Zack Britton. — Reuters

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